Sometimes one is brought up short by the sheer numbers of remarkable efforts of Twin Cities communities or neighborhoods to improve life and return to the same level of collective existence under which almost all of our forebears operated, sometime in small towns, sometimes in ethnic and spiritual enclaves within very large cities, sometimes in small fiefdoms in developing areas of the world. Such is the case with the Back Yard Initiative (BYI) in South Minneapolis.
The American experience, we can admit, especially now as we examine our cultural and political history in light of the near two and a half centuries of what the colonial system brought forth to this nation. We say, examine less than universally celebrate because not all parts of what has always purported to be cemented equity in our Constitution has borne the fruits of that equity in reality.
There’s more to be said about that, of course, but the one ingredient lost since pioneer families settled these lands and worked side-by-side to create communities of immigrants, often at the expense of the Natives already planted there, was the sense that to really accomplish the better life for their members and their offspring, functions of a society were necessarily collective efforts, not characterized by the individualism that has rent us from each other over time, too many left to fend for themselves in a so-called democracy gone rogue. And, so, any effort to reestablish the connectedness needed to maintain the health of communities, some of them neglected in the extreme, has to be welcome in those urban places where the difficulties of existence multiply too quickly.
So was revived the concept of the Back Yard and how that symbolizes this return to collective action for community benefits and, while this may take place in some other places around the Twin Cities Metro and other locales, the Back Yard Initiative of South Minneapolis emerges as an extraordinary example of how neighborhood and community folks can come together in pockets of human endeavor to build the better overall health of the entire area – physically
Born with seed money from the Midtown headquarters of Allina Health Systems (which community folk boast is in their backyard), the system known as the Cultural Wellness Center (CWC), a broadbased effort with a mission “to unleash the power of citizens to heal themselves and to build community.” Community Action Health Teams, orCHATs were developed to help nurture the mission across a wide swath of both Minneapolis and St. Paul.
From this base came the Back Yard Initiative covering seven primary neighborhoods of Southeast Minneapolis (Powderhorn, Corcoran, Central and the four Phillips neighborhoods of West, East, Midtown and Ventura Village) and over 15,000 households. The BYI fostered what they call their three pillars of community health – Community’s Commission on Health (Leadership), the Community Resource Body (Economic leveraging) and severalCHATs.
Three BYI CHATs will visit TruthToTell this week to talk about their work: Anchor Families, Project S.E.L.F., and the Communities of Light (part of the Rebirthing Community CHAT). This whole thing can sort of blow you away with its complexities because the sheer diversity of people and CHAT programs cover almost every facet of community health stabilization.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL talks with key members of those three BYI CHATs and we’ll hear some African drumming, along with announcements of the annual Midtown Global Market Music Festival July 13th and the separate Midtown Phillips Festival coming up on July 20.
KHUSABA SEKA – Representing Anchor Families CHAT
AMGED YUSEF – Representing Project S.E.L.F. CHAT (with BROTHER MAO on Drum)
QUEEN INSHALLAH TOLBERT – Representing Communities of Light, part of the Rebirthing Communities CHAT
SUSAN GUST – The Alley Newspaper – Communications CHAT