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“What's wrong with our children? Adults telling children to be honest while lying and cheating. Adults telling children to not be violent while marketing and glorifying violence. I believe that adult hypocrisy is the biggest problem children face in America.”.

The Young Peoples’ Task Force (YPTF) was formed in October of 2020 with the mission of holding policing and community safety accountable.  The organization is an offspring of the Unity Community Mediation Team (UCMT), a nonprofit community organization that’s been around since the early 2000s. 

YTF’s work centers around the memorandum of agreement between the Minneapolis Police Department and the UCMT. One of the police leaders was then Lieutenant Arradondo, now the Police Chief, who both organizations support. YPTF co-chairs Al Flowers, Jr., Nicolas Martens, Lazaya Smith, and Miles Wilson grew up with role models in their own homes, neighborhoods, communities, and schools.  They had been taught about heroes such as Dr. King, John Lewis, and Malcolm X, human and civil rights warriors who started advocating for justice for descendants of slavery and the poor.

The Youth Task Force is supported by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arrandondo.

The YTF leadership team met with leaders of the Police Federation following the execution of George Floyd and the upsurge in youth violence.

On May 25, 2020, the world saw what Black Americans have always known: racist fear of the loss of power and the browning of America.

Co-Chair, Nicolas Martens, sees the YTF as a gateway for a lot of young people who seldom feel safe or comfortable in meeting and trusting new people. “We continue connecting with young people of different ethnicities, genders, ages, and neighborhoods throughout the Twin Cities. On Saturdays, 12 to 2 P.M., we hold forums with youth from the Native American, Somali, and African American communities. Chief Arradondo and Mayor Frey came to North Minneapolis where young people talked to them about their traumatic experiences with the police and their need for resources.”

The young people see tangible change  as possible and necessary in their communities.

The Young Peoples’ Task Force says it would like to change public safety officers’ job description from police officer to peace officer. Task force representatives explained to the Federation that there has been a historically negative and traumatic connotation with the word ‘police’. With the concept of peacekeeping, residents of color can have a little bit more faith or trust that the police are coming to help instead of coming to patrol or control, they said.

“We need them to come into our communities to keep the peace but also just come in and get to know the residents like they do in other wards.  All our streets are not dangerous,” said Wilson.

 Wilson described an incident downtown where a Black man was being arrested.  Thinking about what happened to George Floyd, he stood across the street and monitored the arrest. There were cameras held by witnesses and then there were 8 or 9 police cars approaching with two officers in each car.  “When I got there, the apprehended man was sitting down, handcuffed.  I could only imagine how scared he was with 14 or 15 police officers surrounding him.  All that show of force wasn’t necessary. And still they wonder why residents have resented their tactics.”

Flowers said, “if you think the millennium revolutionary generation is making demands and letting the city know ‘they will not be moved’, wait until you meet the younger middle and high school generation.  Their voices will not be silenced.”  

“And if we can talk truthfully and fearlessly, we can speak about creating a future that supports our existence, our families, and our right to be at the table of decision. We have to begin to present to ourselves this idea that we are co-authors of tomorrow, that tomorrow cannot be created without our voice and our hand. And if we believe that, it means there is a certain responsibility and accountability that equates and translates into power.  We must all be unafraid of exercising power in our own right and on behalf of our people,” he said.

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Flowers, Jr. has had critics regarding how he looks at the impending legalization of marijuana.  He believes people of color are going to purchase and smoke the products, so they should be thinking about owning a few dispensaries.  It’s a way of bringing a kind of economic sustainability to the community.   We don't want just the dispensaries any more. We want the farms and y'all can give us that. We're Black farmers at less than 2% of Black farms in the United States right now. So we don't have no form of survival without them. We have to find ways to survive within ourselves. And trust me, I'm never here advocating for alcohol or tobacco or us to eat more fried chicken. But the fact is, we are drinking, we do smoke cigarettes and we do eat fried chicken as people. My thing is, when are we as people going to be the beneficiaries of it and not just the negative people that's always been a negative impact, going to jail for marijuana charges.

"I believe marijuana is the first form of economic package that they owe back to African American descendants some space." And the way we use that is we're saying that, "Hey, we know that y'all going to try to get the dispensaries [inaudible 00:49:07] and everything. Why don't y'all teach us Black men? Why don't y'all use some of that money and give us the agriculture skills to help grow this marijuana, actually be a part of the distributing process because that's direct economics back into our community."

We talk about generational wealth. As African-Americans, we don't come from generational wealth. We're first-time generation school. When I was going to college, I was in a sea of student debt and it's because I just didn't come from a situation of generational wealth and have funds put away from me to attend college. So this is what we're trying to do. This is the cycles that we're trying to break for African-American young people so that we can get them in a place of being ahead of the curve, being ahead of that eight ball as they go through life.

Miles Wilson:

I just want to say one more thing is, we both talked about being charged. As a race, as an African-American, we're typically overcharged on these charges. So that's another issue, but let me just give everybody an example, just so that they understand what we mean by the disparities here between the African-American community being involved in markets like this when they're especially booming. So in Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, January 1st, 2020, they mentioned that they did an article about their dispensary. Marijuana industry did a billion dollars in sales over the last year. They have 16 dispensaries in the city of Chicago. Two are owned by Black owners. Only two of the 16. Now, we're talking about a city that again, has 30% is African-American. So again, that's where we're standing at and that's why again, we're trying to get to the forefront of these issues now and put people in a position to understand what they can do, get the licenses that they need and help them get that advancement that we've never had before.  16 dispensaries - 2 owned by African Americans.  We’re not going to get another opportunity to gain millions in revenue.

Really quick, Al. Could I mention something?

Al "AJ" Flowers Jr.:

Al "AJ" Flowers Jr.:

And we have to realize that, hey, as messed up as it may sound sometimes, we have to make sure we find a way to get some economics and we've got to get wealth back in our community. We know marijuana is going to come and if we take the message and I must stand strong on this, even though people done got mad at me. If we take the type of status and messages with marijuana coming and try to be a fighter against it, knowing that it's going to be legalized, like we did with tobacco and alcohol, and be the ones that's left behind again, while our people is going to be going to them dispensaries, going to them stores, buying the marijuana and smoking the marijuana, and we have no type of economic value from that, then that's going to be a major setback that I don't know if we're going to ever be able to ...

We need to eat healthier. We don't need our people opening up fast food chicken spot." Everything I could say, I know you can attest for, and I'm only speaking on Minneapolis. We say, "We don't need our people open up fast food chicken spots all down West Broadway. We need more healthy living styles. We need more healthy ways to eat." The go down West Broadway and there's chicken spots on every single corner, literally.  (Al Mac

Al "AJ" Flowers Jr.:

And go down West Broadway and it's chicken spots on every single corner. Literally so much chicken spots that it's two across the street from each other and they both make money. But we did not get any of them business. We only say, "Hey, we don't need to just get into doing our nails and stuff like that." We need to be smarter and have more doctors and them. You always have to have doctors and lawyers, but guess what? You look at all the people doing our nails and doing our hair. That's not us. Hey, y'all, we need to stay away from tobacco. Tobacco is very horrible for us. Got to get away from the menthols. You look at all the tobacco shops and tobacco stores. Not us again. Guess who buy the most menthol tobacco? Us again. Then we go into the alcohol, where we say, "Hey, y'all, we need to leave on alcohol so we need more [inaudible 00:48:39]," which we do. But guess what? The alcohol stores are still there. Guess who don't own none of them? Us.

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