Nearly 60 organizations come together for Northside tornado relief



By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

The May 22 tornado that struck parts of North Minneapolis prompted the immediate formation of a community response team. The Northside Community Response Team (NCRT) currently is assisting individuals affected by the storm in several areas, including housing, employment and business revitalization.

“There have been all sorts of meetings,” noted MAD DADS head VJ Smith, one of nearly 60 local organizations involved who have teamed up to meet the immediate and long-range needs of the North Minneapolis community.

Smith stood alongside 21 others at Monday’s press conference at the Cookie Cart on West Broadway, just blocks east of the storm’s destructive path.

“My role has been to try to give people a sense of safety…and to [help them] feel warm and loved, and cared about,” he told the MSR prior to the 15-minute press conference. “We have been out in the streets distributing food, getting donations, picking them up and delivering them. And we will continue to do all that throughout this effort.”

“There have been other tornados — sociologically and economically” that Blacks and low-income people often have faced and deal with, said Rev. Richard Coleman, executive director of the Sanctuary CDC, renaming the storm “The Winds of 5/22.”

Chad Schwitters, president and executive director of Urban Homeworks, a local community development organization that rebuilds homes, estimates that at least 3,000 volunteers have conducted debris assessments and cleanup at more than 3,500 homes in North Minneapolis during the first week immediately after the tornado.

The general public is not fully aware of just how devastating the May storm was, believes Sondra Samuels, chief executive officer of Northside Achievement Zone. “Now we have this tornado, and it actually presents a great opportunity for us to really do away with the rhetoric because we have to,” she pointed out.

Furthermore, this seemingly now-united effort in rebuilding North Minneapolis shouldn’t be seen as just the result of the storm, continued Samuels. “The organizations that have been doing the work have just doubled up efforts and recommitted to addressing not just the emergency but also what is underneath that emergency.”

Samuels warned, however, that the rebuilding effort, which some predict will be a 36-month process, should not be “so that the people [on the Northside] get back to where they were.

“A significant portion of our population that has been left behind and ignored [before the storm hit] are Black, she added. “While we are talking about this diversity on the Northside, African Americans disapportionately have been impacted from this disaster.”

“We really [also] need to look at the human needs,” especially those children affected by the storm, said Smith. “We should look at the mental impact on our children for the future.”

“There is a seed of grace” that emerged from the May tornado, Samuels said. “I think the seeds of grace that are here are us really coming together as neighbors and leaders in the community, and putting away the things that have divided us in the past.”

For more information about North Minneapolis tornado relief — giving aid and getting help — go to the MSR website and click on the “Get help, give help here” button.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.