“Greenway yog ab tsi?”, or “What is a greenway?” in the Hmong language, is a question that has been asked more than 100 times of North Minneapolis community members in and near Hmong International Academy by middle school students of color in the YMCA Beacons Minneapolis program at Hmong International Academy (HIA) – a Minneapolis Public School in the Jordan Neighborhood of North Minneapolis.
This is a Community Voices submission and is moderated but not edited. The opinions expressed by Community Voices contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the TC Daily Planet.
From April to June of 2014, Hmong American Partnership, in collaboration with Hana Media & Development, provided an after-school media arts, service-learning project called In Focus: N. MPLS Greenway (or simply In Focus) for a group of mostly Hmong middle school students at the HIA, to assist the City of Minneapolis share information about the potential North Minneapolis Greenway and collect feedback from the community, especially from Asian Americans in the area who had not been a part of the city’s first round of engagement regarding the possible greenway.
The participants in the In Focus project learned about video production skills, the City of Minneapolis’ greenway concepts, and community outreach techniques. Through the guidance of program facilitators, the youth helped to create Hmong and English Public Service Announcement (PSA) videos, and conducted surveys of HIA friends, families, and faculty, as well as other community members in the area. One Hmong student in the project remarked, “It’s great that we are make videos to help share this info with other Hmong in the community.”
Through the PSAs and conversations about the project, community members learned that a greenway is a park-like trail that people can use for biking, walking, transportation, and recreation, and that the city is currently considering Humboldt Avenue North, from the Victory Neighborhood to the Near North or Harrison Neighborhood of North Minneapolis, as a possible route for the North Minneapolis Greenway. The greenway is intended to create a new health, transportation and recreation amenity for families in north Minneapolis. It could also create space for additional amenities, such as community gardens and public art.
A total of 13 community groups where granted funds, in part by Blue Cross, Blue Shield of MN, and organized by the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, in collaboration with the City of Minneapolis. The In Focus group collected 121 surveys, from mostly Hmong community members living on or near the potential greenway, to add to the 1163 total surveys collected by the other outreach projects, such as engagement efforts led by Redeemer Center for Life and the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, with each group focusing on a particular geographic area or community.
All together, the city collected a total of 2,040 surveys completed online, at events, and through door-knocking efforts. Overall, 76% of respondents support the greenway idea and 12.6% oppose it. Among north Minneapolis residents, 70.2% of respondents support the greenway idea and 16.8% oppose it. Of those living on the proposed route, 60% support the greenway on their block.
Some of the feedback from community members was for the city to consider the safety, cleanliness, and access to parking along the greenway route. Also, community members suggested ideas to add “food trucks at some locations” and “lots of plants, flowers” to increase the attraction to the greenway and livability in the area.
The In Focus project’s lead agencies, Hmong American Partnership and Hana Media & Development, deliberately chose to partner with HIA, and the YMCA Beacons program at the school, for many specific reasons and benefits to the project and outreach efforts.
First, HIA is located on Humboldt Avenue North in the Jordan neighborhood, which is on the proposed greenway route. The organizations felt that this type of development would create a significant impact for the school’s students, families, faculty and staff, and that they should have the opportunity to provide their input to the city.
Second, the majority of the students and staff at HIA are from the Asian community in North Minneapolis, which had not been included in previous engagement efforts, and had yet to add their voices to the conversation and decisions-making process. Since In Focus participants would be mostly from the Hmong community, this provided for ideal project contributors to help produce Hmong language information to share with the community, and to conduct culturally/linguistically-appropriate outreach and surveying of community members.
Lastly, since the majority of In Focus’ participants were at-risk students from low-income families, the project was a good fit for them to learn media arts skills through a service-learning initiative, to help the youth develop leadership capacity and healthy cultural identity, while providing mentorships with caring adults from the community.
In Focus’ Media arts instructor, Kue Xiong, helped the students learn new video production skills, and collectively contribute to the production of the PSAs. Mr. Xiong expressed, “The youth’s engagement exceeded my expectations…It was a humbling and rewarding experience.”
Today, the City of Minneapolis continues its exploration of the North Minneapolis Greenway, and it is planning the next stepping in the engagement and outreach process. For more information about the potential greenway, please contact Sarah Stewart, Senior Public Health Specialist in the City of Minneapolis’ Health & Family Support Department, at 612-673-3987, or Sarah.Stewart@minneapolismn.gov.
Links to the PSAs:
- Hmong Version: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-U3VEi7N2Rk
- English Version: www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3geCGvvYPI
- City’s Greenway Info: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/health/living/northminneapolisgreenway