By Michael K. Browne, Assistant Director –Complaint Investigations Unit
Every summer cities around the state and country organize a National Night Out, where neighborhoods host block parties and community members get to know one another. This is very important because it increases safety in the neighborhoods and allows for a greater sense of community in the places you live!
This year, the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights staff and members of the Commission went out to three different areas in Minneapolis to talk to people about MDCR and the work that we do!
North Minneapolis: Minneapolis residents closed their streets, fired up their grills, and hosted block parties in aims to build relationships and a stronger community. I along with Seema Desai, Investigator, and Lee Zutz, Intake Officer walked the streets and visited with the residents in the Fourth and Fifth Ward neighborhoods. We started in the Jordan neighborhood and ran into Council Member Don Samuels and his team. We ended in Fowell where we encountered representatives from the police department, who were handing out cards and building relationships with the community. At the end of the night, the three tracked 4,526 steps each for a total of 13,578 steps!
Northeast Minneapolis: Toni Newborn, Senior Investigator, and Jonathan Felt, MJF Law Clerk, visited the Third Ward in Northeast Minneapolis and mingled with a large crowd gathered in Chute Square at the corner of University and Central Avenues. Community members gathered at the historic square, home to the Ard Godfrey House—the oldest wooden house in Minneapolis—to share in live music, food, and raffle drawings. Toni and Jonathan had the wonderful opportunity to talk with the community members about the MDCR, explained the discrimination complaint process and distributed just over 100 bicycle safety flashers and brochures.
South Minneapolis: MCCR Commissioner Cecilia Rodriguez and Outreach and Engagement Law Clerk Ayah Helmy visited the South side of Minneapolis and engaged with over 100 community members in dialogue about the Complaints Investigation Unit filing process. They visited a number of different block parties in the Seward and Powderhorn neighborhoods. The block parties were teeming with activity –from children playing hopscotch to teenagers from the local high school engaging in a choreographed dance to adults grilling food and serving it up to attendees.
Throughout the night, our team handed out over 600 flashers and nearly 300 brochures. Many residents had questions regarding the Department’s process; others explained situations they have encountered and were simply unaware that there are laws to protect their civil rights. Community members expressed interest in the Department and thanked the Department for our service to the City of Minneapolis.