North Minneapolis is a war zone. We are afraid. We are losing our young people to gun violence. We are hiding in our homes, unable to enjoy our community the same way others do. Why do we not deserve the same as other nearby communities?
We come and we go to our jobs. We don’t always take that walk we want to take, or that bike ride we crave, because we don’t want to be shot at or assaulted.
We are covered with graffiti and littered with trash — discarded mattresses and broken glass. We are empty lots and tattered rental homes in disrepair. We are 311 call after 311 call to get a sofa removed from a curbside where it has seen the seasons change over the last two weeks. We have more low-income housing than any other neighborhood in Minnesota.
North Minneapolis is anger bubbling all over the surface. We are left behind. No way that this would happen in (insert any other place here). We are a containment zone for all of the miscreants the rest of the city refuses to host.
Having been raised in south Minneapolis and having been a homeowner there for more than 15 years, I know what a good neighborhood looks like. I know how nice it is to be able to leave your home and feel safe walking to the corner store or to pump gas for your car without being harassed. I remember what the air smells like when it is not clouded with the constant scent of “loud” that goes largely unchecked. I know what children with hope look like vs. children raised in hopelessness. I was raised to be accountable, but I own real estate now where few seem to take accountability. I have invested in my home of eight years, in a neighborhood where not enough individuals invest in each other.
Please don’t misunderstand my words; there is also a plenitude of wonderful people here. The heart of north Minneapolis is also here, and we are an amazing bunch of folks. But we are overrun and infested with human vermin and lawlessness, with paper-thin sentences handed down by careless local judges.
We can see you, Minneapolis. We can see the lack of attention from the police chief and the mayor, failing to enforce what few laws we do have. We can see the rats’ nest of bureaucratic yarn tangle. These two officials have wholeheartedly turned their backs on this neighborhood. Their predecessors, as far back as I can remember in my four decades of living in Minnesota, have never summoned enough gusto to get things truly under control.
This community is falling apart, and Minneapolis is investing in an overpriced football stadium downtown and green ways and bike lanes that go largely unused in “NoMi.” The City Council is voting to ban plastic bags, while investors shoehorn complex after complex of “affordable housing” into north Minneapolis neighborhoods. Yet we can’t even maintain the mainstays of a decent retail chain store or a reliable grocery store that isn’t constantly threatening to pull out. We can’t get take-out without getting taken out. We have no peace with all of the boom cars.
We invest in what we have only to have it destroyed and receive our “blue card” from the police after a frustrating 45-minute wait. A handshake and a 3-by-5-inch graduation diploma of sorts in NoMi. I use a repurposed case card as a bookmark when I hunker down and read within my dwelling. The walls sometimes give me the illusion of being safe here.
Where are you, Minnesota? Where is the city of Minneapolis in this fight? Why do you seem not to care?
At 6 a.m., before the city was awake today, shortly after the ShotSpotters went calm — if only for a moment — I heard birds in the trees. Now, at 9 p.m., I hear siren after siren after siren, and wonder who died this time. Whose child will not come home? Whose child will die from a stray bullet in their home? I wonder: What time this evening, like the last, will we have to coax our son back to sleep after he has heard a nearby shotgun blast that has us all shaking with varying levels of post-traumatic stress disorder.
We will act nonchalantly and tell him “No worries. Go back to sleep. You have school in the morning” — as I dial 911, for the third time today.
I hear tires squealing and turn to social media for honesty since it seems the TV and newsprint media only skim the surface of our community’s suffering.
We are alone, contained within freeways like a chalk outline — highways 94, 694, 394 and County Road 81.
Where are you? I am here. Do you see me? Because I am right here.
Right under that red ShotSpotter dot.
Mickey Cook lives in Minneapolis.