What we heard:
Key themes that arose in conversations throughout the month:
Connectedness and Belonging: We heard over and over again a deep yearning on the part of the participants to connect and engage with their fellow neighbors. Participants were very appreciative of the opportunity to connect over dinner with neighbors they hadn’t met. We also heard feedback from the participants that the structured exercises and the format of our “conversation cafes” were a helpful way for neighbors to connect around difficult topics.
Healing from trauma: The murder of George Floyd and the uprising that followed was still raw for a lot of the participants. Participants brought up the scale of destruction, the displacement of residents, its disproportionate impact on POC SBEs (Small business enterprises/micro businesses), and the uptick in gun, and violent crime as issues of concern.
Housing: Participants repeatedly expressed concerns that the “rebuilding” of Lake Street was going to disproportionately benefit developers and the “owning” class; many expressed concerns around being priced out of their neighborhoods, citing increasing rents and increasing housing prices. A number of participants attributed the uptick in property crimes and in violent crimes to increasing housing instability in the neighborhood, further exacerbated by COVID-19. Creative housing solutions resonated deeply throughout all of our conversations: informal hosting arrangements, safer encampments, and access to housing for all who want and need it were seen as key elements to addressing community safety and the general well-being of all of our neighbors. Creating safer conditions to help encampments share space in the neighborhood felt important to many community members.
Connection to land / Community wholeness: People shared concerns about environmental threats such as pollution and Line 3 being constructed under the Mississippi River, which intersects Lake Street. We approached the conversations with a decolonization lens, understanding that everyone connected to this same piece of land deserved a seat at the table together. This emphasis on community wholeness, rather than factions, resonated with people who were challenged to connect with their neighbors across rigidly enforced identity lines.
Investing in youth: Increased investments into youth development and enrichment programs for particularly underserved communities emerged as a really important priority.
Public Safety: As a collective, LSTC was committed to practicing a community-based safety model where all of us were responsible for keeping the space safe. Four times in July, our teammates at Atlas Defense offered trainings to LSTC members and volunteers, so that everyone understood how to hold space for others. This meant when people came through the Lot who are typically considered problematic – unhoused people, people with clear signs of intoxication – the community present witnessed us collectively taking a harm reduction stance, engaging with people, offering them food, water, and other things they needed, and taking care of situations on our own. It also demonstrated to us some of the challenges of doing that work in public space. Navigating the more escalated situations we encountered throughout the month taught us that the need for extensive safety training wasn’t just about exhibiting our radicalness, but necessary for holding space as safely as possible. Discussions were held by participants that imagined community-led public safety beyond law enforcement that included mental health, housing, and an investment in our entire social welfare, as opposed to our current reflexive and punitive models. Participants brought up the need for afterschool and youth development and enrichment programs as a way to divert young folks from joining gangs. Other topics discussed were the 1994 Crime bill, the uprising of 2020 in South Minneapolis, crime in North Minneapolis, the upcoming local election, mass incarceration of Black people in the US, and racism in Minneapolis/Minnesota.