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It has been a long week in Minnesota.
Last week, we all were gutted and outraged by the news that George Floyd was killed when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Since then, we’ve seen an outpouring of grief and widespread calls for justice — in Minnesota and now in every U.S. state and around the world. Here in Minneapolis, I’ve watched the awful, violent response by the police and intense militarization of my city. I’ve also seen moment after moment of beautiful organizing, peaceful demonstrations, disruptive calls for action, and a community taking care of each other.
I’m sending care and strength to all of you as communities across Minnesota continue to show up to protests, distribute food and supplies to those who need it, organize neighborhood safety plans, and stand in firm solidarity with calls for justice led by Black leaders. I hope you all are getting enough sleep and taking care of yourselves. I for one, feel exhausted.
These have been confusing times, too, as each day brings a bunch of new media stories to sift through — many of them saying completely opposing or overly dramatized things. For those living further from the Cities, it’s hard to track what’s going on. Still, I’ve been so inspired to see folks bringing supplies from many miles away, including farmers organizing vegetable distribution for those without food access.
In my years working at PAN I’ve been impressed by the way our team approaches strategizing and visioning on two different scales. There’s our long-term vision for what a sustainable, just food system looks like — and then there are the immediate steps we need to put into place to get there. Even with years of practice, it sometimes feels like we’re so entrenched in a system of corporatized and extractive agriculture that we can’t imagine our way out of the system that we’re stuck in.
I used to feel that way about policing, too. Living in Minneapolis I’ve witnessed so much harm caused by the police in my own neighborhood over the past few years, and yet our system of policing here has remained rigid, well-funded, and heavily armed. It’s been a frustrating process as the community tries to take small steps toward increased safety and accountability.
And yet…systems do change, sometimes suddenly. In the last week, an immense uprising has revealed that a long-term community vision — defunding, deconstructing, and above all disarming police — is within our reach. Suddenly, city leaders are considering significant changes to policing that would leave all of us safer and better cared for.
From our official organizational statement:
"Longer term changes are in motion as well. School districts are considering community safety crews as an alternative to campus policing, and some politicians have pledged to work with the Black community toward real reforms. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted more than 50 years ago:
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”
There’s a job for everyone in this fight for justice. If you’re struggling to figure out how to plug in, consider the Stop, Drop, and Roll method (from fellow PAN organizer Devika Ghai) and consider organizing with a few of your neighbors/friends to take on a fundraising project, attend protests together, get food donations to those on the frontlines, and have conversations about racism with your loved ones. I continue to look to organizations like Black Visions Collective for inspiration and guidance in this moment.
PAN’s work to create healthy, just food and farming systems for all is ongoing, and we know dismantling systemic racism is central to that work. Thank you for being in this work with us.
In grief and also with hope,
— Willa Childress, Minnesota organizer