Southwest council member partners with Northside leaders to promote solutions

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North Minneapolis is a thriving community known for its rich heritage and diversity. Unfortunately, it continues to face disparate increases in crime and violence. As such, the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department has joined in a movement initiated by Ward 13 Allies for the Northside and convened by the PEACE Foundation (PF) to help address policy issues.

Most are familiar with the PEACE Foundation, established in 2003 by Minneapolis City Councilmember Don Samuels, Ward 5, and a group of working partners to serve as a bridge, connecting community members with resources and solutions to violence, raising awareness in the larger community and building lasting networks.

Ward 13 Allies for the Northside is a new and exciting initiative spearheaded by congregations in Southwest Minneapolis and led by Councilmember Betsy Hodges, Ward 13. Though not official yet, the group of Southwest Minneapolis residents is interested in lending its strength and support to North Minneapolis residents.

Hodges, who said her inspiration for connecting the two wards came from a speech she heard Samuels give long before she became a candidate, wants to be clear the group is not trying to ‘save’ anyone and its intentions are to assist in efforts already being organized by North Minneapolis leaders and residents.

“We want to follow the lead of neighbors on the Northside and what they are doing,” she explained. “We do not see it as our job to organize the Northside. We want to be organized enough ourselves so that when North Minneapolis comes in and tells us what to do, we are ready to go.”

The PEACE Foundation has been a major convener for many of the group’s meetings, including a larger community one held June, and is doing similar work in other communities to address challenges on the Northside.

“The whole idea was to pull people together,” said Hodges. “We already have a built-in network of organized people. We want to focus some of that energy on work for North Minneapolis.”

With a core group of volunteers, mostly from area congregations, Ward 13 Allies has decided its efforts could best be utilized to influence policy at the State, County and City levels. To ensure the effort is guided by Northside neighbors and leaders, the PEACE Foundation will convene a small group who will recommend a list of five to ten policy issues the Allies could potentially address.

Though much of the advocacy work can be done outside of the community, Hodges noted partnerships must be built to sustain effective change.

“One of the things we value is building relationships…If we are actually going to be doing this work together, we are going to have to know one another. And, if we are doing our work correctly, there will be misunderstandings and some miscommunications. We have to be close enough to each other to make mistakes and it would be easier to rectify those mistakes if you have good relationships,” continued Hodges.

She is also aware of potential skepticism of the group’s efforts.

“Certainly, there have been people asking questions. Anytime you are trying [serve as] an ally to a group that’s facing challenges, there’s going to be skepticism because [past] work has been done poorly or the inevitable miscommunication that happens has not been successfully worked through.”

Ward 13 Allies is currently researching potential training and assistance it would need to provide effective advocacy services and the Department is lending its expertise in these areas to the working group. Interim Director Michael K. Browne, Esq., (who is also a Northside resident) has actively participated with this group.

“It is important and helpful that we [the Civil Rights Department] have a presence with the ‘Ward 13 Allies for the Northside’ group and assist in the dialogue. Without a doubt, the collaboration bodes well for the community and furthers the City’s goal of ‘One Minneapolis,'” Director Browne said.

Hodges also sees their efforts impacting the entire city. “Will it have a positive impact on the entire city of Minneapolis? Are there other neighborhoods facing similar challenges that would be assisted by [potential] policy change,” posed Hodges. “The answer will likely be yes.”

For, more information on this community collaboration, contact the PEACE Foundation or Councilmember Betsy Hodges at 612.625.5999 or betsyhodges@visi.com.

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