As business owners, we feel a deep responsibility to the health and well-being of our communities, as well as a responsibility to speak up about what we see happening in our city. As residents of north Minneapolis (current and former, respectively), we witness firsthand how police treat our community.

The long-term pattern of economic divestment from the North Side (now compounded by the shooting of Jamar Clark), the delayed response the night protesters at the Fourth Precinct were shot and the manner in which police handled the peaceful protests — none of this is good for the economic health of Minneapolis. What’s happening on the North Side not only affects the health and safety of the neighborhood, its repercussions have spread across the entire city and are being watched by the entire country.

Minneapolis has been featured in numerous national Top Ten lists, yet it continues to be a city with a great amount of economic and racial disparity. Our city is perfectly positioned to capitalize on its amazing strengths to become a leader in racial and economic equity, which includes addressing police violence. This, combined with a lack of accountability to the community as a whole, translates to a strong line of division between citizens and the system. All of these pieces combine to make our community less than what we are capable of being.

If the people of our communities don’t feel safe, they are less likely to take economic risks. They are less likely to invest in local development. Something experienced, though often overlooked, is the fact that if our attention needs to be put on responding to the treatment of our communities, we have less of an ability to put that attention toward building our communities by supporting schools, communities and the growth of new businesses. There is a marked difference between communities that are struggling to survive and those that are thriving. One of the markers of this is access to economic resources for historically disadvantaged groups of people, including women and ethnic minorities.

Not only does the police force have a negative reputation within the community, officers do not represent the makeup of the neighborhood. If police are going to effectively serve and protect the neighborhoods they are stationed in, they need to understand the reality of what it is to live and work in our community. Police need to come from our neighborhoods, and they need to live in the communities they serve.

It needs to be clear that police serve and protect everyone, not just certain people and not just certain communities. Police cannot continue to attack and disregard our community if the city is truly invested in creating a thriving economic environment for all.

A publicized theme about the Fourth Precinct station occupation was the negative impact on local businesses. The community and black-owned businesses across the metro area joined together to support the barbershop located across the street from the precinct. Some barbershops went as far as to send over their own customers, showing not only support but a willingness to share in the economic impact, illustrating a strong sense of solidarity and speaking to the strength of and investment in the community.

Many local independent businesses from across the Twin Cities contributed to the protests by providing food, clothing and services directly to protesters and also by pledging support through statements and letters, because not only do we want to live and do business in a city where everyone in the community is valued, we need to take a stance for what’s right. In addition to this moral stance for justice, business owners also acutely understand that a city with enormous racial disparities does not help create a sustainable local economy.

Change is in the air — and some of our change leaders will be found in the small-business owners embedded within our communities.

 

Molly Glasgow is a resident of the North Side of Minneapolis and is the owner of Point Acupressure in Uptown. KB Brown grew up in north Minneapolis and is the owner of Wolf Pack Promotionals in northeast Minneapolis.