The cancellation of an outdoor concert last week at the expanded and remodeled Capri Theater on W. Broadway Avenue came amid worries about gunfire and underscored the sorrow over a rash of shootings on the North Side.
That sorrow extended to the funeral last week of a little girl caught in crossfire.
The human tragedy also intersects a time of unprecedented development, both planned and under construction, in the W. Broadway Avenue corridor. Something approaching $150 million in work is led largely by Black developers, builders and business owners.
North Side business leaders said the hope and opportunity of economic expansion and more jobs in the lowest-income section of the city are also a response of those who abhor gun violence that disproportionately claims Black victims.
Kenya McKnight Ahad, a North Side native and veteran businesswoman who also leads the Black Women's Wealth Alliance, knows the pain of losing a brother to gun violence years ago.
She's also buying and renovating a building at 1200 W. Broadway, next to Breaking Bread Café and Catering; with local equity and financing from Sunrise Bank and a city fund for real estate loans. Its tenants will include Black female entrepreneurs and a health spa.
"I am making an intentional investment on West Broadway," she said. "To make a beautiful, quality building. There are so many wonderful things happening, with expansion of Juxtaposition Arts, housing projects by [developers] Tim Baylor and Ian Alexander, the beautiful Capri Theater and others.
"We will be stronger than the guns and this public health crisis. There has been disinvestment over the years. But this community will enhance its social, economic and cultural viability," she added.
Calvin Littlejohn, co-founder and chief executive of 55-employee Tri-Construction, is busy with several North Side projects. One is the $7 million expansion and renovation of 927 W. Broadway, which will be a new home for his company and others.
Littlejohn and his wife also are raising a family near North Commons Park. His white, Black and Hmong neighbors share a commitment to the North Side.
"There are so so many negative things reported about north Minneapolis," he said. "Poverty, education gaps, so many disparities and gun violence. But my neighbors, young and old, have a desire to create a neighborhood and the business corridor we want.
"We are the many who want to carve out a future. We are a bigger and stronger and more numerous than the few in gun violence," he said.
Littlejohn said the company is trying to spread the word that it hires people with GEDs and sponsors them to learn building crafts and trades. "A journeyman makes $70,000 or $80,000 a year," he said.
Sondra Samuels and her husband, Don, raise their family a few blocks from the Capri and the adjacent Plymouth Christian Youth Center, another hub of positive activity. She leads the Northside Achievement Zone, a business-backed nonprofit organization that works with employers, education and social-service partners to break generational poverty.
"I still have hope because of the Capri," Samuels said. "It's majestic. I see it every day. It's for a people who are beleaguered but strong. It gives me hope.We need to be careful, I tell our people at work. But we can't fear.
"Don and I aren't leaving our beautiful home. We have to hold on to the Capri and to each other and get through this."
Her office, at Penn and W. Broadway, near the Capri, took a few errant gunshots through the window in May.
Samuelsattended the funeral last week for 6-year-old Aniya Allen, one of three children shot in recent weeks by indiscriminate gunfire in north Minneapolis.
"People say hope is not a strategy, but it is a superpower," said Samuels, who urges residents to work with police to find the shooters."Our progress, America's progress, is grounded in hope."
Samuels ticked off a list of hoped-filled businesses that are rebuilding since being damaged during the riots of last May and June, including the Cub Foods store on W. Broadway. It reopened under a marquee that says "Northside Cub."
These North Side business veterans are not naïve. They are believers that jobs, commerce, art, food and fellowship trumps crime in the long run.