Revitalizing a historical Black presence
Second of a three-part story
Last week we introduced the eight Minneapolis cultural districts that city leaders hope can help restore what was lost in the destruction following the police murder of George Floyd. This week continues a close look at one of these districts, the 38th Street Corridor.
Anthony Taylor has been a part of discussions with city leaders to help restore the 38th Street Corridor’s history through new development. His mother is Atum Azzahir, chief executive officer of the Cultural Wellness Center.
The Cultural Wellness Center plays a significant role in the district’s future as its leaders and City representatives plan to create a business hub called Dreamland on 38th to “provide cultural healing through culinary heritage.” It’s named in honor of the Dreamland Café, one of the first businesses in the neighborhood, owned and operated by serial entrepreneur Anthony B. Cassius.
Related Story: Can Minneapolis restore its ‘cultural districts’?
Cassius created a space on the South Side that welcomed outside travelers and entertainers who weren’t able to stay, eat or perform in downtown Minneapolis. Taylor and other stakeholders hope to continue that legacy at this proposed property on 38th and 3rd by developing the Dreamland Co-Café as a space for food entrepreneurs to work and serve customers. It will also house the administrative offices of the Cultural Wellness Center and include a space for community meetings and events.
For Taylor, Dreamland on 38th is just one part of the development needed along the corridor. “We believe all of this has to be tied together,” Taylor said. “It is all a part of a collaborative development effort to use culture and particularly focus on African American culture as a legacy culture and developing the corridor with a commitment to equitable outcomes for all community members.”
As one of the stakeholders on this project, Azzahir shared her belief that the location will serve as a place that would restore the belief that people have in themselves. “I’d like us to have the space that people can talk together, strategize together, eat together, learn together, and teach together,” she said.
Azzahir also hopes to disprove the negative stereotype that Black people face economic disparity because they don’t have the skills and resources within their community to thrive on their own. “This sense is prevalent that [the reason] Black people don’t have jobs is because they don’t have talented skills that are marketable and valuable enough to sell. Do we know that that’s a lie?”
Kente Circle is another development that is part of the 38th St. Thrive plan. Located on 38th and 4th, Kente Circle is a mental health agency that specializes in individual, couple, family and group therapy. Roughly three-fourths of their clients are people of color, a majority of whom reside in Hennepin County and are under the age of 18.
LJ Tucker is a mental health practitioner at Kente Circle who has been involved with the plans to expand their current facility. “Kente’s goal is really to get the community involved and to have healing be a priority,” he said. “We’re expanding our partnerships and also expanding our work outside of talk therapy.”
The proposed space is set to expand by 8,000 square feet to accommodate 25% more staff and nearly double the number of clients served. Kente’s leaders also hope to host internal and external training for 75 to 100 people in the years to come. According to Larry Tucker, CEO of Kente Circle, this effort to grow Kente’s location is a part of the organization’s mission to help meet the increased demand for mental health services.
Kente Circle’s expansion project is a part of the 38th St. Thrive plan to develop a ‘resilience hub’ that will help the local Southside community navigate preventative health and emergency needs along with transportation options.
The Sabathani Community Center, also within the Resilience Hub, has been a part of the development projects along the corridor with a focus on housing.
Staving off gentrification
Sabthani Senior Housing is a 48-unit development on 37th and 3rd Ave. and was developed to meet the needs of seniors to find affordable housing that wasn’t outside of the community. Councilmember Andrea Jenkins said that Sabathani has brought on a property management team and that units are still up for grabs.
One of the major ways of passing down wealth in the United States is through homeownership. According to Minnesota Compass, only 24% of Black households own a home compared to 77% of White households in Minnesota. Though this gap is very large, it wasn’t always so.
“Homeownership in that community by Black families in 1977 was higher than it is today,” Taylor said. As city and community leaders work on solutions, Taylor hopes that the community along the corridor is presented with options that focus on quality housing and not just on affordability.
He said the option to choose a location is important. “They need to be able to afford to live where they want to, which is different than affordable housing.”
Having recently purchased a home along the corridor, Tucker agreed with the sentiment that people want to stay on the South Side so long as they can afford it. “I think it’s even more of a need for this project because there are a lot of long-term residents in this neighborhood who value it and want to see it continue to thrive.
“They don’t want it to be gentrified and have them thrown out,” he said. “I was fortunate, but I think if I were to do that in this time, it would be a lot more difficult.”
The concept of equitable development, a development strategy that ensures that every community member participates and benefits from the economic transformation, is guiding the cultural district’s planning with an anti-displacement strategy in mind. Councilmember Jenkins expressed her desire to stave off gentrification while providing quality housing options to residents in her ward.
“We have to be extremely thoughtful and mindful about gentrification and take every measure that we can to avoid it,” she said, “even in terms of helping people stay in their homes. We want to make sure that we are creating solutions so that we can help homeowners with alternative energy sources to bring down their energy cost.”
In establishing a cultural district, the City of Minneapolis would work to lessen the racial housing disparity by providing different models of homeownership and wealth-building with the help of nonprofit organizations, private foundations, and financial institutions.
The 38th St. Thrive plan details this effort of supporting homeownership through initiatives like the Clarissa Walker’s Homebuyer Club, which would help low- to moderate-income residents navigate the homebuying process in the district and guide them on maintaining the home in the long term.
The Black Heritage Land Trust would help both residents and business owners purchase and preserve their homes and commercial spaces with the goal of “increasing economic security.” Renters are also incorporated in this effort for stabilizing housing through the development of the Tenant Protection Policies in the next two years, which would provide tenants with legal representation and enforce current city ordinances relating to tenants.
Abdi Mohamed is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.