North sideliving isbeing revitalized

Fearmongering about the area misses the real spirit of the community.

Residents of north Minneapolis are people exactly like you who are fighting daily for the same things that you take for granted. For decades, city officials had been complicit in allowing north Minneapolis to function as the designated red-light district for Minneapolis. Residents, with the help of the current City Council, are working to undo years of neglect in inspections, zoning and policing which allowed the current situation to develop. Yes, this process can be agonizingly slow. But it is also unbelievably rewarding. Just last June, our neighborhood was successful in closing a corner store which was a hangout for gangs and drug dealers. My block was transformed overnight.

In no way do we minimize the obstacles that we face. We do refuse to be defined by these obstacles.

During the four years I have lived in the Willard-Homewood neighborhood, I have discovered how much living in a north side neighborhood is like living in a small town. Where else in the Twin Cities do family members live within blocks of each other, alongside the families of neighbors who have known each other for generations? Someone whose “knowledge” about the north side comes entirely from the mainstream press (or from cruising the local liquor store) would have no inkling that there is a core of north side life and north side history that residents cherish, that is fragile and irreplaceable.

This brings me to the heart of what I found so horrifying about John Hoff’s article: his depiction of the north side as a place that needs to be cleared out and colonized by a “new wave” of residents. Hoff said, “Like a peacekeeping force assisting a troubled nation, this first wave will need to create order and safety through activities like Neighborhood Watch.”

We are not Iraq. We do not need to be “occupied.” Where north side residents have begun to reclaim the regulatory tools that other Twin Cities communities take for granted, we are flourishing. Move here. Find your niche within the existing community, find out what you can learn, and what you can contribute. 

Michelle Lewis is a University staff member and alumna. Please send comments to [email protected].