As a Black transgender woman, I know systems disenfranchise Black, Indigenous, and people of color, LGBTQIA+ residents and people living with disabilities in our community, whether through housing, public safety or economic policies and practices. Regardless of the obstacles before us, we fight for the just and equitable world we deserve.
The George Floyd memorial is more than a place to grieve; it's where people come to heal and build community, all made possible by collective organizing. The unyielding commitment of Black Minneapolitans to advocate for justice has always been critical in advancing equity. Systems change is impossible without people-centered movement.
Having spent decades fighting for many of the same values espoused by the authors of the Justice Resolution, the caretakers of "George Floyd Square," I am acutely aware how exhausting it is to fight for the right to simply exist.
The advocates and organizers have influenced local leaders, myself included, to take pause, listen and act with intention. Legislative steps taken since my election, such as the adoption of the city's first Strategic and Racial Equity Action Plan, its racism-as-public-health-crisis resolution, and the truth and reconciliation resolution, are examples of how we're codifying our commitment to long-term work to reverse racial disparity trends.
While we are making progress, there is still much work for us to do in Minneapolis.
We must continue to address the 24 demands set forth in the Justice Resolution. An urgent priority has been changing the public safety paradigm. We've worked with 311 and 911 to create alternatives to police-only responses to public safety calls, employed mobile behavioral health crisis teams and are embedding mental health crisis professionals in 911. We began a process to amend the City Charter and create a new department of public safety. Our Office of Violence Prevention hired community groups to help with conflict resolution and implement violence interruption models that prevent group violence before it occurs.
Over the past year, I have met with neighbors, businesses, and the preservers of "George Floyd Square" and neighborhood organizations. I attend meetings to discuss our work on the 24 demands, city support toward racial justice and healing initiatives, neighborhood and resident needs, and the preservation of businesses and organizations around the square. Public Works staff meet regarding ongoing services. Division of Race and Equity staff meet around funding and process for community healing spaces and services to the community. Arts directors discuss funding and processes for community artists. Neighborhood and Community Relations staff meet around ongoing needs of residents and neighborhoods.
Reconnecting our communities is a first step toward a community-led process around a permanent memorial to honor the life of George Floyd. We need community at the table. Many residents have expressed individual opinions for a permanent memorial ranging from a roundabout to a pedestrian plaza to a nationally designated landmark.
We must create a process together: a community-led concept for us to implement. We are ready to do this work at the city and have committed funding for this process.
Reconnecting our communities is a step toward continuing the work of the City Council-adopted 38th Street Thrive Cultural District Strategic Development Plan, a community-led plan known as "38th Street Thrive."
This plan, developed by community over years, is centered in anti-displacement and preservation of a historically Black corridor. The plan identifies strategies and actions to increase economic development opportunities for Black entrepreneurs and reduce barriers to homeownership for Black residents, among others. Strategies in the plan help us reach goals of forming a community development corporation, a Black Heritage Land Trust and Clarissa Walker's Homebuyer Club, for example.
These actions directly reduce barriers to homeownership and reduce housing instability in the neighborhoods' Black community —one that was intentionally excluded from building wealth through homeownership because of restrictive covenants, redlining, racist policies and racist zoning codes.
Other action strategies focus on arts and cultural events, small business supports, educational and employment partnerships, climate resiliency, and branding for the cultural district.
We must do all we can to preserve our small businesses, especially Black businesses, and our community organizations. While we cannot falter in our commitment to transform public safety and demand systemic change, these actions will reduce racial disparities in a corridor that spans the intersection where George Floyd was murdered and help us achieve racial justice goals in our neighborhoods.
Reconnection is not about access to a few restaurants, or the inconvenience of driving a few extra blocks. Rather, it is integral to sustaining a broader Black economic and cultural district and implementing strategies of the 38th Street Thrive Plan. The intersection of 38th and Chicago will always be a sacred space of racial reckoning in a global racial justice movement.
Andrea Jenkins is vice president of the Minneapolis City Council.