On Saturday, July 16, community activists K.G. Wilson and Anthijuan Beeks, Sr. joined forces to host Stop the Violence in North Minneapolis on 21st Ave between Oliver and Penn.
Beeks, a former North Minneapolis police officer and activist for over two decades, and Wilson, an activist for nearly 15 years, said the event is intended as a starting point to bring the community together and spread the message of taking back control of their community. He is the nephew of Birdell Beeks, a 59-year-old grandmother, who was shot and killed while driving on May 26.
“We’re just here to spread some love and awareness,” said Wilson.
“When I live at [a house in North Minneapolis], for example, and I know that [a few houses down] they are engaging in activity that is terrorizing to the community, I should be able to feel comfortable enough to call the police or anybody to report them,” said Beeks.
Beeks encouraged the idea of community members policing their own communities. This was echoed by Minneapolis’ Fourth Precinct’s Inspector Michael Kjos. who encouraged the community to “work together.”
The event began with attendees forming a circle and taking part in a prayer led by Wilson, asking God to bless the ceremony and bring about a change within the community. Gun violence has been prevalent within the North Minneapolis community for many years, and residents having grown tired of it expressed their resentment. The recent shooting deaths of Birdell Beeks, two-year-old Le’Vonte Jones and his 15-month-old sister Melia Jones, who was shot an injured but survived, has brought the issue to the forefront.
“We need to be the penicillin,” said Wilson, explaining that penicillin takes out the poison within the body, and that’s what the community needs to do within itself. “We are killing our own people, and it’s got to stop.”
The crowd reached attendance of roughly 50-60 residents as well as Minneapolis notables such as Mayor Betsy Hodges with husband Gary Cunningham, State Senator Bobby Joe Champion, KMOJ’s Walter “Q-Bear” Banks, former Mayor R.T. Rybak, and Republican state representative candidate Frank Drake. U.S. Representative Keith Ellison was unable to attend due to a previous commitment but sent a representative from his office to express his support.
Champion urged the crowd to get out and exercise their right to vote. He reminded people about the primaries and to make sure they get out and vote on August 9.
“We are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” said Mary Johnson of From Death to Life, speaking to the crowd. “We’re tired of this [gun violence]. We have got to do something.”
Birdell Beeks’ family members were present, some giving speeches and others just there to show support for their aunt Birdell Beeks, who was hit by a stray bullet just feet away from the intersection of Penn and 21st where the event was held. Family members expressed their desire for closure and for the person responsible to be turned in.
“Just say something,” urged one of the Beeks family members.
“Let me tell you the difference between a snitch and a [concerned citizen],” said Anthijuan Beeks. “A snitch is one of two [people] who commit a crime and then when they get caught, he tells on the other guy to get a reduced sentence or save his own skin. A [concerned citizen] is someone who sees something happening in the community and informs their local police to weed those people out.”
Community leaders agreed on the difference and encouraged community members to speak out and speak up about the crimes taking place within their community.
Aside from those in attendance learning who their allies are in the community, they were also entertained, they socialized, and they enjoyed free food provided by Walt’z Wings and Bar-B-Que.
“If you’re too scared to call the police, then call me,” said Wilson. “Call the mayor’s office. Tell somebody and let’s get these people off the street.”
Khymyle Mims welcomes readers’ responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Khymyle Mims is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.