Speaker 1: 00:00 And can you state your first and last name for us with spelling?
Kevin Jenkins: 00:04 Kevin, K-E-V-I-N Jenkins, J-E-N-K-I-N-S.
Speaker 3: 00:15 Got you. Thank you. All right. First question, one second. If you’d refer to this map, do you currently live or have you ever lived in this general area?
Kevin Jenkins: 00:24 Let’s see. Have I ever lived in the 55411 area. I lived on Penn. I lived… no. Yes, I do. I live right on Penn and Broadway, and I’ve been a North-Sider basically all my life. I’m 62 years old. So I’ve been here. I ain’t leaving.
Kevin Jenkins: 00:46 So… I’m somewhere in here.
Interviewer: 00:49 But anyway, they don’t got Broadway on here.
Kevin Jenkins: 00:52 Penn and Broadway.
Interviewer: 01:04 Since you’ve been here, from when you came til today, what positive and negative changes have you seen in the community?
Kevin Jenkins: 01:12 Positive change, I mean, I mean positive changes, and I’m going to speak from the 70s.
Kevin Jenkins: 01:16 Because I was 62 years old and that’s my era of time that I grew up in. Positive areas that we had was, we was very unified. It didn’t matter what went on in the community, we all was onboard with it.
Kevin Jenkins: 01:34 We had the riots. We had to rebuild our communities. We had community centers. We had restaurants. We had clothing stores, bowling alleys. You name it, we had it. We had different festivals, like now we have Juneteenth. We had something called Freedom Days, that was on Plymouth Avenue that the Wade Community Center did. We also had a bank that was First Plymouth National Bank that basically also did a festival on Plymouth Avenue.
Kevin Jenkins: 02:10 So, there was a lot of different things that we had going on during that time period and, again, we all was in-sync. We had different community centers such as the Hospitality House, Jerry Gamble’s Boys and Girls Club, North Commons, Park, the Wade Community Center, Phyllis Wheatley, there was numerous… we just had lots of stuff that the kids could do and the parents didn’t have to worry about where their son or daughter was at because they were at a community center doing something and at these community centers, like, I grew up through the Hospitality House and one of the things that we did was we had a game room that you learned how to played pool, bumper-pool, ping-pong. We played table games; we had cooking classes (we really loved cooking classes, those cooking classes were good). We had a choir. We had Bible study. We were one of the first community centers that had a traveling basketball teams and baseball teams. Our baseball team went up to… not Lino Lakes. Ugh, I can’t remember the… it was a facility that, you know, people that were incarcerated, and they had a baseball team. We played against them, and everything like that. So, we had a lot; we were just unified back then.
Kevin Jenkins: 03:51 K-U-X-A-L was our radio station that started at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and it was over with at 6, so nobody was on the streets from 4 to 6 because that was the only time we could hear some soul music and then we got KUXAL so KUXAL was there. Then, we ended up getting KUXL and the KHMO, which is the radio station that we have now.
Kevin Jenkins: 04:25 So we have had, there was a lot of different things that were going on but we were very, very unified. People were born into the community; they stayed in the community. We didn’t have a lot of people coming from out-of-town that was coming into Minnesota at that particular point. So, the neighbors knew each other. If you did something down the street, Miss Jo was going to be in your butt and then bring you home and then your parents was going to do what they needed to do for you and to you.
Kevin Jenkins: 05:12 So the neighbors, we all knew each other and we all believe in being unified so this way that as we were growing up, everybody basically grew up together. We went to the same schools together, so this was how it was back in the 70s.
Kevin Jenkins: 05:38 When we move and march into the 80s, that’s where the changes started happening at. We started migrating to different schools that were not in our communities anymore. We started migrating out of the community to other places to live. We had now a fluctuation of people from Chicago that were coming in, D.C. that was coming in, and Kansas City was coming in, so we had a fluctuation of a lot of now, new people, but what was happening was that they didn’t stay. So, they’d be here maybe a year and then after that, they would move.
Kevin Jenkins: 06:33 So, all of a sudden the community that was like “this”, solid, “fingers-together”, started splintering and started tearing us apart… and that’s then when the drug scene started coming in. That’s when we started seeing more African American folks dropping out of school. That’s when we started seeing this change of no emotion, no feeling. Instead of fighting with the fists, we started fighting with the pistol and we start… we saw people laying out there and people, all of a sudden they was like “Oh, another person dead.”
Kevin Jenkins: 07:27 We never was like that back in the 70s-
Kevin Jenkins: 07:30 … because one of the things that our parents taught us was one… respect, believe in god. Another one they taught us was, stick together, regardless, stick together.
Kevin Jenkins: 07:47 And we feared. At that ha… I mean, our thing was, we didn’t have a cell phone; we didn’t even have a pager at this point. We knew when the street lights come on, you’d better be on your way, no… not on your way, you needed to be on the porch of your house.
Kevin Jenkins: 08:08 That was our clock, was the streetlights… and you didn’t have like you have now, the disrespect of a lot of the teens that don’t listen to their parents. They’re going to do whatever they want to do. They started thinking life ended at 21. I don’t quite get that part, but… that how many of them thought. And so then they didn’t fear. Fear left the North Side and when fear left the North Side, now we had nothing but chaos and now you had leaders fighting against each other. You had the police department that could do whatever that they wanted to do, but we wasn’t unified like we used to be.
Kevin Jenkins: 09:06 So those are some pieces, right there that we had. One of the things that we had and I’m pretty sure you remember this… is, there was a parade called the Aquatennial and we had one or two drill team groups that were in the Aquatennial and we liked to follow the drill team. Well, at a point in time the police said “you guys can’t follow them”. They had the dogs out there, the horses out there and the water hose out there… and one of the things that we came up with was… Okay you don’t want us down there? That’s fine.
Kevin Jenkins: 09:55 And, so we had something called the Summer Fun Festival, which was at the Phyllis Wheatley Community that the Wade Community sponsored and this was all the bands that were back at that time period, so, we didn’t want to go downtown because we had our own entertainment right in our own neighborhood. And, so that’s the whole thing of the unity that we had and that’s the change that happened when we, when other people started coming in to Minnesota and part of it was, and this is just my thought, so I don’t know if this is true or not…but part of it was our welfare system. We had a great welfare system here and people that were coming from other places they were like, I want to go to Minnesota because we could be on welfare and live really good until they put the new law in to say you could only be on welfare for five years.
Kevin Jenkins: 10:57 So, again, there was a lot of great things that we did back in the days and where it started crumbling was when we started dividing ourselves.
Interviewer: 11:11 So, we’re gathering some of these stories to gain some understanding about the relationship between the city of Minneapolis and the community so I hear you touching on some of the things like economic issues that you saw back then. So, as you’re thinking about policy and things like housing policy back in the 70s, when you were growing up or even in the 80s and employment and discrimination in regards to some of those things.
Interviewer: 11:49 I’m wondering what impact do you think those things had on the community… things like housing discrimination, unemployment rates or lack of employment opportunities for folks in our communities and even lack of transportation to get people back and forth between those?
Kevin Jenkins: 12:10 Okay. Well that’s a loaded question.
Kevin Jenkins: 12:13 I’ll try to get… and if I don’t answer part of it-
Kevin Jenkins:12:18 … we come back into it. Housing, well, let me start with housing.
Kevin Jenkins: 12:27 We… growing up here, we never really saw a housing issue, because our parents either they stayed in the projects, or you stayed in a duplex or apartment or a house and growing up, we didn’t really see that we were poor because we always a roof over our head, we always had clean clothes, we always had something to eat. We might only have one TV, but the whole thing was is that we didn’t really see that there were issues where you could live and where you can’t live at.
Kevin Jenkins: 13:15 So, that didn’t show up in the 70s because base… and part of it was that everybody stayed in their own neighborhood. You know, so the North Siders stayed on this side of Broadway and all the way down to the project area. That was basically us as African American folk.
Kevin Jenkins: 3:39 We stayed right there; we might have moved from one place to another place but it was in our hood, basically. So, we didn’t see that type of discrimination but I’ll come back to that because I was going to go with the jobs situation.
Kevin Jenkins: 13:59 We had a program called M.Y.C… M.Y.C. if you were 14 years old, you could get an M.Y.C. job. Everybody basically had a M.Y.C. job. I’m not quite sure what it stood for but it was like a summer youth job that you could work at a community center; you could work at a park; you could work at a barber shop. I
mean, it was like places and basically you showed up for work, they taught you what you needed to learn and then you did the job.
Kevin Jenkins: 14:36 And everybody looked forward to that two weeks because that way you got your check and then we was down at Kiefers, Browns, the V store. These were some of the places that we shopped at. Flag Brothers was another one we could love to order stuff out of the catalog there.
Kevin Jenkins: 14:59 So we had jobs back then. Jobs… Then when we got more into the mid-70s. That’s when we started seeing some of the discrimination.
Kevin Jenkins: 15:19 We were like, I graduated in 1974, so at this point I wanted to get a job and there were criteria that you had to have or it would school you knew that got you in the door. So, if you was not ambitious and a person that could sell their selves, you didn’t get a job.
Kevin Jenkins: 15:48 There was not, at this point, an encouragement to continue to keep your education going so we wasn’t really going to college as much during this time. We were going to vocational schools because at this time trades were still in. So, you could get… so I’m a tailor by trade, so I learned how to sew, I learned how to do measurements, I learned how to fit clothes onto people, this and other. And so, basically, that’s what we… that’s what I did. I went to trade school, but once we got into the 80s, that’s when the push became more- go to college, go to college. If you didn’t have the money, they had things called grants that you didn’t have to pay back.
Kevin Jenkins: 16:45 So a lot of what we were pushed into is to like, okay, we need to further our education and in order to do that, we need to get some grants. There were some people that were very fortunate to get scholarships either from academics or, as far as from the arena of what they did, as far as… they played either basketball, baseball, ran track, whatever.
Kevin Jenkins: 17:12 So, we started going that way, there, but where the doors started shutting at was… okay but how are you going to pay this bill?
17:26 And, now the parents were stuck with… we got to make a little extra money so Kamal can continue his education. Well they couldn’t do it, so Kamal had to stop his education, or Susie, or whoever… and lack of money started becoming an issue and then we ran into the area of the split families.
17:59 We ran into the area that here, the mother is raising three or four kids and the father is nowhere to be seen, except when it was time for the birthday party or for the event. “Oh here was there?”
18:17 But… the family unit started crumbling, again, because everybody wanted to do their own thing and they lost sight of what the unit of the family was supposed to be about. So, again, the whole thing was there was a lot of stuff that we wasn’t addressing in the community but we were putting the blame on
somebody else, and like Michael Jackson said it really well: “The Man in the Mirror”.
18:56 Don’t look around you to blame somebody. Look at what’s in the mirror because what’s in the mirror has caused either something good or something bad. Stop blaming. Come back to self.
Interviewer: 19:12 Right. Change yourself before you change the world.
Kevin Jenkins: 19:15 Okay, I don’t know if I answered all that but-
19:17 Okay, okay, alright. [crosstalk 00:19:19].
Interviewer: 19:27 What part do you feel you can play in creating that more hopeful future?
Kevin Jenkins: 19:36 What part do I feel I have-
19:38 … Okay. Being a community person, being a Godly man, what I learned was, it’s not about what you say, it’s what you do.
19:55 What you do is going to speak more volume versus this. So what I had to learn was, I can’t be at every march or rally. I can’t be at every protest, but what I can be is, I can be an example of somebody that grew up on the North Side. I don’t know about the near thing but the North Side, that’s what we knew we was… that was able to be successful by making good choices, never feeling like you were ever better, always feeling like I can help somebody.
20:48 So, I really think that has been the theme and I spoke with other older people than me and that was one of the things that they said, that, you know, they don’t have that kind of energy out there doing stuff, but what they can do is to show you that if you stick with it, this is what’s ahead of you and it’s looking good, but if you quit, then, basically you stop right here.
21:24 And then they share with you what things that they went through. So, I’m going to bring you to a movie, a series, “Roots”. Basically the elders made sure that the kids understood where their peoples came from and the struggles that their peoples had to go through, and by being able to do that, those kids now
become adults. They learn from what the mistakes that their parents made or the victories that their parents made and then they share it with their kids.
22:09 Well, the sharing process was when we were here. Many of the young people don’t want to hear stuff. They think, oh, that was back in YOUR time. Believe you me, what you’re experiencing now is what we experienced then. It’s just another name, another shade, but still, if you don’t stick together, we’ll crumble.
Interviewer: 22:39 Can I… I was… I actually want to ask one last question.
Kevin Jenkins: 22:43 If you have another question, you can ask me, okay. I… you can go on. [crosstalk 00:22:48].
Interviewer: 22:48 I’m wondering, in your opinion, so you see a need for community to come together, to see transformation, and I’m wondering what you would envision the city of Minneapolis and their role with the community to build stronger community.
Kevin Jenkins: 23:08 I think part of their role should be… How can they give back to the community?
23:19 You’ve taken from the community a lot. How can I come… How can we give back?
23:27 We had a program called “Something to be Thankful For”. I don’t know if you remember that one or not.
23:34 Came out of the Oak Park Neighborhood Center and what we did was we invited every youth leader… it didn’t matter if they came out of the Way, Hospitality House, Jerry Gambles, the City Incorporated, we invited everybody to come together and what we wanted to do was do a joint function for the young people.
24:03 We received money from the city to be able to do that and by being able to do that, what it did was, it tore down these divisional walls that this community is better… this community center is better than this community center. “Oh you guys ain’t got it together.” We work together, but there was money
available for that. So, I think that what possibly could happen is that the community centers, the community organizations come up with a strategy, a plan to figure out some type of a program that you can get funding for. Bobby Joe said it really, really good when we lost our target, he said basically, if we’re not at the table when decisions are being made, then we’re on the table, which basically meant was, we wasn’t invited so we didn’t know and so basically they took our target away from us.
25:19 Now yes, we have Cov. But that used to be our target there. Because we wasn’t involved in the planning and the structure of how the North Side was going to be redeveloped.
Interviewer: 25:32 Yeah, we had no say in that.
Kevin Jenkins: 25:36 Right, so that’s some of the things that I think that the city can do is to be able to look at different programs that are coming out of the North Side and to be able to say, okay, what we want to do is we want to fund this particular program. What is the monies that are available and hold the city accountable, because the city dropped the ball at the Superbowl.
Kevin Jenkins: 26:06 There was supposed to be multiple jobs for small businesses, Mom and Pop shops, this that and the other, and all of a sudden they came to the table and there was all these criteria, and they didn’t meet it. But you said you was going to put so much money into making sure that the Superbowl had people of color that were represented, but then you made these stipulations.
26:34 That’s why we have to be at the tables. That’s why we have to support our mayor, our different governors, our congresspeople. We need to support them because they’re the ones that, when it comes time for the voice, they’re the ones.
26:51 I’ll give you another example. When the shooting happened with the young man on Plymouth Avenue and the group Black Lives Matter blocked off Plymouth, and all they wanted was tape, the mistake that they made… they didn’t listen to Keith Ellison; they didn’t listen to the mayor, they didn’t listen to the
ministers that were out there, that you’re going about it the wrong way in order to get the tape.
27:25 And… when they got the tape was when everybody got the tape, when the decision came down. You got… young people have got to listen to the elders that basically have been on those fighting grounds so that way that the young people don’t make the same mistakes that we made.
27:48 Those are some key pieces, right there and so I could share that with you there. [crosstalk 00:27:54].
Interviewer 27:54 I’m gonna go into a question that I had [crosstalk 00:27:57] got the time, we did already went over.
Kevin Jenkins: 27:59 Okay, alright. I’m sorry. I like to talk. So, go ahead.
Interviewer: 28:02 I was going to say, like, you talk about we need to support the, like, the black mayors and stuff like that and the city can do all of this fund money for these programs.
Kevin Jenkins: 28:14 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Interviewer: 28:14 But what can we do to get our own people involved, because yeah we can have the workshops and the programs-
Interviewer: 28:21 …but what’s going to make them show up? Because I feel like as a youth, we’re real disengaged right now.
Kevin Jenkins: 28:34 I think… the way that what you’re all doing right now, having conversation, because, again, how you all conversate… we’re right across the table from each other and we’re texting. We need to talk to one another. This is what we did and that’s why we could cry and you would know that this person is hurting right now. That’s why the sister upstairs said we need to go through more of an exercise, okay, that’s talking, not this texting. Because, when we knock- out the communication of texting, then, basically the young people aren’t going to understand how to talk to one another.
Kevin Jenkins 29:39 This is one of the reasons why trying to solve problems is… but we haven’t come to the table to talk about, how do we manage our anger? How do we go about developing these right tool that we can use? Maybe I haven’t been to college yet, but what can I do? I want to be able to go and get educated. What can I do…and these are things that like, I think with what you guys are doing right now is, we need to go back to what things worked for us and part of it was that we came together as a community. We talked to one another. We loved on one another. We prayed together. If you need some sugar, hey, I’ve got some sugar.
30:36 You know? And that’s way, way back, but the whole thing was that we wasn’t afraid of one another to conversate or touch. That’s what I think that what you guys are doing is that start right there. It’s starting to have these kinds of conversations so that way that you can look at… these are our situations that
we’re seeing that we would lack to tackle. Whatever that is, you’ve had some time, you’ve had time to organize.
31:15 Develop some type of plan. You just don’t walk into it. You just gotta make sure that you develop some type of plan because the biggest thing is, is that without a plan, it crumbles. It crumbles.
31:31 Supporting the North High Basketball team, supporting Henry High School Basketball team or whatever sports that they are, being there, supporting those young people that are doing some positive, great things. Yes, in this day and time there’s more young people going to college, more African American
folks that’s going to college than back in my time, but the whole thing was… is that those individuals got support and they believe in the people that were backing them and then they made things happen for them.
Kevin Jenkins: 32:12 One last story. I’m sorry, I’m okay… okay… a brother by the name of Trent Bowman… I don’t know, I know you know Trent, of you’ve heard of Trent before? Okay, he went to North High School. He got… he went to college and there was like about four or five, six people that, they all went to college for real estate. What they did when they graduated… they didn’t go to E. Dinah, they didn’t go to Richfield, they didn’t even go to Brooklyn Park or Brooklyn Center, they brought it back to the North Side.
Kevin Jenkins 32:49 They said “we need to help our community”. So, what we want to do is, we’re going to set up meetings, we’re going to talk to you, we’re going to check to see what your credit record looks like, your bank account… we’re going to find affordable housing that you own, not rent, own, and that was something that our parents didn’t teach us, was ownership. We’ve learned rentership or lay-away.
33:18 You know? And I’m being real, I’m being real. So what Trent and them guys did, they brought it back to the community and they helped brothers like myself that’s much older than them to be able to own a home.
33:36 So, that’s what we need, is people to bring back whatever that they earned or they got their degrees and stuff of this nature, to bring that back to the community. Don’t move away, come back to the community.
33:54 And that’s what… that’s my story.
Interviewer: 33:58 Well thank you so much-
33:59 Thank you, we really appreciate it.
Kevin Jenkins: 34:00 Okay.