Interview of Princess Titus
Interviewer: 00:02 Okay. May I have you say your first and last name and spell it out too?
Princess Titus: 00:05 My name is Princess Titus, P-R-I-N-C-E-S-S, last name, Titus, T-IT-U-S.
Interviewer: 00:13 Can you give me two seconds and I’ll be ready.
Princess Titus: 00:16 One, two. That’s it. . I’ve been crying all day.
Interviewer: 00:26 You said you’ve been crying all day?
Princess Titus: 00:26 Yeah. I cry all the time. You’re going to hear it in the story probably. We’ll see.
Interviewer: 00:33 Okay. According to the map right there, do you currently or have you lived near this part? And if you did, how long?
Princess Titus: 00:45 Okay. I lived on Broadway for five years. I work on Broadway. I’ve worked on Broadway for the last six years. I’ve been in Nort Minneapolis for 22 years and primarily lived around the Broadway area.
Interviewer: 01:05 Okay. So the third question is, thinking back from when you first came to this area, what changes have you seen? Positive and negative changes.
Princess Titus: 01:10 When I first came to this area … I’m a refugee from Chicago running from the war that was going on there. When I came here, I was encountered with and greeted by white people who wanted to build community, and primarily they were, so to speak, saying that they were looking at the community as it being us. And then now I’ve seen an influx of people from other states who are also Europeans who have came in and look at community work as community they and not community us. That’s one of the negative changes I’ve seen. One of the positive changes that I’ve seen was compared to Chicago, there was always opportunities in Minnesota. They said it was a state for women and children, and then people said it was a state for white women and children because of how some legal things will go for black women. I encountered that, but I always found that there was something for my children to do, so when my boys were acting up in school in the winter time, I enrolled them in hockey, and being able to open up into that opportunity, being the only two black boys playing hockey, six years later it was a all black hockey team, and then there was a trophy in Harrison Park for hockey that year.
Princess Titus: 02:24 And that hadn’t been done within 10 years, so there’s always an opportunity, I feel like, in North Minneapolis for people to do something, people who still want to do something.
Interviewer: 02:34 Okay. What do you feel caused the changes you’ve seen in this area over the years? And why do you feel that way?
Princess Titus: 02:42 I think with the negative part with gentrification that happens in every urban area. I remember when North Minneapolis was primarily Jewish community. The Foodscape looked a little different, and now that we had a whole bunch of schools rebuilt some years ago, and then they closed them down because they were like we weren’t in that phase of gentrification yet. But I’ve noticed that I think gentrification being the plan in a lot of the urban areas because of the depletion of the soils and the natural resources out in urban areas where white people primarily live is. That’s why one one of those things has changed. The other reason on the positive change that I’ve saw is that I feel like now, or I think, or I’ve observed now that more of the businesses that are being birthed in North Minneapolis or in this community are by the people, for the people, like IWD, Individuals with Dreams, like Appetite for Change, like Standard Edition Women, like Abundant Life, all those are the people saying, “These are our issues and we can fix them ourselves, so here we are coming.” And we need human resources. We also need financial resources, but I think that we’ve hit our bottom as a people, and I think we got this, and I think we’re going to be okay.
Interviewer: 03:55 Okay. Okay. So we are gathering these stories to increase understanding between the city of Minneapolis and the community and the impact of historic discriminatory government policies and practices in areas like housing, transportation, economic development, and more. Examples
include housing and employment discrimination in the early 20th century, the war on drugs in the 1990s and others. What impacts have these policies or others had on the community in general and what impact have they had on you or your family personally?
Princess Titus: 04:32 So my approach to all of these things is … and I love the city. I love Joy and I love, and all of the people because they were once my community when I came here before they were officials within the city. But this is a narrative long overdue. We know why it’s happening. We know that the rhythm and the souls of the black people will not allow us to rise back up and offend the people who’ve done things to damage us. How it’s impacted my family personally, because I feel like if you’re talking about economics, education, politics, religion, sex, entertainment, war, and religion …. I already said religion, but all these areas in which we engage, everybody eats and we’re competing. We’re competing for things to validate our lives when really what we want is life, and in order to live, you have to eat. So we bypass how to care for our environment, looking at the air, the soil, the water as natural resources that will always be here. But the Earth is living too and we must care for her, and I never thought I would be a tree hugger. I’m a gangster from Chicago so I never thought I would be a tree hugger.
Princess Titus: 05:46 But if our soil is not good and our seeds are not sown right, and then our fruit will not produce itself, we can’t eat, and then we’re dependent on somebody else to do that, so I think the company-dependence in our relationship with the system. But from the food that I watch young people consume, because we notice, like you wake up in the morning on your way to school. You got $2. You go where? To the corner store. You get some chips, and a juice. That happens when you have 38 fast food restaurants and corner stores more often than it does in some areas where there’s different laws about zoning and how long restaurants can be open, and how many fast food junkie places can you have. So we’ve got some laws changed within our food justice work and in the environmental justice work that we’re doing. We’ve also got some places closed thanks to Roxanne O’Brien, our unsung hero who’s out here fighting with Northern Metals because they’re recycling cars in our community and they’re chipping up the cars, and spitting in our air, and then we wonder why our children have asthma.
Princess Titus: 06:50 we know that once we leave the inner city, those trash dumps and things of recycling will follow us where we are, and we know that it’s set up that way on purpose. Because of bad food, which is what I was told, I think that’s sometimes part of the reason why we have bad interactions with law enforcement. They eat what we eat. They go to the corner store. They eat at the corner store too. They just got guns and we don’t. I lost my son to gun violence July 4th, 2010, and we grew food. But the young people that he was around were, I feel like the people who are warred upon and they don’t even know they’re being warred upon. So that’s how it’s impacted my family personally. Those are the impacts that the policies have had on these communities, and I believe that the city knows them. We just have to stand firmly in calling it is what it is I the face of the people, even the ones who want to fix this problem with us, and look at community as still being us, that they have to hold …what do they call it? Get your cousins. They have to hold their other counterparts accountable.
Interviewer: 08:00 Oh, yeah. Okay. So what changes have you seen in this community that raise your level of stress or concern about its future, and what part does the city of Minneapolis need to play in relieving that stress?
Princess Titus: 08:12 I have seen children. My son is 25. My last living son is 25 and he has lost 42 friends, and when he lost his brother, that was the 4th of July, so this Thursday we was in Shiloh taking the pictures. And that following Thursday I was in Shiloh burying him. Him and all his friends were expected to just go back to school. When a shooting happens in a Caucasian community, therapists come out and children get to take a break, and they get t decompress. You’re just taught you got to go on with it, so I can’t be mad at you when you pick up a sack or a pint of lean or something like that to just see if you can silence the thoughts and the things that are going on in your mind. And I don’t think our school is funded by our city. Our schools are Minneapolis Public Schools. No. Our schools are funded by the state so different. But still, it says it’s Minneapolis Public Schools but it’s really funded by the state. But there has to be some type of intentionality around healing for those of us who are willing to continue to step out here and do the work with all the pain to drag behind them.
Princess Titus: 09:19 We have to let this go. Hey say it biblically. You have to confess your sins. Just say what happened. Say what you did. Everybody’s avoiding the truth and then they war up on us and they hide it in plain sight. And we act like we don’t see it, so it’s almost a nameless monster. But after you name that monster, then you can fight against it. You know the boogie man?
Interviewer: 09:39 Yeah.
Princess Titus: 09:40 He under your bed, right? He ain’t there when you turn the light on, right?
Interviewer: 09:43 No.
Princess Titus: 09:43 He gone when you turn the light on because you know that’s the boogie man. He in the dark. He in the closet. He in the bed. Now that you know that’s the boogie man, you know you just got to turn the light on, maybe get a teddy bear, maybe have somebody tuck you in. You know how to handle it. We’re avoiding it. We’re avoiding it. We’re dancing around in it. We’re trying to fix it with big words like intersectionality to see if we can get people to meet at a common place. If you eat, then you’re human because regardless of your zip code and the color of your skin, your food processes and comes out looking just like mine. And once we deplete the earth as a natural resource, North side all the way to … I’ve been to Turks and Caicos. Black people are in the same situation in every state after the diaspora, so regardless of where I go, when we can connect with people in that basic need … blacks, whites, if you just eat, and we can meet in that basic need and see that we too are human and have to commit our time to investing back into the earth and into each other, then maybe it’ll be different.
Princess Titus: 10:38 So that’s bigger than city but I just think some healing because I see so many babies that are doing what they’re doing, and I know they carry some pain. And I can’t respect your pain if I aint even respecting my own.
Interviewer: 10:54 You said that your son lost 42 friends?
Princess Titus: 10:57 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Interviewer: 10:57 Was that friends from this community, like North Minneapolis?
Princess Titus: 11:01 In North Minneapolis. And I’m a refugee from Chicago so I left Chicago to avoid my son losing 42 friends, but I came to Minneapolis. I came to St. Paul when I came to Minnesota and they sent me to Minneapolis because they said, “You’re from Chicago. Go over there.” And I never heard anything like that. But then when I got here, they had free backpacks and I could line up and get a turkey, and then that lasted very short. I was off welfare in eight months and had my GED and was working a couple of jobs and since then I’ve got my teaching license and I’ve started a few businesses, so my Chicago hustle was able to put me a little step ahead of this. But then I could see the game too because I’m 44, so I’m in that generation where I knew that immunizations were real and everybody got chicken pox, and you couldn’t look in the sun or you’d go blind, and now none of that’s true. So who gets to tell me my truth? I was talking to the young people I work with and I asked them how old do they think they’ll be when they’ll die, and they said 25. Some said 16. So I remember hearing the narrative when I was younger that black men died 18 or 21. Now them babies is like, if I live to be 35, I’m good, but I probably won’t live to be 16. When did that become the expectation and the standard when I know there’s just as much gun violence in Hinkley as there is in Minneapolis? So the narrative that’s shared, that information that is coming from the city or whoever has to be approved by us because it’s not our true story, and it gets people to see that we’re … they believe it so then they think we’re different. When they approach you on the street they grab their purse and they cross. But I don’t feel that way when I walk up on you, and we haven’t rose up and warred against our oppression at all, because rhythmically we’re not those people. While I have hope for the future of this community because I totally believe that the youth are the truth and like IWD, I don’t know what it is but I’m down. I didn’t even want to come do this because I’m careful with my story. I have to allow you permission to carry my story and I have to know you and trust you to do that.
Princess Titus: 13:05 I carry people’s stories and I ask their permission to carry their stories when I go to the White House or when I go meet Keith in Washington like bro. This urban ag bill. We need land over north that we can buy and own. Not that I can work on and build up, and then have it gentrified from underneath me. So ownership. If we don’t own anything how do we … aren’t we a stolen people with a stolen land and a given culture? So if we can’t own any land, if when people come in and zone and do work in North Minneapolis, we just don’t need black, people working on that crew. I need track instruction to be in on a bid with preference because they’re local. I need the opportunities to make sure that the black dollar gets spent in the black community bettering black people more than not, because we have so many other people coming in and they’re eating. Everytime I look at the city and the streets being redone I’m like, damn, they eating. They eating. They eating. They eating. They eating. My people got to eat and when I say my people, I mean any people that eat food and think that I’m their people.
Princess Titus: 14:05 If you don’t and you see me as different and separate because of my views and opinions, then you’re not my people, but you get to choose. So everybody’s invited in until you by actions separate yourself out. And that’s when you get to see what is deserved for a black baby is different than what’s deserved for a white baby, and sometimes it’s so internal that people just can’t sort it out. They don’t know that I think you lazy just because I’m looking at you and I don’t think you doing nothing because you sitting there. No. I feel like y’all working hard. Y’all just started this business in September. And that’s why I have hope because if we can invest into the younger ones, not necessarily y’all, but like the 11 and under. Showing them something different, letting them start their own businesses, then they grow up to be after 13 young people are done with park board sports. They off into high school. You can’t play sports unless your grades are good. Am I telling the truth?
Princess Titus: 14:56 So then you meet up on the corner, and when you and your guys get into it with the kids on the next corner, now it’s beef. Then a couple of people, we lose them and their mothers lose they mind and they stay in the house. I wasn’t staying in no house. Everybody was going to see me hurt and I’ve given a whole bunch of people permission to hurt outwardly. It doesn’t take anything away from you because you have this pain. My son was 16 for two weeks. Two weeks. And it was beautiful and the children were caught so I could still do my work in the community, but when they went to jail, I didn’t feel like I had won. I felt like I had lost and I felt like there was more work to do. I felt like I lost three men’s lives, so that’s what gives me hope. I think the youth are the truth. And they told me that. And when you give young people a platform on which they can operate within their power, you can’t take it back. Y’all got the answers. Y’all don’t look like it because y’all pants is cut up and y’all rock a curly hair, and you got your bling. You don’t look like it.
Princess Titus: 15:50 You look like you’ve been advertised for me to think you on some garbage, but I know y’all got the answers because y’all tired and we’ve hit our bottom, and there’s nowhere to come from the bottom but up.
Interviewer: 16:01 Okay. What part does the city of Minneapolis need to play in creating a more hopeful future for us?
Princess Titus: 16:09 Allowing us opportunities. You got redlining rules. I can’t buy a house in certain areas. I went through that. Nine months pregnant, I went through that and they bought me a house, and gave me a bad deal. And then when everybody lost they houses I was just scooped up into that. At the same time of losing my son, I was just scooped up into that. If we don’t have access to some of these buildings that cost so much money … what’s the lady’s name? Chante from All Washed Up, the laundromat on Lowry and Penn. She had $30,000 of her own money. She had a house paid off so she had collateral. She had a felon. She couldn’t get a business loan. You know what I mean? So it took all this time for them to get five lenders to match the amount that she had to build out this laundromat so she could have a business so she would need a job to create some revenue and job opportunities for people in the community. That shouldn’t have been that hard. Why do I have to show up and be better than everybody, like double better than my white counterparts, and then still not get the same treatment?
Princess Titus: 17:22 The city has to value a life for a life. The way that black men are being treated by the police without impunity, no consequences, that’s just unheard of. And if the shoe was on the other foot, we would be held accountable so the city has to be accountable and responsible to what they say they value, to the same people who pay tax dollars, because every time you buy something, it’s tax on it, right? So you paying taxes regardless of if your money came from welfare or hustling. You paying taxes. They getting they cut, so they have to invest back into us. They have this disproportionate relationship in everything. I think Minnesota ranked number one over Tennessee and Mississippi on how blacks are rating compared to the white counterparts. But who says they’re the standard? What’s our standard? What do we want? So cooking and eating and talking with the community, this storytelling part, and asking people what they want is one piece. But when people haven’t ever seen anything other than what they’ve seen, how do they dream? Individuals with Dreams. How do they dream?
Interviewer: 18:31 So these last three questions is just like little short [inaudible
00:18:37] questions. You ain’t got to delve deep down if you don’t want to.
Princess Titus: 18:38 Okay.
Interviewer: 18:41 So when you think about this area today, what impacts do you still see from these historic government policies?
Princess Titus: 18:51 I see the people fighting and I see the system doing what the
Interviewer: 18:54 Okay. So how would you describe the relationship between the city of Minneapolis and this community over the years?
Princess Titus: 19:05 I think it’s gotten better because of the people that we have in positions of power over there. Like I said, Joy, Julie … even having … what’s his name? Jeremiah … you know. Some of those people, Sean. You know. Just people I know that I know from the hood. I used to give Keith a ride in my old Caravel when he was at the Urban League, so people that I know I can relate with that I’ve broken bread with are now in those positions so I think we’re headed on the right track because they carry our narratives, and they knew our children. And when our whole hood grieves, it impacts them. When our whole hood grieves and these people are working the city that don’t live in the city, they just go home. It’s not the truth. It’s just ours and we’re left to dress it up and make it look … did it look okay?
Princess Titus: 19:53 Dress it up and make it look okay and get back to the work.
Interviewer: 19:56 Okay. What are your expectations of the city of Minneapolis related of this community? To what extent do you trust the city of Minneapolis to deliver on those expectations?
Princess Titus: 20:11 I raise a eye to everything and I feel like even with my young people, I tell them wrong information all the time because they’ll believe me, and then I teach them how to do their research and your research just ain’t Google. It’s talking to your counterparts, your auntie, your mom, your elders, your homies, seeing what people think about it. Do I trust that they’ll do it? That’s always been my question with politics, like somebody run for office and they say, I’m a do X, Y, and Z, when is the date that I get to go to your review and say he did half of X. I don’t know why that he was doing Y. And is Z coming next year?
When do we get to come back and say? And then sometimes their timelines aren’t even right. We got the 2040 plan. You heard about that? The comprehensive plan for Minneapolis, the 2040 plan?
Interviewer: 20:58 Mm-mm (negative).
Princess Titus: 20:58 So where Minneapolis is going to be in the year 2040. And they have like this hard deadline of when they are done taking feedback. I’m a have to go knock door to door or probably do my community organizing at the two and the fourth to get the real people who are being impacted by the issues out of their trauma. I might have to meet them in their trauma and to get them to the meetings because when you’re done taking feedback you’re going to move this agenda anyway and we’re kind of being written out of it, the way it reads to me. There’s laws. I think there’s not laws, but rules about how it can be written and even the verbiage in there, so play them word games with yourself. Come to the people and ask the people what they need. And if you want them to trust you, cook and eat and talk with them, it brings that family feeling. People tell you what they feel like they want or need. They even hold they selves accountable to it because they can offer. Even if they set up a equal situation, we still in a place where we haven’t dealt with our pain, so could we even capitalize on those opportunities? So do I trust them?
Princess Titus: 22:06 I would say yes because I would want to project that into the future. But I’m always going to have four, five plans in the bag on my own.
Interviewer: 22:13 All right. What part do you feel like you could play in making this community right here on this map more hopeful?
Princess Titus: 22:23 Currently, I’m the founder of a couple of different organizations, Appetite for Change, Standard Edition Women. I sit on the board of Abundant Life and Pretty Girls Club. I’m looking now. Do I sit on the board of the Wedge or South side Family Charter School? And that’s over South and that’s over South. Do I sit on the board of the Council on Black Minnesotans or whatever it’s called now? Where do I position myself to make sure that I’m the only black in the room? Because until there’s that first only black in the room, you don’t get more. We have to be at the table or we on the plate. So that’s the message I carry to make sure that whatever happens happens. We applied for this RECAST funding and we didn’t get it. We applied because there was a gun incident at the block party we threw right here in front of Shiloh. And it was peaceful all day but a young man had a weapon because he was afraid because he’s on Broadway, and he was jumping and singing and it fell, and somebody was injured. And our children never got to unpack that.
Princess Titus: 23:22 But the type of youth organization I run is where we found out somebody else got the funding. We just wanted to participate because we knew we all needed healing as well. So even if they didn’t all get chose to tell they story, I would like to ask them some of these same questions. And is this really going to help with the healing? Because this was about trauma, so if it’s about starting a process for the city of Minneapolis, they could fund it and get somebody some programs to run something. That might be cool. I feel like that’s a given, though. That’s what they good for doing, going, yep. We helped you create this situation. Want some money so you can go fix it? We’ll take the money and go fix it.
Princess Titus: 24:06 Wouldn’t you take the money and go fix it?
Interviewer: 24:06 Yeah, I’d rather fix it myself.
Princess Titus: 24:08 But you can fund it. You can make sure I stay in them 13s. Any other questions?
Interviewer: 24:14 I do. Where you get the information about that 2040 thing?
Princess Titus: 24:20 The 2040 com plan? I work with an environmental justice coalition with Sam Grant and James Trice and Roxanne, a couple of hard hitters who do air, water, and land, and Catherine and Micheal Chaney from Project Sweetie Pie. So we had to read the 2040 com plan. It’s 97 areas of interest. It’s just unreadable for me. It’s a lot and they’re accepting feedback, but we’re doing something different. And then even with the accepting feedback, you submit it anonymously and then the city says that they’re not getting feedback from the fifth and fourth ward. How do you know if it’s anonymous? So do I trust them?
Interviewer: 25:00 All right. Thank you for this part. Just because it’s … yeah. So thank you for …
Princess Titus: 25:07 Thank you.