Interview of Yonica Jameson
Interviewer: 00:06 Okay. All right. So the first question we’ll ask you is your name, your first and last, and how do you spell it.
Yonci J.: 00:12 My name is Yonci Jameson, it’s spelled Y-O-N-C-I J-AM-E-S-O-N.
Interviewer: 00:18 All right and then on this map, can you reference where you live or where you work?
Yonci J.: 00:23 Well right now I live kitty corner to North Community High School, Irving and 16th and I work actually next door to here at the THOR Building with the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council. But I was raised on Thomas and Farwell area, so not too far from here as well.
Interviewer: 00:44 Okay, so thinking back to when you first had came to this area, what changes have you seen positive and negative?
Yonci J.: 00:51 Positive, I’ve seen the development of businesses along West Broadway, specifically in terms of restaurants and eating and gathering space, so just off top – Breaking Bread, Avenue Eatery, the establishment of Wendy’s House of Soul inside K’s Deli or whatever, just seeing those businesses pop up has been really exciting because now there’s destinations in my neighborhood. And just seeing the Capri develop in terms of performances that it offers and stuff like that. I would also say, I remember when I was a kid, the park by my house when I grew up, it was raggedy for a little bit and then they came and redid the whole park and it’s been like that ever since. So it’s cool because I played in it when it was raggedy, I also played at it when it was nice and new and all the kids get to enjoy that. So just general infrastructural development, I feel like.
Yonci J.: 01:59 But negative, it depends what you define negative as because some people wouldn’t define gentrification as negative or people moving into the neighborhood as negative, because it’s like, “Oh, they see this neighborhood as desirable,” but I think it becomes negative when people get pushed out, people aren’t able to afford to live here anymore and the kind of vibe of the neighborhood is changing because the people who are moving in aren’t trying to preserve the neighborhood rather they’re just trying to kind of making it something that it’s not or make their own community within an already established community if that makes sense.
Yonci J.: 02:36 So, just it’s troubling and it’s hard to kind of come together in terms of housing and stuff like that because there’s a lot of just issues surrounding that, especially after the tornado when a lot of houses got messed up and people weren’t able to make the repairs, then those houses get flipped and sold to just whoever. I think just housing development has been a issue and still even though we’ve had great infrastructural retail and restaurants and stuff like that, just more Northside based entities, I think lack of that has been an issue.
Yonci J.: 03:15 But I didn’t name all of the things that I wanted to name about the positive development, but there’s a lot obviously. But, yeah, I would just say that housing and stuff like that has definitely switched over.
Interviewer: 03:26 All right. Why do you think these changes are happening?
Yonci J.: 03:30 I think it’s natural, just the way of the world, but I also think that as everything becomes more expensive, the people who are low income, they suffer unless we’re prepared to help them thrive. I think it’s happening because there’s not necessarily…I think there’s investment in the Northside, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily the right investment or it’s being invested into the people themselves. There’s investment from outside developers that don’t have the community’s interest at heart, so I think that’s probably why there’s a lot of housing insecurity and gentrification and turnover and stuff like that.
Interview of Wanda Austin
Interviewer: 00:05 May I start off by having your first and last name spelling, please?
Wanda A.: 00:09 You want to spell it?
Interviewer: 00:10 Yes, ma’am.
Wanda A.: 00:11 W-A-N-D-A A-U-S-T-I-N.
Interviewer: 00:14 What’s your last name?
Wanda A.: 00:15 Austin.
Interviewer: 00:18 Austin. Okay, good. How long have you been on the north side
of Minneapolis, in the Penn and Plymouth area?
Wanda A.: 00:26 Let me see. My oldest daughter is 30- something. Yup, almost 40 years.
Interviewer: 00:32 40 years. Okay.
Wanda A.: 00:34 Almost.
Interviewer: 00:35 Thinking back from when you first came in this area today, what changes have you seen
Wanda A.: 00:41 There used to be Snow Foods down there, used to be a McDonald’s down there, and so they tore those down and now replaced them with other things.
Speaker 3: 00:53 Do you mind me asking, what are the cross streets that you’ve lived on over the years?
Wanda A.: 00:57 Plymouth and Penn.
Speaker 3: 00:59 Oh, actually Plymouth and Penn. Okay. Yup, you’re right there.
Interviewer: 01:02 What do you feel caused the changes you’ve seen in this area over the years?
Wanda A.: 01:11 I think they was trying to build it up, I think. But, yeah, I think they was trying to build it up over here. Yeah.
Interviewer: 01:24 What makes you feel that way?
Wanda A.: 01:26 Because that one thing, what is it, UROC?
Interviewer: 01:29 Yup.
Wanda A.: 01:34 I think that’s supposed to be to help people.
Interviewer: 01:36 Research center.
Wanda A.: 01:37 Right. However, there’s no store. You know what I’m saying? You gotta go all the way over to West Broadway. Cub Foods. So it took some of our things out of the area but I guess it was supposed to be for more jobs and stuff and able to help people.
Interviewer: 02:03 What changes have you seen in this community that raise your level of stress or concern about the future?
Wanda A.: 02:13 These children out here running all loosey goosey with guns and stuff and they don’t know what they’re doing and they’re on stuff. I think maybe if there was more jobs for them- no I can’t even say that because they’re jobs everywhere. Maybe if they had a better education they would go in and apply for a job, work that job instead of trying to get some fast money. Because you know right across from the Elks? Woo hoo! My mother called them the people that’s walking the street all night long. That’s what they do.
Interviewer: 02:47 That’s crazy.
Wanda A.: 02:51 All night. Yup.
Interviewer: 02:59 What part does the city of Minneapolis need to play in relieving that stress?
Wanda A.: 03:00 What part of Minneapolis?
Interviewer: 03:02 No, what part does the city of Minneapolis need to play here to relieve your stress?
Wanda A.: 03:08 I think if the corporate people would come down and see exactly what’s going on, not just one day, not just an hour. I think if they came down here and actually talked to people, they could figure out what’s really going on, what the real need is.
Interviewer: 03:26 Right.
Wanda A.: 03:26 That’s my opinion.
Interviewer: 03:28 Okay. We are gathering these stories to increase understanding between the city of Minneapolis and the community. We’re just trying to figure out the impact of the historic discrimination government policies in areas like housing, transportation, economic development. And we’re trying to figure out what impact have these policies or others had on the community in general.
Wanda A.: 04:01 I think that housing is too high, I really do. And a lot of people, even if they have Section 8 and I’ve been on Section 8 for years- I’m on the list, not on Section 8. My daughter’s almost 40 years old. I’ve been on the list. I haven’t gotten it yet. So I think housing has a lot to do with it and I think that if it was more affordable housing, we wouldn’t have all these people just wandering around. You know what I’m saying?
Interviewer: 04:42 I agree with you on that.
Wanda A.: 04:46 And we could have better teachers in the school system too.
Interviewer: 04:48 When you think about the area today, what impact do you still see from these historic government policies?
Wanda A.: 05:00 What impact do I see? What impact? I’m just trying to be honest. Where is it?
Interviewer: 05:14 So do you see less change from say maybe in the 60s and 70 where you might have seen more explicit discriminatory policies up until now? Do you see less change in some of those practices or do you see an impact that still lingers from those practices?
Wanda A.: 05:37 Well, I noticed, when was it? Maybe back in the 90s, down there in Plymouth it was more African Americans. Now I see they’re coming back. When I first came here, the Jews over on [00:06:04 Oaks and] Memorial, that’s where they were. But now its, yeah. So they’re taking us out of our community and taking them way out here in no-man’s-land. They have no way to get around. Talking about it’s a better way of life. You take me all out of my comfort zone. Maybe that’s why I didn’t get Section 8.
Interviewer: 06:32 How would you describe the relationship between the city of Minneapolis and this community over the past years?
Wanda A.: 06:46 The city of Minneapolis. Say it again, I’m 62.
Interviewer: 06:51 How would you describe the relationship between the city of Minneapolis and the community over the last years?
Wanda A.: 07:01 I think it’s kind of gone down hill. When Mayor Rybak was in, I loved Mayor Rybak. But I don’t know, I think it’s kind of gone down hill. I really do.
Interviewer: 07:16 What makes you feel that way?
Wanda A.: 07:19 I don’t know. I just don’t think, well now, the mayor Jacob Frey, I think he might be okay. But he’s just coming into play, so. And I’ve noticed even here he’s came to our services, not just to campaign. He actually came and sat in the service. And Mayor Rybak did it all the time and he and Bishop Howe still have a relationship to this day. I love Mayor Rybak.
Interviewer: 07:52 Okay. What are your expectations of the city of Minneapolis related to this community?
Wanda A.: 07:58 What are my expectations?
Interviewer: 07:59 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Wanda A.: 08:00 I think they should make it more convenient for people living here. Everybody doesn’t have a car and now they done messed up the #5 bus line so them people cannot get to Cub Foods. Give them a store. Give them a store, give us something over there. You know what I’m saying? Besides Mickey’s Liquor and the Elks.
Interviewer: 08:32 To what extent do you trust the city of Minneapolis to deliver those expectations?
Wanda A.: 08:37 I don’t. I’m sorry
Interviewer: 08:37 Don’t apologize.
Wanda A.: 08:43 I really don’t. I hope that they do succeed and I really do, but.
Interviewer: 08:48 What part do you feel you can play in creating that more hopeful future?
Wanda A.: 08:54 I don’t know. You know, I’ve thought about that. We have this one guy, you know MAD DADS, VJ?
Interviewer: 09:00 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Speaker 3: 09:00 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yup
Wanda A.: 09:01 VJ goes to church here and I thought about reaching out to VJ and asking him can I go out with him and stuff. Yeah.
Interviewer: 09:14 And do[crosstalk 00:09:14]
Wanda A.: 09:14 He begs me to go out with them.
Interviewer: 09:16 Oh, with the MAD DADS thing?
Wanda A.: 09:17 We used to have this support group here before we came to north Minneapolis, our church did. And it was called Rescue Ministry and we actually rescued people whether they was on drugs, whatever their addiction was, whatever their situation was. We came and we rescued them. And I think, that’s what I’m saying, I think if people would come down here, you know what I’m saying, and get to know people, I think that would make a big difference because right now they’re not going to trust you. They’re not going to trust them people: ” What? You looking at me? Oh, I’m not a snitch.” You know what I’m saying? Just to be honest.
Interviewer: 10:05 Yeah, you might be right. Well thank you. That was the end of the interview.
Wanda A.: 10:14 Oh, thank you both.
Interviewer: 10:15 Thank you for your time and I hope you have a pleasant day.
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.
Interview of Theartrsee (T) Williams
Interviewer: 00:01 Mr. Williams, do we have your permission to take your story
and hear it?
Williams: 00:08 Oh yes. Yes.
Interviewer: 00:09 Awesome. So could you just tell us your first and last name, with spelling?
Williams: 00:16 Yeah, my first name is Theartrsee. T-H-E-A-R-T-R-S-E-E. Last
name Williams. W-I-L-L-I-A-M-S. Generally known as T.
Interviewer: 00:31 Awesome. On this map it shows a location of Plymouth and Penn and some surrounding areas. Have you ever lived near,
Plymouth and Penn in this area?
Williams: 00:46 Yeah I live on Washburn and 13th, 3 doors off Plymouth Avenue.
Interviewer: 01:00 Alright Mr. Williams. Thinking back from when you first came to this area to today, what changes have you seen, positive and negative?
Williams: 01:11 Well, there have been a number of physical changes I think one can look at. Both are either way at this street, along Plymouth Avenue. When we first moved here there were a number of stores, merchants, but they were old store fronts. Some of them were perhaps perceived to be thriving and prosperous. Others were barely hanging on. The area was being vacated.
Williams: 01:46 It was a transition from what had been predominantly a Jewish community, one Jewish community, and it was transitioning to a significant number of African Americans were moving in. So those were the changes that started occurring. We moved there in 1967, and our two neighbors on the south side of us were white and elderly. One on the corner moved out into elder care. The neighborhoods to the south of us, couple down, and people started dying in the neighborhood, and it was transitioning and newcomers were coming in. And actually, it became of more of a community the longer we stayed there, because when we first came in we didn’t know anybody and the people who were near us were looking to move on.
Williams: 03:01 To get out of town. And the people who came in were coming to get rooted. Some came in with younger kids. We had two young children at a time, nine months old, four years old and then we look all around and some people started having children that sort of fitted in with our families. Pretty soon there was a family with six kids. That was a little challenging at times. They played differently than ours. My oldest son was someone who liked to make up rules that no one else understood but him, and he expected the other kids next door to play by his rules, but they didn’t even know. But we saw, there were a lot of kids that came into the neighborhood as our family grew. There were children that came along, friends, they used to walk to school. But before all the schools were closing in the neighborhood. They would walk to Willard School, which was about six or seven blocks from our house. You could see the walking brigade each morning. And then the other thing, they do it on the 4th, not the 4th. I’m trying to remember which one of these holidays. Whether it was Labor Day or one of them, where the whole neighborhood came together in the backyard, which really amounted to three backyards, where an alley came through. And the whole neighborhood came.
Williams: 04:59 The children and all. Where you caught up on the neighborhood gossip and a whole lot of other stuff. And this was really the year, this was 1967. The year of the storm of Plymouth Avenue. We were very close to it. Which was very interesting in thinking about I because I recall my wife and I had been invited to a party out in Wayzata. I was the executive director of Phyllis Wheatley at the time, and because of my situation there, I was invited by a group of corporate executives to participate in a study that lead to the creation of an organization called the Urban Coalition. Which few of you around the table, except on this side, have ever heard of.
Williams: 06:09 Interestingly enough about that, I called Star Tribune and I tried to get through to them, and you know you can’t contact anybody in person now when you call them. You get, you know, voicemail and I will get back to you. They don’t get back to you. But I called the editor asking if they were going to do something significant this year, 1968, which is you know, that was the year of two assassinations. A year of street violence. A year of all kinds of thing happening. And I still haven’t heard back from them.
Williams: 06:45 But he thinks that I’m going to let go of it. I’ve already prepared my mind, the letter, the e-mail that I’m going to send to them. But in other words, getting back to the street violence and living nearby it. That was the year, also, two years after, the other organization that grew out of that, was formed called The Way. So we were invited to this party, took our two children, they said bring the children. We were trying to figure out how best to dress. We’d decided to dress up. My wife said we don’t know these people.
Williams: 07:29 What we did know is that they probably, almost all of them would be white. And so we found our way out to Wayzata, and the invite came from the publisher and the editor at that time of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, John Coales, Jr. So we went out, and it turns out that, it’s good we dressed up because everybody, we were greeted at the door, with people dressing formal, full length. We got engaged into discussion because there was one other black couple there besides ourselves. And of course the talk was about what’s happening. The riots and everything, what’s your opinion, and it got to be a little frustrating at times perhaps more so for my wife than for me.
Williams: 08:22 People who knew best, more than we did about what should be happening in our neighborhood. And I can recall, Mary Louis my wife saying that, you I live there, 24/7, and when I go home, I’m still there. When you come in to do your daytime volunteering, and we appreciate that when you do that, but at the end of the day you go home, and it’s far away from there. So you don’t have to experience what I experience. You don’t have to deal with the issues that I deal with. So don’t tell me what’s best for me.
Williams: 09:07 And so that was a very interesting experience, but it also gave an opportunity to tap into a network that was way beyond my reach. My thing has always been if an opportunity comes to you, jump all over it. To see what good can come out of that. And that was precisely what I did, because I was, as an executive director for Wheatley, Tom, and we we’re underfunded, United Way was the 800 pound gorilla in the room at that time, and the general of the board, the top fundraiser for United Way, …was at that party and I said, “I got to be stupid if I didn’t take advantage and talk to him.”
Williams: 10:02 And I did, and coming out of that we got an appropriation increase, because I told him that we were going to appeal what they wanted us, and we did. We succeeded. So that’s probably more than what you were looking for.
Interviewer: 10:16 Yeah can I just ask some follow up? SO to your wife’s comment about 24/7. Can you just, what do you remember from that time?
Williams: 10:26 Well, it was tense. What I remember is some people were irrational about what was going on and there were unrealistic expectations that things would happen overnight. I remember most about my own participation in the response. What happened, Minneapolis took a different route than many other cities did, following their street violence. They came together more than any others, and it was coming together across economic, social and racial divide. And I had mentioned the
because the Urban Coalition. Here’s the thing about the Coalition, it consisted of, because a colleague and I had put it together, and we deliberately designed it so that you could not avoid people who were experiencing the problems.
Williams: 11:47 It had a large board, 60 people to start with, and it had to be 20, 20, 20. People from the corporate business and the money group. I had 20 seats on the board. The public and large nonprofit, and civic, had 20 seats on the board. And people representing poor people, minorities and civil rights’ group, had 20 people on the board. And they, the meetings were open, the board meetings and one of the things that we said, my colleague and I when we were talking to these finalists, is that, “One option you will not have in going into this, is to walk away”, because people are not going to respect you because you come to the table.
Williams: 12:44 Some of them will vilify you and wonder why did it take you so long to get here? And you will be challenged. You will be called all kinds of evil names, and you’re gonna have to take it an work through that, because what we’re looking for is to get something done that gonna have a significant impact. And so what came out of that was some capacity building. Creating some new institutions that were in the community, and over which people had [inaudible 00:13:15].
Williams: 13:15 There would not be a Northpoint, up on, by the city, if it had not been for the street violence. In 1966 was the initial one, but the organizations in North Minneapolis then, what we wanted was a neighborhood clinic. That was a time that everything was centralized. If you wanted to get medical attention and you were poor, depending upon public assistance, you had to go down to the hospital. And the people said, “No, we want it in the neighborhood.”
Williams: 13:56 The federal government was providing more resources through the war on poverty. That was one of those wars that you probably don’t know anything about. It was a war that we really didn’t win, but there were a lot of resources. Many people got involved in their community because of that because one of the conditions was that, in order to receive federal funds, you had to show what they call maximum feasible participation, and a part of a community residence. For the people who were going to be impacted this, had to be at the table. And that was a challenge because the other people who had traditionally been at the table, weren’t used to having other people there, and would not want to respect them as such. And so this Urban Coalition, this group of people at this large table, who had never been at tables together before, had to work through that. And what happened was that there were some spin outs from that, and as I said because, of who was at the table, more pressure was put on Hennepin County, the commissioners and all, to put that senator there.
Williams: 15:13 And the people from the community had agitated for it, and they had to bust it down and they had to fight. It’s been the last I’d say in 1966, it probably wasn’t until around I’d say 2000, that we really knew for sure, that they weren’t going to pull it out. And so there was this constant battle going on to keep it there. So that’s one part of what grew out of that. And we wouldn’t have that big building that’s going up at Penn and Plymouth now. Depends upon how one feels about this stance and all that other stuff. I think it’s great, that it will bring resources into the community, but it’s going to have a giant footprint on it. You’re in the shadows of it.
Williams: 16:11 And so we’ll have to wait and see. But what was happening 50 years ago, that you follow that through that leads to this, and that four constructions struggling, to get started. And then, an organization that was a spin off from the Urban Coalition called MEDA. Metropolitan Economic Development Association. Focused on helping minorities grow up in business. And that, Copeland got access to some resources that we did not have access to. So one can point those cases throughout.
Interviewer: 16:50 That’s incredible. Mr. Williams, one last question for you What part do you feel you can play in creating a more hopeful future?
With the caveat that it’s an uncertain amount of time. What more can you do?
Williams: 17:11 Well you know, I’ve probably done as much as I could do. But I, really tell my story, and hope that others can see something in it. I taught a class at Augsburg College, in 2015. And it was focused on how Minneapolis responded to its urban crisis, and it looked at that. And when things are happening to us in a tie now, we can’t always see the benefit, and that it is of value. It only takes a retrospective look back at it to see whether or not it had an impact. You want to be able to look back and identify some specific outcomes. So that is what I was trying to do with that, this oral history, and I’ve been working on an oral history product for about five years, myself. And I want to be able to say, I can connect the dots to this, so I can connect the dots to Northpoint, I can connect the dots to the poor people, I can connect the dots to Summit, OIC, I can connect the dots to AIM, I can connect the dots to the Legal Rights Center, I can connect the dots to PPL.
Williams: 18:41 And they all go back to what was happening in the ’60’s, in the summer. A group of young people were upset and frustrated, and things weren’t happening the away they did, and somebody may have thrown a rock or a cop overreacted, and things happen and it put the machinery in motion and people elsewhere. The thing that we have to realize is that, when that is happening, don’t look to the people who are right in the middle of it, who may have thrown the first rock. To be thee ones to point the direction. To be the one to talk about what kind of change we can make. They are the identifiers. There’s someone else that needs to be there to take advantage of that identification, and move forward with, and look for the opportunity to take advantage, or what have you.
Williams: 19:36 Final thing I want to say about that is never let a good conflict or outbreak or whatever it is, go wasted. Be wasted. If it has happened, even if it looks like something that shouldn’t have happened, look for the opportunity to benefit from it.
Interviewer: 19:58 That’s good. That’s really good. Thank you so much.
Interviewer: 20:07 Mr. Williams we want to say thank you. Thank you for telling us.
I feel like that was just a tip of the iceberg and you’ve probably
could have gone a lot more, right?
Interviewer: 20:14 We have another group of questions, that’s fine.
T-Williams – Extended Conversation
Youth: 00:01 I do think that the … I think with young people, we’ve pretty much given up on institutions helping anything. It’s corrupt. Looks what’s happening right now.
Williams: 00:17 That’s wrong because you have to …
Youth: 00:20 Okay.
Williams: 00:20 The institution provides stability and we need infrastructure. That’s our infrastructure there. We need to have someplace to put things and someplace to get things done. It’s one thing to be protesting, but there needs to be some form to the protest so that you identify what the challenges are, what the problems are. You can push, and push, and push, and talk about what needs to be done. For example, what just happened recently about what the police behavior and what the paramedics when they were asking them to sedate people that were being arrested, and as a consequence, the chief, he shifted a policy or saying that they are not to do that. Well, they’re out there. Black Lives Matter was a part of that effort and say, ” Well, that’s … We want more to happen.”
Williams: 01:36 We can say what we want, but somebody has to gather that together and put some form around it and say, “This is what it looks like or could look like, so we’re going to deliver it.” Well, that’s not going to be done by the people that are protesting and saying, “These things ought to be done.” That’s going to be done by some organized entity, and that’s where the institutions come in.
Williams: 02:04 I think the most dangerous thing that is happening right now in our national government is that Trump and his people are destroying critical institutions. They’re literally destroying them. The Department of Energy put in charge this one guy, Scott whatever his name. You put the fox in charge of the chicken house, and he’s eating up all of the chickens so you’re not going to have any chickens left by the time he gets out of there, and we need the chickens. If you want to disrupt things in a society, you destroy the institutions or you reshape them in your own image, and that’s what Trump and his people are trying to do.
Williams: 02:51 We don’t want them delivering the services to the people who need the service. We want them to respond to us and I define what it is you are to do. We open them up to the foxes and let them come in and be in charge and eat up everything, so that what happened here in Minneapolis following 1967, is that we had the protest in ’67. Following that, there was always …Following that from 1967 into the ’70s, mid-’70s there was always someone challenging what was happening. The government and the institutions in our society both public and private were never doing enough.
Williams: 03:49 People were saying that we need to do more, the educational institutions. It’s important to have those forces pushing, but they need to be connected with other forces that can understand the push and they’re right there taking advantage of what is being identified there. You have the lobbyists or the others who are taking this to the legislature and saying, “We need this kind of legislation.” You’re pushing on the corporate institutions and saying that we need some reform there in the corporation. One of them that we need you to pay that you are a corporate citizen, that you are able to sell your goods and services. You need the community for those goods and services. You deliver them to the community and you have the respect and be a part of having a stable community in which you can deliver your goods and services.
Williams: 05:03 When I was involved with the Urban Coalition at the time, I had a head of a corporation of here who said that … I remember talking about corporate … being socially responsible, his corporation, and so on, and that his thinking was that what was most important was for corporations to be concerned about being able to deliver a good product first and not to … They came up around making profit money because they’re accused of gouging the people to make a profit. He said that he didn’t believe that you were in business necessarily to make a profit. You were there to deliver a great product or a great service. If you were organized to do either or both of those then the profit part would take care of itself, so focus not so much on how much I can make off of this good or service but focus on how well we can deliver the service or make the goods. If it’s a fantastic service we’re delivering or making a great product
then the rest of it will take care of itself. But you have to have a community.
Youth: 07:07 But they have to get it to the community.
Williams: 07:12 That’s right. You need to have credibility in the community. That I need to believe that you are … If you’re delivering a good or service in the kind of way that does not bring confidence or credibility to the uses of that then it could be the greatest product in the world, but if I don’t believe what you say about it then I’m not going to use it. You’ve got to be able to produce it well and also present it well, and have me believe that it’s going to do all those magnificent things for me. If I don’t believe it’s going to do that I’m not going to even try it. It becomes important for our corporations to understand the environment in which they produce their goods or deliver their services, which means they need to be a part of that. They need to work towards the stability of it. That was what was happening then and we had more of that at that time than we have now because we had fewer … Well, our corporations in this community at that time were still at a point where they were not as global then as they are now, which meant that the leadership often was local. They were families, the members of the Dayton’s, and the Pillsbury’s and the rest of them. They had grown up here and they had been indoctrinated, and so that was … They felt the responsibility of the community.
Williams: 09:08 But you bring a CEO over from Germany or from India or wherever it might be that they are going to be … Their community’s the global [inaudible 00:09:23] there. They’re going to think far less about what’s going on in their place around them than how that fits into the global schooling. That means that the people in those communities, they might see these large corporations with tremendous assets but don’t feel their local presence. At that time, it was a great opportunity to feel that presence then and to connect with and to know who those people were and to be able to communicate with them. You can’t do that now.
Williams: 10:05 I’ve been having a hell of a time to get a telephone call returned from the editor of The Minneapolis Star Tribune. That wouldn’t have been a problem for me in 1967, ’68, ’69 because I knew who the person was. I could pick up the phone and you didn’t have the automated phone system where a recorded voice would answer the phone and you end up anywhere but to the person that you were calling. We lost something from that. I’m not saying, nor do I expect that we go backwards to that, but there has to be some kind of-
Youth: 10:58 Balance.
Williams: 10:59 … middle ground there. Balance.
Youth: 11:01 I agree. Do you think the north side is pretty connected still as far as accessibility to leaders?
Williams: 11:09 No.
Youth: 11:09 Really?
Williams: 11:12 No. The ordinary people, I think, aren’t. That we may have some of our people who are connected, but I don’t know that we’re any better connected. Probably less so because we are probably a little further removed from that process and those who make the decisions. You don’t know the people as well as we once did. From our institutions on the north side, I’m not … Coming back into one, it feels a little weird because it is so different now than it was then. I have to remember that because I call someone up now, I don’t expect them to necessarily know who I am and that would mean anything to them. 40, 50 years ago it did. Ever since I’m feeling a little bit less important than you once did, but that’s life. That’s what happens. You move onto the next phase and things continue to happen. They’re not going to stop because I want them to. I think what happened is that the younger people … Some younger people. I try not to generalize. My wife always gets on me when I start talking like this. Know less about their community and how it’s structured and how to get things done.
Williams: 13:26 And who is responsible for what. Know almost zero about governance and how that works because you don’t get any information, any exposure to it in terms of your education. You know?
Williams: 13:44 You don’t know how the city government works and its relationship to the county, and its relationship to the state, and its relationship to the feds. So that when you need to try to cut through all of that stuff to get to a person that can be of assistance to you, you don’t know where to go. We don’t spend
any significant amount of time in trying to educate the public to that. You know?
Youth: 14:20 Right. Do you know anyone that does do policy education? Like education on what you just said. How do you go from the city to the county, to the county to the state, and the state to the …
Williams: 14:38 There are a couple of projects. The University of Minnesota over at the College of Education and Human Development has a project over there that’s trying to do some of the civic … They call it a civic something. [inaudible 00:15:02] They had one of these Scandinavian names with few, if any, vowels in it. He has a special project where they’ve been doing some of that, but there’s little of it that is at a level that engages ordinary folks or that’s embedded in our educational institutions at the elementary and high school level. You almost have to be majoring in topic of the subject in college to get exposed to it. Then there are a number of …
Williams: 15:52 A couple of organizations that … I’m a part of a group of old people that’s called the Civic Caucus where we sit and reflect and invite other people in to meet with us and talk about how it used to be done and why can’t we get it done like that again? It’s called the Civic Caucus and we put out a report that has gone out to about seven or eight thousand people. To all of the policymakers at various levels in the state and reflecting on policymaking. Then the legislature does not function anymore. They get over there and they fight and argue, and wait until the last days of the session. Then they take and pile everything into one bill.
Williams: 16:48 Which none of them read, and yet, it’s made into law and the only people … A handful of lawyers then earn a living on trying to wade through that and figure it out, but the ordinary citizen doesn’t have the faintest idea as to what’s in there. They just did that … We had, at our last meeting, a person we had that
came to speak to us at the Civic Caucus had a bill that was … It weighed 16 pounds.
Youth: 17:28 Are you serious?
Williams: 17:30 No. 16 pounds.
Youth: 17:31 Of paper?
Williams: 17:33 Of paper. Everything, including the kitchen sink, was in there. That was going to be passed by law and 90-plus percent of the legislatures didn’t have the faintest idea about all the stuff that was in it. Yet it’s going to become law and we don’t know what’s going on.
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.