If you don’t build your own dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.
The reality is there are so many astute, passionate, grassroots community builders, activists, and change agents who have and will continue to campaign and vie for voters to remember their name in November. There is a lot at stake; so many issues to be addressed; and decisions made based on the impactful gut-punch of the George Floyd execution and the year-long coronavirus pandemic having taken over 500,000 lives. The direction of city leadership will surely shift, but a lot of how and to what extent it will transform will depend upon the outcome of the much anticipated trial of Derek Chauvin, the white policeman accused of the televised murder of George Floyd.
If breaking news headlines such as “The Rochester, N.Y. police officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude won’t face charges,” and in Brunswick, Georgia, “Ahmaud Arbery’s mother files a $1 million plus lawsuit a year after his murder alleging conspiracy to protect his killers” are any indication of justice, there’s no doubt there will be a long road of gaining righteousness ahead.
Alicia Gibson, candidate for Minneapolis City Council in Ward 10, might appear to some as being this ‘white privilege’ wife of a physician who would have no clue ‘how the other half lives’. But she is not. She is a descendant of Japanese Americans who were imprisoned because of their ethnicity during World War II. And because of that, she says, she travelled to Cape Town, South Africa for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission authorized by Nelson Mandela (considered the gold standard for acknowledging violent pasts and listening to both perpetrators’ and victims’ stories) seeking to gain an understanding what must happen in the Twin Cities and other municipalities around the country for positive and necessary change to occur.
Gibson last week joined other candidates for Minneapolis City Council seats in the 1pm Monday webcast of Conversations with Al McFarlane on YouTube and Facebook. For the next several months, host Al McFarlane said, the Monday webcast will focus on Minneapolis’ upcoming election and the inordinate amount of activism and organizing afoot at the grass roots level in Minneapolis neighborhoods.
“Our business communities and tax base are crumbling, and a lot of the responsibility doesn’t just fall on the atrocities of 2020. If downtown is going to be revitalized, we have to begin with safety. The city allowed this risky climate to get to that point. There will continue to be car jackings and shootings as long as there are no jobs and no availability of job skill and technological training. And there won’t be any employment until we have massive funding investments in housing equity, quality academics and the arts offered to all residents and their families, and health care accessibility and affordability. That includes getting the vaccine when it is available,” Gibson said.
She said it’s difficult to have productive conversations with people of diverse backgrounds and their own personal agendas, but leadership and residents must find common ground. “These are critical times. Some compromises have worked in the past and communities must try and make those decisions once more. City, county, state, and federal governments must come together to help fill in the historical and disparaging gaps and ‘do the right thing’, Gibson said. “It’s about bonding and finance which is currently being held up at the state and federal levels. I believe reparations should be tied to housing discrimination. Our communities need more than just low-income loans. We have to listen to each other and then ask, ‘how can we support your efforts individually and collectively?’ There are amazing and creative people who live in our neighborhoods, some having been totally ignored and neglected for decades.”
Teqen Zea-Aida, running for a city council seat in the 7th Ward, came to America from Columbia in 1976 having been adopted by Minnesota parents. For 20 plus years, the candidate and his business partner ran a small modeling and employment business in downtown Minneapolis; that was until gentrification and what appeared to be an illegal requirement to bring his rental space to code. “The city needs strong knowledgeable representatives who can talk with investors and developers about affordable small business spaces. Right now, downtown is a sinkhole. Divestment for profit has been happening for decades. We want policies like rent control and resources to support neighborhood organizations who support their residents, safety, and historic preservation,” he said.
Steven Frich is also running for the 10th Ward City Council sead.. Frich grew up in Stanley, a small town in southeast Minnesota. He feels fortunate his parents are homeowners. “Home ownership is the start of generational wealth if one is not born into it. I was in real estate at one time and it really is the key. I am running for city council to achieve one simple goal: Justice. Justice for those who have been neglected by the city for too long. We see these people every day. We are these people; we are the workers. Through our labor, we’ve created a beautiful, wealthy city,” Frich said.
Frich said he believes Council Members should be specific and intentional about the promises they make to their constituents so that everyone has a clear understanding of what the city is trying to accomplish. He is also an advocate for the expansion of public transit and service lines, cooperative housing, and land trust.”
Aisha Chughtai, is also running for the 10th Ward Minneapolis City Council seat. She said she believes citizens need a leader who will leave no one behind. She said knows what that aloneness feels like. A Facebook contributor wrote of the young grass roots Muslim organizer and union activist: Aisha is the only multi-racial; multi-generational; multi-ethnic; working class candidate who’s using her platform to boost mass movements.
Chughtai said, “I believe we can have a different world by sharing resources equitably and providing for those communities impacted the most. It is a human right to have affordable housing.”
Victor Martinez, running in the 5th Ward, often reminds community and city leaders that one-third of the storefronts in the Broadway corridor are vacant or boarded up. There was an initiative to bulldoze much of the area for safety concerns, but within months, new market development projects were going up and so were the non-affordable prices for most. Vice President of Northside Residents Redevelopment Council, Martinez says the Northside is the last place in Minnneapolis where anyone can buy a starter home. For the last 7 years, 90% of new housing has been rentals, he said. The older buildings were the best affordable housing.
“I’m a realist,” Martinez says. “Until we are able to curb poverty, we won’t stop the crime. If nothing else, the statistics might get worse. Until we rid our community of slum landlords and the lack of housing accessibility and affordability, our schools will not improve, and our children will continue to fall further behind. I’m fighting to reverse decades of neglect and inequities, especially for the 20,000 young people under the age of 18 that live in Ward 5,” he said.
Michael Rainville and generations of the Rainville family have lived in Minneapolis for decades. After losing his executive position in the hospitality industry whose economic bottom fell out due to the corona virus and the lingering racial and political impact of the George Floyd murder, Rainville decided to run for a council seat representing Ward 3.
“I’m going out and listening to the community members; hearing their concerns and their needs. Reaching out and communicating has not been happening according to many of the residents I have managed to safely communicate with. Our community suffers from too many outside interests and personal agendas,” Rainville said.
“I also expressed the need for people to get vaccinated so we can begin to entertain a new normal. I am pleased to see so many young people with grassroots backgrounds,” Rainville said.