Interview of Thomas Beasley
Interviewer: 00:05 So may I have your first and last name with spelling please.
Thomas B. : 00:14 Thomas T-H-O-M-A-S Beasley, B as in boy E-A-S-L-E-Y.
Interviewer: 00:26 All right. So we have a map here. In referencing this map could you tell us if you currently live in any of these areas, have you ever lived in these areas or live near part of these areas. And if you have, how long?
Interviewer: 00:45 We have a bigger map right here too.
Thomas B. : 00:46 Yeah, hold up a little bit. Well I can say that I’ve lived in most of these areas, I’ve lived in North Minneapolis for a little over 42 years.
Interviewer: 00:52 Wow, okay.
Thomas B. : 00:53 Yeah.
Interviewer: 00:53 Okay.
Thomas B. : 00:54 So I’ll be… no, more than that. I’ll be 48 so… about 44 years.
Interviewer: 01:00 Okay.
Thomas B. : 01:00 I’ve been in North Minneapolis so I’ve lived in multiple, like
all these areas at some point.
Interviewer: 01:06 Okay. That’s quite a while.
Thomas B. : 01:07 Yeah, I’m from North Minneapolis.
Interviewer: 01:12 Thinking back from when you first came to this area today, what changes have you seen, positive and negative?
Thomas B. : 01:19 Positive changes… there’s some growth, you know, I mean just as far as like housing. The projects are gone and they turned it into, you know, heritage park or you know things like that. Some of it has aesthetically gotten better, a little bit. Negative… in some ways socially, some things haven’t changed at all.
Interviewer: 01:41 Right.
Thomas B. : 01:42 You know, the narrative, the narrative has changed but it’s the same circumstances, so that’s kind of how I feel about the negative stuff.
Interviewer: 01:51 Okay. So what do you feel caused the changes you’ve seen in this area over the years and then why do you feel that way?
Thomas B. : 01:59 Some of it is our North Minneapolis proximity to downtown Minneapolis and businesses like the Target Center and the Metroplex, you know the industrial, the business complex of downtown Minneapolis. It’s spreading out, it’s spreading its legs. They had a 20 year kind of plan, where as kind of gone up Dowling up Lowry you know I mean, downtown’s growing just like any other city, it being the center it’s spreading out. North Minneapolis is prime and so, is some aspects it’s gentrified. We had the tornado that literally uprooted and left a lot of people homeless, you know and things like that.
Thomas B. : 02:37 On the positive side like I said, there are some infrastructure, there are more jobs. There’s like Urban League and stuff for people offering skills training. Some people are benefiting from it and youths, next generations are more into school and people are… some people are respecting the legacy of coming back to the community and putting something in and kind of keeping it… creating a legacy in these communities, so that’s the plus side.
Interviewer: 03:04 Okay.
Interviewer: 03:08 The city of Minneapolis would like to understand how these government policies such as drug wars, housing and employment discrimination has affected you.
Thomas B. : 03:18 Drug wars has made… having been in North Minneapolis it felt like… there was a time like in the 90’s especially, it felt like I lived in occupied territory because the law enforcement came in a very paramilitary way, with armored vehicles and you know what I mean, and automatic weapons and you know the war on drugs, well we’re people and we’re all Americans and we’re all citizens, I’m not your enemy, even if there are legal issues going on. Your job is to protect us and to… you know what I mean, help manage you know, with that. I don’t believe in anarchy; without order there would be chaos and it would be a bad place because there are real monsters in this world so I respect the police, I do, we have a need for the police that’s a fact.
Thomas B. : 04:00 But I felt very oppressed in the 90’s, very oppressed and psychology says statistically if you add more law enforcement it actually agitates the situation. When you put more cops, when you put more boots on the ground it actually creates more tension and things tend to get worse.
Interviewer: 04:18 Okay. Is there mainly a lack of trust then like you have more boots on the ground it creates tension?
Thomas B. : 04:23 Well yes. I mean I’m a black man and the story goes back well before me. I been hearing the story of the man who got killed by the cop or the brutality and stuff from my father and my uncle and from the time I was a child all the way up to now. It’s like I said, the narrative has changed but it’s still the same story.
Interviewer: 04:43 Okay. So we’re gathering these stories to increase the understanding between the city of Minneapolis and the community, on the impact of the historic discriminatory government policies. So do you want to speak on that a little bit?
Thomas B. : 05:04 That’s a real question. That’s a real question.
Interviewer: 05:05 And a couple examples could be housing, transportation, the economic development. You spoke on the war on drugs already so have you seen other things going on?
Thomas B. : 05:15 Well the big picture… that’s a long answer but the big picture is the social, political, economical situation and the present industrial complex and all these other you know, cliché like circumstances, are real. Things are illuminated and put on media in different ways and stuff, like I said, the narrative or the stories told in different ways but I’m actually… I’m a black man I experienced this first hand.
Thomas B. : 05:41 People say you should just pull yourself up by your bootstraps or you should do this or you should do that but there are institutional things. I mean racism is when the system itself or an institution actually hinders you consciously for its own, for you know, to push itself forward and to push you back or at your expense. I bumped into those things, I’ve experienced those things first hand. I’ve been the guy on the bus and you get off at the same time at night and the lady clutched her purse and took off running, but I’m just somebody’s son, I’m just a regular guy. I’ve never hurt anybody and stuff like that you know so I’ve experienced it from all angles.
Thomas B. : 06:16 I’m afraid for the next generations now and I mean to wrap it up it’s… I don’t see it leading to… I don’t see family building, I don’t see family values, I don’t see enough life skills instruction in generations, it’s not just about black people. That’s just about kind of where things are headed you know, people are kind of apathetic, people have gotten greedy and it’s really about… it’s the school of me, it’s all about me, me, me you know, and I don’t see the life in that, I don’t see the love in that you know what I mean. I don’t see the long term future in that. Everything is being put into technology and everybody’s walking around like this but we’re all in a room together you know what I mean. It’s so impersonal and it’s brought the world together but it’s actually kind of removed each other you know.
Thomas B. : 07:04 So how I feel today is, I feel like everybody should be a functional, law abiding citizen of the United States and play par throughout the course. Stop complaining. Everybody stop lying to each other. We all know that really happened. We all know that… we know the truths and we do all this talking about things and all these sit downs and all these sit ins and all these things. You know we need to just… people just need to be honest. That’s kind of where I’m at, be honest about what’s really going on in the world with each other, even if we don’t like it, you know we’re not all going to be friends, everybody’s not going to like each other we’re not all going to get along but we… about the future of you know, our nation and you know human race. I mean it’s gonna come down to kind of you know, come together or perish. I mean it’s spiritually… I mean it’s written this… it’s a reason but it adds up. It’s gonna come to those points… you know one plus one will always equal two, so this will evolve to an end of if they don’t come together it will perish, it’s going to be one or two things and so I fear for the future.
Interviewer: 08:14 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?
Thomas B. : 08:26 Damn, you’re asking some real questions.
Thomas B. : 08:32 I think the changes that cause stress are… I see big companies like I said, come from North Minneapolis in prime real… not just about the real estate but just like I said, downtown but I see big companies like the construction company that they just built on Plymouth. It’s huge. They just dropped this big, huge monstrosity into the community. It’s taller than everything. It just… off state… you know lots of communities have ordinances where you can only build so high you know can only do certain things because of the aesthetics of the community. It just changed it you know. I mean that’s a dramatic change for your walk, there’s this big huge concrete fortress in the middle. I think one of the changes was that when they built the fourth precinct you know when, they literally… fourth came in the middle, but that’s when they came with the war on drugs and the paramilitary, you know it kind of feels like I said a slow transition to unoccupied territory, it’s kind of what it feels like to me. But…
Interviewer: 09:29 So what did the city play?
Thomas B. : 09:32 The city…
Interviewer: 09:32 What role did they need to play in helping to relieve the stress?
Thomas B. : 09:35 To relieve the stress? I don’t know. A lot of it… I mean, I don’t know if we can depend on outside force entities. I mean I don’t know if a community can depend on the city to facilitate, you know the changes that we want. A lot of the things a person has to end collectively if we could come to, group together literally, not so much in a we shall overcome sense but I mean, investment groups, small businesses, trusting each other and put our money in a pot and you know and buy, you know four new lawnmowers and a trailer, you know what I mean. Then you know we do that, then we hire your son and your son to cut the grass and you know for their summer jobs and get you know what I mean we have to build the structures ourselves no one can really come in and fix it you know for not proactively trying to change things for ourself I think it rests more on the community than the city in my eyes.
Interviewer: 10:25 What gives you hope for the future?
Thomas B. : 10:28 Hope for the future? There are good people in this world. There is good in this world. I mean I could sit here and rattle off all the negative and bad things I see but based on my own life experience I know that there’s philanthropy, people who donate money to save peoples lives for medical research and what not, who’ve never met those people before and they put forth millions of dollars. There are people who raised money you know to help people you know what I mean. Yeah there are good people. There’s still good people, all is not lost. Even the pictures painted kind of morbid, kind of grim but if you stop being distracted and see for yourself there’s just good people in this world. So I think good will prevail overall.
Interviewer: 11:11 Okay. So just kind of off the top of your head with some real quick answers, when you think about the area today what impacts do you still see from these historic government policies that you spoke on earlier?
Thomas B. : 11:30 Gentrification like I said. The communities being kind of bought out and property values are going…its kind of been liquidated especially like after the tornado it all got scooped up and it’s either shoddy slum lord you know rentals or it’s torn down and rebuilt and you know not intended… unaffordable for people in the community. I see that the fear factor hasn’t changed The community is still intimidated by the police. You know the cops I mean like the story of the cops killing I mean Tightcell Nelson, he was a friend of mine you know I grew up with his older brother. I remember when he got killed running round the corner with a screwdriver right down on Plymouth Avenue you know. I was… you know that was my era and since then it’s been this person and this person and this person. You know when you drive and turn a corner, police get behind you even though you got license and everything your heart still drops for a tenth of a second that you have that thought that you know, that whole psychology of being, of oppression. It’s something that hasn’t changed and like the screws got tightened like some of the changes when you think it will get better the infrastructure will come help us rebuild or repair, it was quite the contrary it was kind of a cleansing and move in you know.
Interviewer: 12:51 I have a question for you about… you been talking about police brutality a lot and you mentioned your friend so how do you feel about the mayor now not allowing making it illegal for police officers to take the warrior training?
Thomas B. : 13:03 Yeah I’ve heard about that. I’ve heard about that I’m aware of that. I think that’s the right thing. We’re all not your enemy. You know what I mean. That creates an occupied territory situation, you feel like a soldier would feel if he overseas in Iraq… as an American Citizen shouldn’t feel like that on the ground in the United States of America. You know with his own fellow citizens that he said to protect he shouldn’t feel like everything is a threat to otherwise vetted you know. I’m a man, you’re a man and I’m here this is a community and what not my job is to make sure you feel as safe as I do. That’s not how it is though and them not… the mayor taking that step shows how Minnesota is you know what I mean to take that step but in the 90’s the police were being trained by the LAPD…came in that’s where we got that SWAT tactic paramilitary tactics so it’s time to take… I’m glad to taking you know the boxing gloves the fighting gloves off you know maybe hopefully you know I’m optimistic maybe it’ll make a difference.
Interviewer: 14:07 Okay. Okay.
Interviewer: 14:07 How would you describe the relationship between the city
of Minneapolis and this community over the years?
Thomas B. : 14:15 Sketchy but Minnesota’s a good place. Minneapolis is…I’ve traveled enough to know that it could be worse and I really feel like I said I really feel that accountability is in the hands of the citizens like you know community member you know.
Thomas B. : 14:31 When you do a sit in or you have a situation when you come to the table know what to ask for you know. We can sit there and do a sit in because a cop killed okay we done a sit in okay so now they say well what is it you want?Have you re prepared for that? When you did the sit in you facilitate the whole protester what not. Do you have your… do you have a plan? For it to replace… this is what you want taken out but do you know how to replace that structure and the infrastructure do you have a plan for that, short term and long term? And you have to bring that proposal to the table and then it can be debated or amended or what has to happen but everybody locking arms together is just to get the attention once you got the attention you have to have a plan. And I think that plan is something that the community has to do on its own like I said waiting for the state or the city to help you or to change something what is it that you want? Establish what you want and come up with the realistic path to get there.
Thomas B. : 15:22 Then you make your statement to draw the attention and you know and you’ll maybe blessed with the opportunity to come to the table and when you come to the table make your presentation for your package and negotiate and it will change.
Interviewer: 15:34 So what are your expectations of the city of Minneapolis relative to this community?
Thomas B. : 15:47 I think this community is going to grow and it’s going to flourish. North Minneapolis isn’t going anywhere I think the youth and the college generation is more education there are people who are you know who are in college you know ten years ago who are coming around and coming back to the community and that are able to you know are qualified to play par of the course you know what I mean and I think overall we’re going to come up we’re going to be fine.
Interviewer: 16:09 What extent do you think the city will deliver on their course
Thomas B. : 16:12 I don’t know. I don’t know, but I know Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis facilitates a lot they pay for a lot, they fund a lot. There’re opportunities out there lot of times there are funds assists that are never used for progress for community development for improvement to do stuff people don’t follow through or they don’t they’re not aware that it’s there a lot of the times you know what I mean the urban league has a lot of programs they can’t even… the funding is sitting there but they don’t have enough bodies literally to warrant getting the money to do this program and it’s about community upliftment or education and stuff like that so Minnes…Minneapolis does a lot I mean I’ve been to Chicago I just got back from New York couple weeks ago I been to Detroit I seen things where you just can’t go out and get a job or if you’re homeless you’re just homeless you can’t go to the county and then the county not gives you a hand out you know which some people think you just sit down and the county’s going to take care of you.
Thomas B. : 17:07 The county will help you help yourself in the long run. Will give you some place to sleep, will give you training will help you get a job will give you food stamps and money till you get on your own two feet. You leave Minnesota that doesn’t happen. You leave Mineap… you know it doesn’t happen. So you know. Like I said Minneapolis all in all it’s got it’s negative sides but it’s okay here.
Interviewer: 17:35 What part do you feel you could play in creating a more hopeful future?
Thomas B. : 17:42 Doing what I do, stay positive you know what I mean always stay positive… always find the positive things to talk to youth, talk to young people. From family extended outward. Always… I mean energy what you project is what you draw. You know what I mean and I don’t want to…I don’t want negative energy to come back I just feel like it has to be like I said I’m accountable I hold myself accountable for the things I say the community should do and it’s about education it’s about family. I walk that walk you know. When I see a kid doing something or young people I always got something positive to say. Yeah I get on my soapbox I’m a little long winded but somebody told me these things, somebody gave me that knowledge and through trial and error I know that it works.
Thomas B. : 18:21 You need your education you have to work hard nobody owes you anything at all. You know just the values. You know the core values of what life and what things work the mechanics. I feel like by sharing that with people who may have never been exposed to that you know I can’t expect a kid to go to college if he’s never heard of college never been in a college before or if it’s this mystical up thing but if you can make some things normal and first nature, that starts with communication I think you said the community and family I’m responsible for my nieces and nephews, having, sharing information if I have it. I can’t expect the city or the schools to give them core values and family values and you know have an ethic a work ethic and stuff like that. That comes from the family. So I feel like I’ve grown into that role. With my family and it extends outward to other people.
Interviewer: 19:09 I would thank you for your time. We appreciate it.
Thomas B. : 19:12 Thank you sir. My pleasure young lady.