As the saying goes, “If we don’t tell our stories, someone else will.” Instead of waiting for a narrative that may or may not be accurate, a new community project, “Northside Story,” aims to uplift the voices and document the rich history of the North Minneapolis community from the 1960s to today along the Plymouth and Penn corridor.
Shuree Rivera, founder of the artists’ collective 4000 More Creative, applied for a grant with Resilience in Communities After Stress & Trauma (ReCAST) to document the stories of 90 elders (Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers), Gen-Xers and Millennials who have either lived in, worked in, or been impacted by an experience in the North Side community.
“I applied because I wanted to capture stories on the Northside of Minneapolis,” said Rivera, “where I know a lot of African Americans live and start to put a collective story together of the narrative of what Black people have been through in Minneapolis – a real story.”
Led by ReCAST, the project’s goals include not only understanding the community’s experience but also educating others on the traumatic impact systemic oppression has had on the community. The ReCAST Minneapolis Program, launched in 2017, is funded through a $5 million multi-year grant from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Inspired in part by the shooting death of Jamar Clark, it was created to support communities that have lived through demonstrations of mass protest in response to police-involved shootings of unarmed African American males.
Rivera, who wears multiple hats as a recording artist, writer, community outreach coordinator and worship leader, initially relocated to Minneapolis for a theatre job in 2016. The Ohio-native, who moved to Detroit a year later, said she returned to help address tensions she felt most African Americans feel in the community as a result of not being heard.
“I’m excited to work with ReCAST because I believe that all voices matter,” said Rivera. “You have a story, you have spirit, you’re alive and you’re here for a reason – not just to sit and to dwell and to exist and to die, but to change the face of the universe in which you live right now and leave a legacy for those after you.”
Part of that legacy she hopes can be achieved via the project’s goal of documenting raw audio from residents. “It’s about the trauma that you may have been through living on the North Side, [or] maybe the beautiful little memories you have living on the North Side,” she said.
Over the next few weeks, the project will host town halls and travel throughout the community to get people to share their stories.
“I have five youth and five adult leaders, and we’re taking audio recorders, and we’re literally sitting with elders and listening to their stories and getting them recorded.”
Rivera has also made connections with stakeholders in the community to “make sure we’re doing this right.”
Once all stories have been captured Rivera told the MSR, “We’re making sure that those stories – all 90 stories – are going to be accessible to the community. And then from there, we’re going to evaluate all the stories and make an art piece out of it.”
The community conversations are also designed to “hold the City accountable and to not just let 90 stories sit on tape recorders, “but make sure we actually listen to them and learn something from them.”
The series kicked off last week Thursday in the heart of the Northside at the Minneapolis Urban League and will host two pop-up storytelling events on July 10 and 11 at Shiloh Temple International Ministries, located at 1201 W Broadway Ave in North Minneapolis.
Community members interested in sharing their stories are asked to text “STORY” to 484848 and complete a short survey. Selected storytellers will receive a small honorarium for their participation.
A version of this article appears in the July 5-11, 2018 edition of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, with the headline: “Project to capture 90 Northside stories to ‘uplift voices.’ Subscribe Now!
Stephenetta Harmon is a Black beauty editor, curator, and digital media and communications expert who builds platforms to celebrate the power, impact, and business of Black beauty. She is the former EIC for Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (2018-19) and current host of MSR Forefront, a digital roundtable series. She is the founder of Sadiaa Black Beauty Guide, the premier directory dedicated to Black-owned hair and beauty businesses. Find her at stephenetta.com.