Damaged community struck with altruism

How a neighborhood is coming together and defying the stereotypes.

by Rania Abuisnaineh

The media routinely portrays North Minneapolis as a big warzone âÄî an area defined by youth gang violence, poverty and poor infrastructure. My friend, a resident of the area, referred to it as âÄúMurderapolis: home of the thugs.âÄù

After a tornado ripped through last week, I volunteered with the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Urban Resource and Outreach/Engagement Center. It would be my first time entering North Minneapolis. Even with everything IâÄôve heard, the reality remained foreign to me. I expected only the worst.

The drive was a window into the heart of the neighborhood. I sat in the backseat, silent, absorbing the unfamiliar landscape where the tornado had touched. I noted the unkempt lawns and vacated homes. I later learned that these poor living conditions existed long before last week.

My team and I walked four blocks and offered victims food. Stereotypes in mind, the patience, neighborly love and selflessness of those individuals with debris-covered homes and broken roofs startled me.

They are the single mother whose child lay sleeping by the window when the tornado struck and shattered the window glass. They are the father of nine who swallowed his anger when no one came to his familyâÄôs aid. They are the elderly woman who believes she is always less in need than the family next door.

While probing beneath the remnants of the disaster that day, I uncovered something beautiful about the individuals dwelling in North Minneapolis. True, thugs and looters will always exist. But listening to the untold stories of these people, I realized there is another reality to North Minneapolis residents.

They are a community whose simple, modest lives are often clothed with the stereotypes and horror stories that have come to define them. It took a devastating tornado and many interactions with their community before I would finally come to learn this.