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North Minneapolis families rally for peace in a violent year

Local rapper XROSS, founder of the Man Up Club, organized a peace march and rally in respond to this year's surge in gun violence.

Local rapper XROSS, founder of the Man Up Club, organized a peace march and rally in respond to this year's surge in gun violence.

This year has been Minneapolis’s bloodiest in recent memory, with at least 55 homicides before September.

Compare that to 48 homicides all of last year, or the 33 in 2018, 35 in 2017, and 37 in 2016.
Gun violence, along with substandard healthcare and layoffs under COVID-19, has hit the Black community particularly hard. On August 24, Patrick Henry high schooler Serenity Shief was killed with a gunshot to the head. Last week, Eddie Sole Jr., a homicide suspect sought by Minneapolis police, shot and killed himself in front of a crowd, leading to rioting and looting downtown. Four people were shot in north Minneapolis on Friday night.

MAD DADS president V.J. Smith, a march participant who’s been intervening in teenage drug use and violence for 21 years, says 2020 has been very painful.

“It seems like every time we try to build some back up, things get down again, and so we have to recharge, re-energize,” he said. “And we have to have the people that love us to help us, support us to make us strong. If you don't have a foundation at home, it's hard to get things straight in the streets. We got to be tough. We got to fight hard. Because you're talking about mental health. You're talking about poverty. You're talking about addiction, and you're talking about injustice, you're talking about a virus. All those things that we're fighting to win, we're gonna win.”

Urban ministers and northside families gathered in the parking lot of Cub Foods on Saturday to call for an end to the violence.

“The reality is that 2020 has been just difficult, and the isolation for young people in particular,” said Laurel Bunker, associate vice president at Bethel University.

“I feel like that anger is trumping rational conversation. Nobody wants to use logic, right? It's like either you are angry, and you're down for the fight the way I am, or forget it. And that's not gonna help us. Even if we disagree on the method, there has to be a sense of unity on the outcome. And the outcome or the goal has got to be to stop the blood of these kids running in the streets.”

Bunker, a youth pastor, says doing outreach to teens through religion can be fraught. Young people are increasingly secular. Christianity is often met by an eyeroll, sometimes associated with power and control. Nevertheless, she believes the church can still be relevant to them because it’s a deep part of the Black community’s civil rights history.

Demonstrators marched down West Broadway to an all-day Godflow youth rally at the Shiloh Temple, put on by the Man Up Club, a youth organization founded by Minneapolis hip hop artist XROSS, also known as Korey Dean Sr. The North Area Basketball Academy held a tournament. The City of Minneapolis supplied masks. The Man Up Club gave out 2,500 boxes of free meat and cheese. Suits were donated to young men. Atlanta-based rapper T.I., who also attended George Floyd's funeral in June,  made an appearance.

XROSS organized the march and youth rally within the last month with the help of some 30 churches with the Urban Ministry Alliance. He said he wanted young people to find God, stop murdering each other, and build up their community.

“We can’t continue to have teenage girls getting shot in the head, murdered. We can't continue to have young men like that young man downtown that murdered somebody and then put a gun in his mouth in broad daylight and blew his head off among six teenagers,” XROSS said.

“That’s a major problem in society. And we can't just sit around and kind of say, ‘Oh, okay, that's unfortunate.’ We have to be able to provide something for people to be able to deal with those tragedies, deal with the setbacks.”