My mother was pregnant with me when my parents bought a house in South Minneapolis. That three-bedroom, one-bath house is what I have considered home since I was able to comprehend what “home” means.
I was shocked when I learned of George Floyd’s death while in police custody only blocks from the quiet, tree-lined street that is home to me.
Now, let me make it clear. I was not shocked that officers are accused of killing a black man. I was shocked because I was naive. I thought such tragedies erupted in other neighborhoods, other cities, other states. But injustice does not discriminate by location.
As my father wrote on social media, this happened "four blocks from my house, in ‘progressive’ Minneapolis.”
I am not currently living in Minneapolis and, for the first time in my life, I have been learning about the happenings of my neighborhood from national news.
When fellow journalists broadcast protests at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where Floyd took his final breaths, I watch to see if I can spot the church that I attended for years. I look for the Walgreens that my sister and I walk to for milk or eggs when our parents are hosting family and forgot an ingredient for pie. I look for the streets that my sister and I learned to ride our bikes on, and the roof of the house that my parents bought when they knew they were expecting their first child.
On Sunday, I decided I couldn’t just watch my neighborhood from a camera in a helicopter or the dozens of live feeds of protesters and mourners on the ground. I had to go home.
I went to 38th and Chicago, the intersection that I have passed through hundreds, if not thousands of times.
I didn’t know what to expect but I must admit that I was surprised when I found a peaceful, love-filled space (my naivety has been on full display over the last few days). Thousands of people gathered in the streets laying flowers and signs for Floyd on street corners, under the recently completed mural of Floyd and in a circle that covered the intersection.
The outskirts of the blocked-off streets were filled with individuals cooking and serving free food. There were also volunteers collecting and handing out bags of groceries, diapers, hygiene products and other staples that community members need but may not be able to access because of road closures, stores closing or being looted and public transportation being slowed.
Despite the thousands of people coming and going from the gathering, there was more than enough for people to take. I heard a woman that I went to school with calling to passersby, “Please take bread! We have more bread here than we need, we don’t want it to go bad!”
Some volunteers didn’t wait for people to come to them. They walked through the crowds offering bottles of cold water or Gatorade.
While this was going on a peaceful protest was also being held: people of all ages gathered to pray, listen to speakers and chant.
I heard one father tell his young, white son as they entered the protest to watch and listen to everything that was happening to try and understand what had occurred in his neighborhood. Maybe that young boy won’t be as naive as I have been.
Shortly after I left 38th and Chicago I watched the video of a truck barrel through a crowd of thousands of protesters sitting on the freeway. In the crowd were friends from grade school and high school, people that I played park and rec soccer and softball with and people who helped to mold me into the person that I am today. Miraculously, no one was hurt.
Now, I realize that I have a bias. We all do, it’s part of being human. I’m not going to comment on everything that has happened throughout the Twin Cities and the nation in response to the death of Floyd. I’m not going to say what is right or wrong, I don’t have the authority to make that declaration.
But, what I do know is this: my friends, my neighbors and my community are hurting. We are mourning. We are mad and sad and afraid and courageous.