Civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police has left the Northside community without its primary grocery store, storefronts decimated, and inventory looted.
The West Broadway Business & Area Coalition (WBC) and Northside Funders Group have raised more than $1.5M in funds to help rebuild those businesses along the West Broadway corridor and surrounding areas.
Donations started pouring in after the organization’s executive director Felicia Perry took to Facebook Live on May 31 with an impassioned plea for elected officials, leaders, and the collective community to do more than talk about fixing a problem.
“Just asking ‘are you okay?’ is not healing or helping,” she said in the video. Instead, she challenged them to show up in the community and do actual work to help clean up and rebuild. And, for those who can’t? She said to contribute. That call went viral.
“This is something that happened so fast and became so big,” Perry told the MSR. The Restore Fund was initially set up to help businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They had previously raised $250K in for emergency funds to small businesses and independent contractors.
Perry says they started the fundraiser a couple of weeks ago after the money ran out. Less than a week ago, they had raised approximately $5,000. Now the organizations have a new goal of $5M, with 100% of the funds going directly to North Minneapolis. Perry says the funds will not be touched until the organizations have developed a plan for the community that extends beyond the crisis.
“One day, one donation is not what’s going to rebuild. We are just doing triage right now,” she says. “We haven’t even gotten into recovery.”
The first thing she is asking for is space and time.
“Giving space helps us ground ourselves as we strategize,” says Perry. “It’s important that we have a comprehensive strategy and plan around what rebuilding looks like. I want to take time to really connect with Northside businesses and the community.”
One thing she is sure about is not using the funds to address issues for which the City of Minneapolis has already earmarked dollars.
“We don’t want to spend this money on what other organizations are supposed to do and should already be paying for,” said Perry. “They need to still pay for it.” That includes things like helping to fix storefronts and pandemic impact grants.
In the meantime, WBC will continue to inform and help businesses apply for those existing dollars as well as help support and coordinate emergency business and community outreach responses as it assesses needs and creates a longterm strategy.
Perry admitted the monetary and volunteer response has been a bit overwhelming. “Usually, there are one or two people a month offering [support]. Now, we have hundreds a day.”
There is also an influx of subscribers and membership requests. But this is a good problem to have. “We are grateful. Just give us time,” she said.
Perry also thanked the WBC and Northside Funders Group team, along with residents like Ashley Henderson, De’Vonna Pittman, Desralynn Cole, and Nastaaja Johnson for their ongoing organizing and clean-up efforts. “This is a community effort and the Northside has been out there.”
To donate, visit bit.ly/northsidebiz.
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.