National Night Out helps heal Minneapolis tragediesby Matt Sepic, Minnesota Public Radio
MINNEAPOLIS — People across the country and Minnesota closed their streets, fired up their grills and hosted block parties Tuesday night for National Night Out.
The event, now in its 29th year, aims to fight crime by building community. This past year, north Minneapolis suffered two shooting deaths of young boys. The residents of the neighborhoods where the killings occurred say they remain resilient.
Ann Moe of Minneapolis organized the party in her neighborhood in the 4700 block of Colfax Avenue North. She said it's an important opportunity to meet and visit with her neighbors who, like her, keep an eye out for trouble.
"This is my insurance policy. If something funny happens, if something weird happens, everyone knows that's not right and they'll call," Moe said.
Engine 20 of the Minneapolis Fire Department pulled up on the block for a meet and greet. Four curious and super-polite grade-school kids clambered up into the truck and firefighter Robert Martin gave a quick tour.
The kids on the fire truck were around the same age as Nizzel George, the 5-year-old boy who was shot and killed as he slept on his grandmother's couch. That happened six weeks ago, just three blocks away. Two teenagers have been charged with the crime.
Moe said she will never let that single tragedy define her neighborhood. She remains vigilant.
"I know all these kids here. They know me," Moe said. "All of the adults on this block. We all kind of know each other and we all kind of watch out for each other. We're like a family."
Twenty blocks down Colfax Ave. in the Hawthorne neighborhood, Jean Taylor Coleman and her husband were out with their children, who zipped around on their bikes with a big group of kids.
Terrell Mayes, Jr. lived on the next block. In December, he was killed by a stray bullet. The case remains unsolved. Coleman fears for the safety of her children, but she said they still play in the front yard.
"I don't keep my kids inside," she said. "I just kind of supervise them and let them know where they can go. If a child is shot, how much more can you protect your kids? You can't really do too much more than pray."
Tuesday night was peaceful. Neighbors sat on folding chairs in the middle of the street, chatted and ate burgers. At nearby North Commons Park, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said this is the scene he wishes more people would associate with the city's north side.
"This is an amazingly resilient place, and probably will have the privilege to see," he said. "It's just about amazing people who have seen some tough stuff, who have also built some great stuff too."
Rybak said city officials and residents will need to continue working together to make north Minneapolis safer, efforts he says were proudly on display last night.
More from MPRATF investigating rash of Minn. gun thefts
August 6, 2012
Anti-violence lessons should start early, experts say
August 6, 2012
Council committee considers proposal revamping Civilian Review Authority
July 25, 2012
Nightclubs agree to new rules to curb violent incidents
July 19, 2012
63 Minneapolis homicides in five years remain unsolved
July 12, 2012
2 juveniles charged in Minneapolis child's shooting death
July 2, 2012
Sleeping boy, 5, fatally shot in Mpls. home
June 26, 2012
- Morning Edition, 08/08/2012, 6:45 a.m.