Jordan One Year Later: What's Different, What's the Same

A City Pages Roundtable

Price: This is a multi-faceted issue and so I'd like to first go back to the economic development. When I challenged for a City Council seat back in 2000, I videotaped the building of a new school, down in the heart of the African American community on 26th and Bryant. Just six blocks away from this new construction site are the [drug dealers] we are talking about. Then and now. Six blocks away. The philosophy or policy was, "Let's give them a new school." This was a multi-million dollar initiative. And I videotaped every one of the construction workers, the subcontractors, what have you. I went up and interviewed them, in a good way--you know, "Hey, how you doin'? Having a good day at work? You look pretty tired, man. Hey, how far you got to drive?" "Oh, I got to drive way out to Eden Prairie, I'm out at Woodbury, I'm here, I'm there." Listen, nobody--no blacks, and none of my white boys from north Minneapolis--were participating in the building of that school. Millions of dollars invested at the community level, no dollars kept and maintained in that community. What did we create? The paradox that says, "Hey, I don't have an opportunity here, this is not about me. It's not for me."

We ask Tim and others to clean up the mess for us, not being prepared to take on this challenge from the community. Part of what Tim is trying to do is create goals and a lot of solutions at the same time. Policing, community organizing, police force training, activist training, state support, media support. But, if we're not prepared to say, "What does a healthy north and south Minneapolis look like?" we're not going anywhere. Let's go after the element we're now talking about, these forgotten guys. These young black boys are so influential that the culture has created a music that is the number one music in the world, but they don't control any of the revenue. How do we go about getting these guys one at a time to make some individual change--and I think this is what Steve's talking about--in personal accountability? That's the real deal. And the issue is on the table: When are we going to stop playing around with each other and say, "Some of you young black boys are clownin' and you need to quit clownin'."

Oates: That's right.

Price: This is what you're doing to your family, and you ain't got a pistol, but you got a rock. The rock is driving your sister's child to child protection, and nobody here is gonna get the baby. We gotta have those honest discussions, and that's an area where we are still sensitive. We can deal when white folks say this and that about us, and then we want to galvanize it and come back at them. But we can't talk honestly about our issues amongst ourselves. And we gotta say those things, and not only that, when we say them we've got to have the support because we understand that leadership is taking a risk; this stuff is a risk.

When I was coming up, there was a policing strategy that you would not be so appreciative of. It was led by a guy named [former Minneapolis Mayor Charles] Stenvig. This was a very heavy-handed tactic, far more than now, that was levied against the African American community in a direct way. And many of those residual feelings and effects--people have internalized that. And people who are my age, boomers who came through the days of struggling in the '60s and '70s, and were supported by the media and press for the righteousness of their movement, don't have that support now under a different political climate.

We need to pull together these types of collaboratives now. For instance, I have a relationship with Tim Dolan. And I respect him, because we worked out our relationship; we're gonna talk to each other straight, and we've been doing this for years, and never one time has he given me B.S. Those kinds of relationships are now coming together out of absolute necessity. We had a choice before, we didn't take it. We had dollars before, but we didn't spend them wisely. We had opportunities, but only some got them. All of that's gone, but we still have the issues. If we're not prepared to work together in a different kind of way in Minneapolis, and be inclusive of a new community, then I think we are setting ourselves up.

City Pages: Inspector Dolan, I've heard nothing but good things about you and your relationship with the community, both black and white. At the same time, what Michelle is saying, and what Natalie is saying, is you've got a problem with some of your officers, and that problem is your own worst enemy. How do you deal with it?

Johnson Lee: Make him the police chief.

Dolan: You deal with it one person at a time. Whether it's one officer at a time that's having a problem, or one citizen at a time that's having a problem. And I'll be honest with you, I know Natalie and Shane could relate personal incidents here, and they're being kind. There have been incidents where cops are totally unfair and totally unjust, and there are incidents when cops are overly fair and overly just. Cops are people, and with these incidents, it's just one at a time. Hopefully over time you can change the attitudes and perceptions both of officers and of citizens.

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