Interview of Thandisizwe Jackson-Nisan
Interviewer: 00:06 May I have your first and last name with spelling, please?
Jackson-Nisan : 00:08 It’s Thandi Sizwe. Thandi like Gandhi. Sizwe. T-H-A-N-D-I S-I-ZW-E. Last name is Jackson, like Michael, hyphen Nisan. J-A-C-KS-O-N, hyphen N-I-S-A-N.
Interviewer: 00:29 Do you currently or have you ever lived near or part of North of
Minneapolis? If so, how long?
Jackson-Nisan : 00:36 Born and raised over here in North Minneapolis. Am I supposed to identify the part?
Interviewer: 00:45 Yeah.
Jackson-Nisan : 00:45 Near North, Low End. A.K.A. Low End. Low End or no end, okay? And I grew up on 16th and Fremont, right down the street.
Interviewer: 00:54 Okay, okay. Thinking back from when you first came in this area to today, what changes have you seen?
Jackson-Nisan : 01:03 Okay. I’ve seen some good changes, and I’ve also seen some changes where I’m like, “Okay, I see what y’all are trying to do.” As far as the pros: more resources. I think that we’ve always had resources, but the technology is helping us a little bit in that way. As far as nonprofits, I don’t like all nonprofits cause I think that they try to come in and pimp the community, but there’s some good ones over here. And as far as some of the things I don’t like, they’re trying to gentrify the area, calling it “Know Me.” No, you don’t know me. That’s why you’re saying that; no, this is the North Side. Ride or die. So even breaking bread across the street. That’s a good change. There wasn’t anything like that when I was growing up, and, you know, Sammy’s, some of the food, but it’s still a food desert, so there’s been some changes, but not enough.
Interviewer: 02:11 Okay. What do you feel caused the changes you’ve seen in this area over the years?
Jackson-Nisan : 02:15 Funding, like as far as the nonprofits, which can be, it can good, and then it can also be bad for people that are poverty pimping and a little greedier than they should be; or you shouldn’t be greedy at all. And as far as the gentrification, I just think opportunity, like right now, the market, the housing market is ridiculous. I’m a housing counselor. That’s my plantation job, but it’s decent. It could be worse, but it’s not what I’m passionate about, but every day, people are coming in trying to buy homes and I’m seeing investors, which is cool, but people that have those resources able to buy those homes and that’s why their able to do what they’re trying to do to the neighborhood as far as the gentrification and even investing as far as businesses, when you have that money, when you have that paycheck, typically you get those opportunities.
Speaker 4: 03:14 So, we’re gathering these stories to try to start to understand the relationship between the community in North Minneapolis and the residents and the City of Minneapolis, entities and so, I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit about maybe some historical discriminatory practices or policies that you’ve seen over the years and how it’s impacted this community. Maybe in the areas of housing, employment, education.
Jackson-Nisan : 03:46 “Some historical discriminatory government practices in this area.” That’s a good question. And my mom was like, ” there’s an outline.” I don’t know if this is what you sent us, but this would have been a great one to think about. “Historical discriminatory government policies in this area.” And this is one of those questions, “I know it’s a bunch of them,” and it’s like, “why can’t I think right now?” And was there an example? War on drugs in the 90s.
Interviewer: 04:21 And even, I mean, going back to, this is before all of our times, but your mom maybe could speak more into redlining- to do with housing.
Jackson-Nisan : 04:31 Redlining, I was just thinking about that.
Jackson-Nisan : 04:33 Yeah, I can talk about housing. So, my mom lost her house right on 16th and Fremont to foreclosure and sometimes it’s the policies that are put in place and then the policies that are not put in place. And I know sometimes that’s why people like, “well, we have to vote” and “we have to do this,” but I’m kinda over certain things as far as … I feel like there are certain things that shouldn’t be happening. We shouldn’t need a policy for a young man not to lose his life at the hands of a cop in North Minneapolis. That’s ridiculous.
Jackson-Nisan : 05:08 But I remember when she was fighting for her house … well, first of all, she lost the house because someone stole her identity; someone that she trusted. We lived in that home for 23 years, 21 years, maybe, and that was the home that I grew up in. She got it for $40,000. Bought it for $40,000 in 1991, 90 or 1. And when she lost it, it was during the time of the foreclosure crisis and I just remember thinking … I didn’t understand how someone could steal someone’s identity. I mean, she did stop making the payments, but he had refi’d the home and said that she had made this money that she didn’t make and it bothered me because she was going to people in the community that were kinda supposed to be down for the rah rah and she didn’t get the support that she needed. And that was a instance where I was like, “okay, where are these policies?”
Jackson-Nisan : 06:07 And then just the idea that they were snatching people’s homes. It really bothers me when America is in debt, we bail them out. It’s like, home owners go through things too. So, I don’t know, that’s kinda one of the only examples I can think of right now.
Interviewer: 06:24 What changes have you seen in this community that raise your stress level? Or concerns about it’s future?
Jackson-Nisan : 06:31 Oh, and you know what … sorry, just something else I thought about too. I remember back when I was in high school, the police were cracking down on young men … well, anybody, spitting on the sidewalk. Now, I have a big thing with spitting. It’s a bodily function, but if you do it, let’s try … like that little are right there with them red wood chips, that’s a great place to spit in. Ain’t nobody gone be sitting over there. So, I don’t like when people spit in places where folks are walking, but, on the other hand, don’t use that to incriminate us.
Jackson-Nisan : 07:02 I remember I went to North High School and one of my associates, we were walking from North High School to North Commons … which is like a half block, a block away, and he spit, and a cop flashed his lights and came over and wrote him a ticket for that. And I just remember thinking … I was like, “well, sir … ” I was trying to kinda talk to him, [inaudible 00:07:22] also remember thinking, my dad was telling me, “we don’t like the police, but they pull you over, it’s ‘yes ma’am, yes sir.’ Hands where they can see them.” He always put me up on game. But, yeah, that was a big thing for a while. I don’t think they’re still cracking down on it now, but they wouldn’t have been doing that out in Edina and it was for this neighborhood specifically for reasons that I don’t have to list.
Interviewer: 07:46 That’s crazy.
Jackson-Nisan : 07:50 I’m sorry, then you had … I just went back. You had asked me another question. “What changes have you seen in the community that raise your level of stress?”
Jackson-Nisan: 07:57 Changes in the community. You know, it’s interesting because as far as violence … and I don’t even like saying “black on black violence,” because I feel like that’s them trying to tell us that we’re heathens and it’s like, “I may or may not be a heathen, but if I am, I got a reason to be.” You know what I mean? That’s a part of a poem that I wrote so, … she said, “was that a freestyle, girl?” … Okay, but yeah, so I don’t even like using that term, but I do remember in high school sometimes, being scared to walk certain places. Like, “okay, somebody … ” You know, you [inaudible 00:08:31] leaving a party, somebody might get shot. I mean, that’s how it works around here.
Jackson-Nisan: 08:37 But now, I feel like, and I don’t know what the stats are, but I feel like the violence that we, unfortunately, commit against ourselves, people of our own kind, it seems like that has decreased, and it seems like the police shootings have increased. And that scares me because at first I was like, “okay, the police are killing people and it’s such a epidemic right now it’s gonna stop. It’s gone slow down.” Because if I’m a cop, I’m thinking, like, “okay, I don’t wanna be him on TV,” but then again when him or her are not being prosecuted, when they’re not being indicted, then it’s like, “well, I can do what I want.”
Jackson-Nisan: 09:13 But that scares me. That makes me nervous. I mean, every time a cop … not even pulling me over, I feel like I’ve only got pulled over like, once or twice, but even just when they’re in the back of me, I’m getting over to the next lane, I’m turning on Fremont even if I didn’t mean to turn until Emerson; I just feel nervous. It’s frightening that they think that they can … or that they can, that they can shoot people like Jamar Clark and Terrance Franklin in the streets and that people can occupy the precinct and something’s still not happened. Evidence can come out that that person didn’t have that gun or whatever and something still not happen … and, I mean, that’s a whole systematic issue with racism and capitalism, but it seems to happen a lot in Minneapolis and it’s been happening in North Minneapolis since even Tycel Nelson. That was in 1991, so it’s this history and I guess when we look back at it, it just changes.
Jackson-Nisan : 10:16 Slavery, and then Jim Crow, and … you know, they just get us a different kind of way and that hurts because this is the place that I love, so when things like that happen, then memories are associated … every time I drive past the fourth precinct, that’s what I think about. You know what I mean? Literally, every time I think about how it was occupied and … I was there a few days, I wasn’t sleeping outside though, I ain’t even … people be trying to take credit like, “honey, I was not one of those people in a sleeping bag, but I went and showed love.” And literally, everytime, that’s what I think about and those are negative memories associated with the place that I love which is North Minneapolis.
Interviewer: 10:53 What gives you hope for the future of this community?
Interviewer: 11:04 What part does the City of Minneapolis need to play in creating
a more hopeful future?
Jackson-Nisan: 11:09 I don’t have any hope in the city. And I’m really over putting my fate in someone else’s hands and I feel like that makes me sound like a pessimist, but … yeah.
Jackson-Nisan: 11:25 I … I don’t know. I think that … I feel Malcolm, you know? I feel him when he’s like, “the only way they’re gonna listen to us is if we go lower than them.” We can’t go high, we gotta … People like, “let’s go high, and … ” People have different strategies. Some people are like, “well, let’s come together, hold hands and sing Kumbaya.” Kumbaya is cool, I’ll jig to it, you know what I mean? I’ll sing it too, but I don’t know if I’ma come hold hands with y’all because we been doing that for a while. And I also think that, too, people mistake progress for the Freedom Land and the Promised Land. We’ve made some prog … there’s been little bits, but sometimes they give us a lil something so we can shut up too. And they give us a lil something so it can look like something else, but nobody’s free. In my opinion, nobody’s free and one of us can’t be free until everybody’s free.
Jackson-Nisan: 12:16 We came over here together, we can’t be free until everybody’s free and I was just literally … so, I went to Sammy’s before I came here and I was on the Five and it just reminded me … I’m not driving right now … why I don’t like taking the bus. Just my energy. My energy on that bus, two things happened where I was just like, “whoa, look at how they have us.” And I think it’s okay to say, “they” have us like this. And we do have to take some personal responsibilities, but our people are hurting. Our people are hurting and I do believe in post traumatic slave trauma. I do believe that that’s passed down. And I also believe that even though we’re hurting, look at us. Look at what type of people we are. We are resilient, we are bomb, we are determined. The things that we have done in spite.
Jackson-Nisan: 13:03 So, as far as the city, these little grants and they’re giving homeowners 75 hundred dollars to buy in Minneapolis, that’s gre … I’ll take it, I’m trying to buy a house right now. Yes, I will take that 75 hundred, but it’s like, “where’s my 40 acres and my mule to start?” Just to start. Cause now I need 100 acres cause I’m trying to build a farm, cause y’all got us eating this crazy food with all this soy in it so I gotta grow my own.
Jackson-Nisan: 13:31 So, I mean, to answer that question is: I don’t know where I fit in at because I’m kinda battling … for the last couple years, I worked on the Justice for Jamar fight and that broke my heart because there was all this in-fighting in that. We were trying to fight the system and Mike Freeman and we was fighting each other. And I broke down, I went into months of just being depressed because I was like, “this is never gonna change.” And since then I’ve been trying to figure out where out where my place is because I don’t have hope in the city and, unfortunately, I don’t have hope in my people even though I have more hope in my people than I have in the city or the state or the country, this world, the people in charge, the powers that be, but I feel like they got us too bamboozled.
Jackson-Nisan: 14:17 So I don’t know. I think I just do what I can do; my little small bit. I mentor young girls, I teach them about hygiene, I teach them about safety, and foods. I mentor young boys too, but I have a specific relationship with my girls, but just do my little part and try to be the best I can be because this whole MLK,
Malcolm X … you know, this whole worldwide change, honestly, I don’t think it’s gonna happen. Now, I don’t think it’ll happen in my lifetime, but then we got something going on with the planet where the planet is saying, “screw y’all.” That’s what the planet is saying, so I’m like, … people like, “well, it might happen 100 years from now.” I don’t know how much time we have left, you know what I mean?
Jackson-Nisan : 15:01 So that was a good question. I got a little-
Interviewer: 15:04 You good. You good.
Jackson-Nisan : 15:04 Little something, okay?
Interviewer: 15:06 Okay, these are top of the mind thought questions. They don’t have to be long, but when you think about this area today, what
impacts do you still see from these historic government policies?
Jackson-Nisan : 15:25 Is there a specific historic government policies?
Interviewer: 15:30 So all the things that we might have discussed earlier. I know we touched a little bit on housing and we really have already answered a lot of that, but how do you see systemic … and really we’re talking about racism here, is what I heard you mention. But how do you see the lasting effects, even still right now, of some of those things that came into play before we were even born?
Jackson-Nisan : 15:57 Yeah, no, for sure. I just think that we don’t heal as a people …and not just black people. I think that just as a people, we do this thing where it’s just like, “well, gotta get up and go … ” You know, we’re all in survival mode. Monday through Saturday, work, can’t think. Sunday, I’m preparing for work; I can’t think … that’s another poem piece, now that’s I can’t take credit for that, but that’s one of my best friends.
Jackson-Nisan: 16:20 But you know just, when he said that poem and I heard it for the first time, it’s like, “yeah, it’s that survival mode.” So we don’t have time to do all these other things.
Jackson-Nisan: 16:29 Everything is still within us. Even when I think about how they brought crack into our communities. That was a purposeful, strategic plan to say, “this is how we gone get these niggas,” you know? And it was “niggas.” It kind of backfired on them because now these white people in the suburbs with meth and … it’s just interesting the way that things work. But whether that person that put you on to that in the 80s is still alive or not, it passes down. We pass things down generationally. We pass our bad habits, we pass that trauma down. Thinking about housing, if I never saw my mom or father own a home, then that’s the example that I know.
Jackson-Nisan : 17:17 So, just these behaviors I feel like are really passed down to our children and then when we can’t heal and when we’re messed up from what’s happened to us, then that’s when we’re acting crazy. And it’s like, who can blame us? Who can … even the dude on the bus, he … “this bitch,” and he was talking about his baby moms. She was at the front of the bus and he was saying to feed the baby … it’s like, “that’s why you can’t trust bitches,” and … sometimes I’m like, “okay, am I gonna tuck it… okay, I’m gonna tuck it in today.” I don’t wanna … bruh, cause I got my mace on my waist. I’ll give you that business real quick. But that was one of them things where I was like … he did it when we were passing Plymouth … I said, “thank God, I’m about to get off this bus.” Because all of that energy, it’s contagious. And it’s like, who wants to hear a man talking about a woman like that? But it comes from all that trauma, I think.
Interviewer: 18:10 How would you describe the relationship between the City of Minneapolis and the community over the years?
Jackson-Nisan : 18:17 I think it’s been bittersweet. I will say I think that there’s a lot of… oh, it’s raining now … I think that there’s a lot of resources here that I don’t see as a housing counselor. Sometimes when I go to these national trainings, there’s people from New York and there’s people from Idaho and Minneapolis, I will give us credit, we have a lot of resources, a lot of food programs and things like that, but then Jamar Clark happens and we’re like, “okay you can give us free meals Monday through Friday,” but when one of our own is dying, it’s like those free meals don’t matter as much so, I don’t know, it’s kind of like this hate love relationship, and it’s also very bittersweet too.
Interviewer: 18:58 What are your expectations of the City of Minneapolis relative to this community? To what extent do you trust the City of Minneapolis to deliver on those expectations?
Jackson-Nisan : 19:08 I don’t trust the city. At all. I do think if I buy a house and they say, “hey, you got your 75 hundred dollars for home grant,” then I expect them to give that to me. There’s certain lil things… if I show up to a for a free meal, I’m like, “okay, you better come out with that meal.”
Jackson-Nisan: 19:25 But other than that, I don’t trust the city. Even when I just went down to the ticket hearing officers office … and I just hate even going down there. I hate being in court, I hate … I just don’t even like dealing with them. I don’t trust them. I don’t trust them at all and I don’t … The second part was “what are your expectations?” I feel like when you don’t have expectations, or they’re not high, then you can’t get disappointed. So I just really been rerouting and I think, for some people, especially the one’s singing Kumbaya and stuff, I come off as, I don’t know. I don’t know how I might come off, but people might be like, “our sista,” and it’s like, “no.” I’m not gonna be 70 years old still marching. I’m sorry. I’m not gone be doing it.
Jackson-Nisan : 20:11 I hope to be somewhere in the Bahamas or back in Africa. I’ll even take Asia … on a island somewhere, whatever, but I’m not gonna be 70 years old still walking from the precinct to the government center cause another black boy was … I don’t … I’m soft, I’m sensitive, I’ll treat somebody. I’ll put somebody in their place, but I can be very emotional too, so it’s like at the end of the day, I want to make sure I take care of me and mine and if you’re not providing me the tools and the resources and even the dignity to even cover up a young boy’s body when he’s killed, that’s just like, “I’ma do me and know that I gotta kinda move around cause this ain’t gone work.”
Jackson-Nisan : 20:52 So that’s how I feel about that.
Interviewer: 20:56 What part do you feel you can play in creating a more a more hopeful future?
Jackson-Nisan : 21:02 Just what I said cause I don’t wanna be one of those people … a family member that I know, she stays in her house and she doesn’t come out. She suffers with depression. She always got a story like, “well, watch out,” and I’m like, “Auntie, they ain’t …sometimes it ain’t like that. I don’t always gotta watch my back.”
Jackson-Nisan : 21:20 And she’s been like that, I will say, for the past 15 years and I remember just thinking like, “I don’t wanna be like that.” I like to travel, I like to eat, I cook, I love being outside, I’m one with nature, but sometimes I like to be inside too. So it’s just like. me really finding my place. Not my medium, not like a happy medium, but knowing that I’m not trying to be Malcolm X no more, cause I was.
Jackson-Nisan : 21:42 My dad was the Malcolm X of the North Side, Christopher Ross Nisan. He was a activist, revolutionary, he stayed right outside of where Jamar Clark was shot and right outside where Jamar Clark died, the Feds raided his house looking for guns that wasn’t there cause he was doing some business with Cuba and he was threatening what they had going on so I wanted to be just like my pops. I wanna be Malcolm. I wanna be Ella Baker. And it took a quick sec for me to snap back into reality especially … look, okay Malcolm was executed … it’s either you end up poor, broke, and miserable, or you’re dead.
Jackson-Nisan : 22:15 So I was like, “mm.” So it’s like, “where can I find that little … I’m not trying to mess with the political parties, I’m not a democrat no more, I’m not trying to mess with them, but I also don’t wanna be a revolutionary, so it’s like, “where do I land?” And I think, especially with the food piece that I’ve picked up about educating these babies on what to eat, what not to eat, what’s going on with their bodies, the mentorship, the empowerment piece, even black history; we talk a lot about black history. Taking them to Ethiopia, hopefully, in a year and a half. December of 2018 or 2019. I feel like that’s my center ground. Cause I definitely am not one of those people that just likes to sit around, but I’m tired of yelling, and asking, and begging for something that’s like, these human rights.
Jackson-Nisan : 23:07 Is that it?
Interviewer: 23:08 Yes, that is it. Thank you for sharing your story.
Jackson-Nisan : 23:11 Yeah, yeah, thank y’all.