Northsiders resist surge in gun violence

 

March 3
James L. Stroud, Jr./MSR News

After several shootings in North Minneapolis during the month of April of this year, crime statistics show that violent crime has increased by 11 percent over last year at this time. If you think the residents of North Minneapolis are accepting this violence, then guess again. Saturday, June 4, from 10 am to 4 pm marked the 7th annual “Stop the Violence March” and rally.

Cub Food’s parking lot at 701 West Broadway Avenue North in Minneapolis was where resource vendors, the KARE 11 Health Fair mobile, a booth handing out free food, and a platform stage for people to speak were all set up. It was an opportunity for folks young, old , Black, White, clergy, activists, freedom fighters, and most importantly, surviving family members of those killed by violence to share their frustration, hurt, pain, suffering and concerns.

Minneapolis Chapter of MADDADS President VJ Smith was there coordinating the rally. His staff helped with crowd control and security.

The morning began with bus- and van-loads of people leaving the grocery store lot to tour North Minneapolis sites where shootings have taken place. They were then dropped off at KMOJ radio station located at 2123 West Broadway Avenue North, where they rallied and marched back to Cub Foods.

Attendees wore shirts in honor of lost loved ones
Attendees wore shirts in honor of lost loved ones, such as Birdell Beeks who lost her life to gunfire May 26. (Steve Floyd/MSR News)

The organizers selected bright yellow shirts for surviving family members to wear that displayed the first and last name of the deceased along with a number that represented their age at the time they were killed. An estimated crowd of about 600 people marched, including drill and dance teams. Some held signs that read, “Honk for Peace,” “Stop the Violence,” “Put Down the Guns,” “Mothers are Hurting,” “I Miss My Son” and “Enough is Enough.” It began to drizzle, but the marchers continued marching unfazed.

Speakers were invited to address the crowd on stage at Cub, including longtime community activist and freedom fighter Spike Moss. His message to the crowd was for everyone to learn to embrace, respect, trust, stand with, and love each other because he said it’s the only way we can survive.

Larry McKenzie, the basketball coach of this year’s Class A championship-winning North High School Polars, had recovered from hip surgery just in time for the march. He asked the crowd for permission to speak like a coach. “One team, one goal,” he asked the crowd to say, and they responded with a chant.

“Let me tell you something about winning a championship,” said McKenzie. “Nobody gives you a championship. So if we want to see something different, we got to do something different.

“So our game plan has got to change,” he continued. “I’m a believer that if we can get our young people to change their minds, we can change their lives. So we have to change the messaging that we give to our young people.

Marcus Hunter
Marcus Hunter James L. Stroud, Jr./MSR News

“We have to start saying I will and I can! This is about team, and you can’t win as an individual on a team. It’s going to take everybody.”

Marcus Hunter, Jr., a 13-year-old, wore a yellow shirt with the name Marcus Hunter and the number 31 on it. His father was killed close to three years ago.

“I think it’s good that people are going around spreading the word to stop the violence for the most part,” the teen said. “But [I] wish that message could have helped to save my father and uncle [Reginald Haynes].”

Marcus, Jr. is an A student at the Church of Ascension School in North Minneapolis. His mother Toya and several members of the North Minneapolis village community, like former Fifth Ward City Council Member Don Samuels and his wife Sondra Samuels (president of the Northside Achievement Zone), accompanied Marcus Jr. to the march.

Ronnie Lee Caldwell, Jr. of MADDADS gave his testimony of being shot in the neck and head in 1991. He knew the guy who shot him, and for 15 years he held a grudge and wanted revenge. My brother is in jail now because he got the wrong guy.

“If you are holding a grudge for someone that did something to you, it’s not going to work,” said Caldwell. “I held on to my grudge against the guy that shot me for 15 years. My life didn’t get right until I apologized.

Ronnie Lee Caldwell, Jr. and Ronnie Lee Caldwell, III.
Ronnie Lee Caldwell, Jr. and Ronnie Lee Caldwell, III. James L. Stroud Jr./MSR News

“I went to his house and told him I’m not after you no more,” Caldwell continued. “I told his mother that he don’t have to worry about me looking for him anymore. From that point my life was good. I live my life right now with MADDADS. Not too many people out here can stand up that got shot in the head and neck that can talk to you right now. That’s all I want to say: ‘Stop it.’

“It was my kids,” Caldwell said, who made him stop holding a grudge and start living right. “I was in jail three months here, five months there, and six months here. The last time I went to jail, I talked to my oldest son and he told me that my wife was dating another man, and he said that they might as well call that new guy Dad.

“That’s what did it for me,” said Caldwell. He proudly introduced his nine-year-old son Ronnie Lee Caldwell, III.

 

James L. Stroud, Jr. welcomes reader responses to jlswriter@gmail.com.  

See more photos by Steve Floyd below.

About James L. Stroud Jr

James L. Stroud Jr. is a contributing writer and photographer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.

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