Four long days after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, a cry of jubilation erupted a few feet away from where Floyd died. “He’s in custody! He’s in custody! This is news!” shouted a kid who didn’t want to be identified, breaking the news that Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin had been charged around 1 p.m. Friday to the crowd attending an ongoing vigil gathered on 38th and Chicago. The crowd of about 200 cheered slightly, then returned to the silence of the vigil, which was broken by a chant of, “One down, three to go!” (From “ ‘He’s in custody!’ Surveying the scene Friday in south Minneapolis,” May 30).
As the state’s first lockdown was announced, with a total of 54 confirmed coronavirus cases statewide, a forlorn Apple Store employee in Uptown sat stunned behind signs reading, “Our retail stores are closed until March 27. We are committed to providing exceptional service to our customers… We look forward to seeing you soon.” The store closed permanently in October. (From “ ‘It’s bad, it’s bad’: Minnesotans on-the-street talk about how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting their lives,” March 17).
Car horns honked and motorists waved to health care workers on one of shutdown Minneapolis’ busiest streets on April 23. The neighborhood received a reminder of those the COVID-19 pandemic impacts most, not to mention a shot of hope amid the gloom and isolation: “Angels Work Here,” reads the giant sign on the lawn outside Mount Olivet Home on 56th and S. Lyndale Avenue, where the corner itself suggests a microcosm of the communal pull-together that’s happening all over the world. (From “‘Angels work here’: Employees see visible appreciation outside Mount Olivet Home in Minneapolis,” April 24).
After a night of protests, fires, and looting, The Hexagon Bar was still in flames as members of the Powderhorn Park neighborhood helped clean up: “I’m ‘Peter Parker’ from south Minneapolis. We’ve been locked up so long, and this is an easy way to lighten our spirits, because we’re really feeling the pinch out here. So if you see your friendly neighborhood Spiderman out here, and all these other people getting together to clean up what’s left over from justice, it’s the least we can do. So protest during the night, clean up during the day. It’s a shame things have gone the way they are, but we can all do a little bit to try to make things at least communal out here.” (From “ `He’s in custody!’ Surveying the scene Friday in south Minneapolis,” May 30).
Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1867 as the end of slavery in America, but the 2020 version came with added significance and relevance, set as it was June 19 to a backdrop of worldwide protests; calls for police reform; challenges to financial, governmental, and cultural institutions to promote equality and equity; and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz pushing to declare Juneteenth a state holiday.
The state’s most popular Juneteenth event, regularly held at Bethune Park in Minneapolis, was canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but celebrations took place elsewhere across the state and world. At the corner of “38th & George,” as one graffiti tag has it, folks came from far and wide to remember history and George Floyd, who was killed here at the hands of the Minneapolis police on May 25.
Cervantes Craven: “Juneteenth has always been an important holiday for Black people. I’m from Texas originally, so I’ve been celebrating it since I was a kid. So it’s really amazing for a lot of people’s eyes to be open to this holiday that’s not new, you know; it’s our Independence Day. I thought it was important to come here because this is sacred ground, and this is where the catalyst started for change to happen and it’s going to continue to happen. It’s important to come here just to regenerate, actually; it gives me hope, it rejuvenates my soul and my spirit to be here with community, and with people, all with the same goal for justice and peace and equality.” From “‘This is the site of a movement that has transformed the entire world’: Juneteenth at ‘38th & George,” June 22.