“I am not disappointed. I am disgusted with the city of Minneapolis,” Karen Wills, Amir Locke’s mother, said after it was announced that the police officer who killed her son would not be faced with charges. This verdict has left me wondering if anything has truly changed in Minneapolis since 2020 with the murder of George Floyd or even since 2015 when Jamar Clark was killed by the police. I’ve previously written about how Minnesota Nice makes race conversations difficult and How pride and allegiance to Minnesota prevents equity and change, but what would happen if we shifted to focusing on healing, radical hope and joy?
This idea reemerged when I read a recent tweet by Patience Zalanga, a local freelance photographer who stated, “A city that has not fully reckoned with the murder of George Floyd is a city that is desperately avoiding healing. Healing is not only a personal responsibility, but a collective one as well.” This quote is a reminder that healing is not about ignoring the pain and the anger — that’s called avoiding. We can heal by creating new projects, but in order to create we need to feel all the emotions. Therefore, healing in Minneapolis will look like everyone acknowledging the pain, weeping together, empathizing with one another and being angry as a collective, but also taking that anger and sadness into action.
Many community members are already doing this well, like Tangible Collective that creates space for healing, community-building and self-reflection with art or Northside Healing Space in North Minneapolis which heals trauma through rest, remembrance, resistance and revival. The Self-Care fair, which occurred last year and is happening again this year also brings together holistic healing modalities like acupuncture and movement healing and ZenBin provides services to heal trauma through classes like R&B Candlelit Yoga and a Namaste Fit Full Body Workout.
However, there needs to be greater investment in these community initiatives because communities hold the answers and truly know what should be prioritized. Health justice and equity will not occur in the silo of these institutions in America, but especially not in Minneapolis due to the immense amount of trauma resting in this city. This is why academic institutions with a plethora of research dollars need to invest less in publications and more in their neighboring communities. Medical schools in Minnesota should make it required for medical school students to simply sit and just be with those in the community instead of requiring community based projects without any conversations on identity, power, privilege and cultural humility. The collective healing within this city will require people from different sectors getting out of the comfort of their offices and investing in communities who have been most marginalized in this city.
Practically, that looks like more of us challenging the status quo of what’s being done within our sector. For example, if you are conducting research begin thinking: How could the research I do involve sharing my power, so that community members are the ones forming research questions and prioritizing their own needs? If you are working in healthcare, begin to ask: What would it look like to create healing spaces for healthcare workers where can they debrief after experiencing triggering patient encounters, so that their own trauma doesn’t hurt future patients? Or if you work in other industries, how could you speak up against a racist encounter directed toward your colleague?
I am tired of talking about disparities and reading all the articles about how Minneapolis has some of the worst inequities in the nation, so I’ve begun dreaming again, which is why I dream for a Minneapolis where Black women leave hospital rooms alive with newborn babies. A Minneapolis where Black men can sleep at night or drive without fear — a city without the nation’s worse health and social inequities. A Minneapolis where Black people can rest and just be. This dream can only happen if this city invests in healing and if these institutions believe in the importance of investing in re-imagining what could be instead of simply ruminating on what currently exists.
Overall, Minneapolis is a city in need of deep healing and there is hope that this city will become one others in America can mirror and look up to. As Bernie Lim, a community activist and medical school student who founded Freedom Community Clinic said, “We can’t just know what we are against. We have to know what we are for.” Yes, we are against racism, sexism and all the -isms that exist, but it’s time that as a city we also know what we are for. Therefore, instead of simply announcing all the inequities that exist in these yearly op-eds, will we decide to keep being a city that avoids or will we choose to heal collectively?
Ayomide Ojebuoboh is an MD-PhD student at the University of Minnesota.