When I was a substitute teacher in Minneapolis a handful of years ago, I was blown away by the behavior of some of the students. I expected some unruliness in the rougher schools, but I didn’t anticipate crying, screaming, and desks strewn about.
For the toughest classes, stages of shock and frustration were followed by dejection–for I realized just how hard life was for some of these children when they leave school. Some having watched a friend die after being shot, some enduring domestic abuse, and just a general lack of love in their lives–I wanted to do what I assume many newcomers to these communities want to do: go tell everyone and try to save the day.
So I wrote a piece for the Star Tribune about my teaching experiences. There was also a mayoral race here in Minneapolis at the time. Candidates spoke of bike trails or stadiums. I thought, “Who cares? We got kids suffering over here!”
Perhaps because violence is a regularity in these neighborhoods, the issue didn’t get the attention I thought it deserved. Perhaps for this same reason, the murders and struggle in the inner-city today continue to be overlooked.
So I continue to share about it.
Though my zeal to “fix things” may have worn, my attention on these continued problems in Minneapolis (and in any major American city) remains as sharp. My Star Tribune article last February introduced readers to organizations in town (MINNEAPOLIS MAD DADS, Urban Ventures, and Emerge Community Development) working with wayward youth. I said then that these organizations need more community backing to help curb the violence perpetrated mainly by such at-risk young men. Over the past week in Minneapolis, violence escalated–three more homicide victims: numbers 31, 32, and 33 for the year.
For at least one of the victims, this wasn’t a case of a gang member killing a rival. Dana Logan, 46, was shot in her car Friday night while caught in crossfire. Shot in the chest, she drove another block or two before pulling the car over and dying on the streets of north Minneapolis.
On Sunday, a vigil was held near the location of her passing. It featured anger, prayers, tears, calls from the adults to do a better job raising the youth, a sister of the deceased almost hysterical, a teenage boy also close to Dana Logan lamenting this loss as well as those of his aunt and mother.
-I continue to be amazed to see the anguish in these neighborhoods only a couple of miles from my apartment.
-I was uplifted to see the 100+ people gathered. Unity proves stronger than discord.
-I am devoted to sharing this issue–this obvious, yet ignored and desperate problem in Minneapolis.
I know it’s easier to ignore difficult issues–especially when they don’t directly affect us. (And frankly, who wants to be sad?) I don’t blame anyone for doing so. Practically speaking, what working adult can afford to face that which isn’t part of their life? The older I get, the more I focus on my career and what’s important to me, the more I realize the need to not take on others’ business lest it interfere with what I need to handle.
I guess as a writer, my interest in this issue is also an intrigue into how this violence comes about and what can be done about it. And as a single man without as much as a houseplant to care for, I can make the time.
So I’m putting this issue on my plate–a huge problem in a world close to mine, a difficult reality I’ll continue to address and share.