The ‘bad guys’ invest in trusted community groups

Government funds programs to calm civil unrest caused by government

Photo courtesy of ReCAST

A Minneapolis city government program is shedding light on how to help communities deal with government-related trauma. Since 2016, Resiliency in Communities After Stress and Trauma (ReCAST) Minneapolis has partnered with area organizations to assist high-risk youth and families who have been affected by such issues as police-involved shootings of unarmed Black men.

Joy Marsh Stephens, program director of ReCAST Minneapolis and manager of the City of Minneapolis Race and Equity Division, said the program is funded via a federal grant from the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“They make the funding available as they observe, nationally, cities facing civil unrest following the shooting death of an unarmed Black man,” explained Stephens. Minneapolis was one of eight cities chosen to receive funding for this program when it first launched in 2016. Other cities included Milwaukee, San Antonio, and Oakland; two more cities were added the following year.

Minneapolis fit the criteria after the police shooting death of Jamar Clark in 2015. The ReCAST program was then adopted into the City’s Race and Equity Division.

Stephens noted the unarmed Black man criterion was in direct response to the 2014 Michael Brown shooting. However, she said, “Not every site needed to have that criterion. Flint, Michigan got funding not from the shooting, but because of the water crisis,” she explained.

Joy Marsh Stephens Photo courtesy of ReCAST

Over the course of the five-year grant, ReCAST Minneapolis receives $1 million each year toward its goal of ensuring the City and community are better equipped to respond to trauma-induced events.

The program’s first year focused on building a community stakeholder group “that would come together and help develop a needs assessment and strategic plan that would shape the work,” said Stephens. The second year focused on implementation; now, in year three, she said the focus is on sustainability.

This sustainability includes increasing awareness of and facilitating such community-based programs as Young Parents Facing Homelessness and Minnesota Black Girl Magic that are aimed at trauma awareness, system changes and resilience.

“We just didn’t want to put this money into the community for people to go and just get services,” Stephens explained. “We really wanted to build some infrastructure here that was sustainable, so people begin to see the value of working together and being focused on long-term solutions.”

For example, the Minneapolis Urban League, in partnership with NorthPoint Health and Wellness, served as host for healing and listening sessions last summer in the aftermath of the not guilty verdict in the police-involved shooting death of Philando Castille in 2016. After sharing a meal, community members gathered at tables to discuss their disbelief, anger and sadness over the jury’s decision and were given take-home materials to help in the healing process.

Just this month, ReCAST Minneapolis awarded nearly $500,000 to fund more than 29 community projects through a participatory budget process. More than 3,000 residents voted in the selection process.

“Community members, organizations, individuals in partnership with others created a bunch of different ideas for things they wanted to do,” Stephens said. “We left it completely up to community members in the city of Minneapolis to vote for which projects got funded.”

ReCAST also hosts a Capacity Building Institute series, which are free classes led by trainers across Minneapolis to help increase the community’s capacity to respond to the stress and trauma that arises on a daily basis as well as during times of high stress.

Photo courtesy of ReCAST

The program was also involved with the release of body camera footage from the Castille shooting. “Our role was as conveners. We convened our partners who were working within the community and others to say, ‘What do you want to do?’ We’re not going to do anything because we’re the ‘bad guys’ – we’re government – but we know the community is going to have some needs.”

Stephens noted the resulting protests and occupation after Clark’s death also highlighted the power of community as healers. “There were a lot of people that we called community cultural healers – individuals who aren’t licensed, but who provide some cultural support services to the community. These individuals were doing this work without any sort of compensation.”

A component of ReCAST Minneapolis, called Connect, connects those healers with those in need of healing resources without the red tape. “These are often people who don’t want to be in business with the City of Minneapolis,” Stephens said.

She added that ingrained government mistrust has been one of the most significant challenges while creating strategies to help the community. That is why, she said, the program does not focus on direct service.

“Why ask community members to overcome their mistrust with us when they already trust the Urban League or Sabathani?” asked Stephens. Instead, she said, “We are here to support those organizations, and they are going to exist far longer than the funding for this grant. It serves the community better for us to be growing their capacity to do their work better than for us to build something new.”

 

For more information on ReCAST Minneapolis and its services, visit www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/coordinator/recastminneapolis/index.htm.