Northsiders give back to the next generation

Photo by Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald (l-r) Mike Shelton, Mike “Talley” Tate, and Brett Buckner

Bringing families together around service

Kids, families, and community folk on Minneapolis’ North Side will vie to break one of four Guinness World Records at North Commons Park beginning this weekend. Organizers expect over 600 youth to participate in “100 Days of Summer” beginning Sunday, July 18, and running through Saturday, August 7. 

The daily free Summer Games will allow participants to try a different sport each day at the park. The various activities include Free Play led by Playworks, women in sports Wednesdays, and Family Fit Camp on Saturday mornings, along with traditional sports such as basketball, football, softball, and baseball, and new sports such as football futsal.

Going for a world record on Sunday is designed to shine a positive light on the North Side, which has been hit with crime in recent weeks, said Brett Buckner of Seeds to Harvest. He and longtime Northside youth coach Mike Tate said they have been planning for over a year, the two told the MSR last Friday at North Commons.

“What we’re trying to do is rebuild the [Northside] community and give this opportunity for the kids to be their best,” declared Buckner. “It’s Coach [Tate] making sure that this is going to change the narrative. The games are just an extension of that.”

Since last summer, Tate has run an ongoing “One Hour of Service in Our Community” service project for youth in 4th-12th grades. The idea came up about 18 months ago and kicked off last May.

“We started [this] before George Floyd’s murder as an opportunity to bring kids together with just giving back—the week before his murder,” He pointed out there’s an estimated 300 street drains on the Northside. For one hour,” he said, “we’re gonna bring kids out in North Minneapolis [to] adopt drains. but [also] bring the family together.

So, what we do every Saturday at 9:45, we meet here by the pool at North Commons,” he continued, “and we go out and we clean drainage. The family has to go with us, which is the most important thing for me. It’s kids at work, and it’s not built around basketball [but] built around service in our community for one hour. At the end of it, we pay the kids $15 an hour because we found some sponsorship.” 

Over 300 kids, plus their parents or guardians, have been involved, he reported. “It brings the family together for about three hours,” stressed Tate.

Buckner, a 1990 Minneapolis North graduate, has been involved in urban improvement and empowerment projects since he graduated from Hampton University, which according to him gave him “reimaging eyes.”

“I saw my [school] president was Black. My police chief was Black. The person that was doing the laundry was Black, the teachers and everything else—they were all Black,” he remembers.

Why should that not be the case in his native North Side, pondered Buckner. “We can do that here,” he believed. Several years ago, he led an effort for a new sports complex at North Commons, a project that drew the ire of some neighborhood residents. He hasn’t given up on it.

“Can we imagine a $40 million facility here in our backyard?” he asked. “Most definitely.”

The Summer Games project is part of a broader four-year initiative to galvanize support and resources for Northside youth as well as revitalize the area, said Buckner.

“We plan that this Summer Games will be a regional event,” he said. “It’s going to help West Broadway, but probably most important, these kids are going to say, ‘I can not only compete against others, I can actually do it right here in my own backyard. I don’t have to go anywhere else.”