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After George Floyd's Killing, a Midway Church Is a Haven for Volunteers

By Luke Heikkila
June 15, 2020

Across the Twin Cities, Minnesotans - primarily young individuals - have shown up in droves as volunteers to help neighbors they have never met before. Along the way, they're experiencing firsthand what it's like to serve those who are not often served - and they're using whatever space they can find to be there in the community.

In the turbulent days immediately after the police killing of George Floyd, people flocked to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Saint Paul's Midway neighborhood, where a number of businesses vital to the community were damaged or destroyed.

Located just south and west of the intersection of Snelling and University Avenues, the church serves a congregation that numbers 60 people, a least during pre-COVID worship services. Multiply that number 10 or 15 times, and you come to the number of volunteers who stopped by daily to lend a hand during the first few weeks in June following Floyd's death.

"I hope that every person who is here makes a commitment to not just helping to carry food, but also to take that message back to wherever they are coming from and share it with someone," said Reverend Kirsten Freyer of Bethlehem Lutheran. "If we just do this  and then disappear again, we've done a disservice to our community."

George Floyd's police killing has inspired countless artists across the globe to create murals in his honor, works that also call for justice and anti-racism reform. And that's left a lot of people wondering what will happen to the works of art - many created on temporary surfaces such as plywood panels - when communities start to rebuild. Students and professors at the University of Minnesota have created an online database that aims to catalog these expressions so they can be studied for years to come. 

Taken 100 years apart, a video that captured ex-police officer killing George Floyd bears an eery resemblance to a photograph of three Black men who were lynched in Duluth in 1920. Twin Cities PBS Senior Producer Daniel Bergin reflects on what the images – one moving, one still, both disturbing – say about Minnesota’s long history of systemic racism.

Along with other urban centers across the country, the Twin Cities have a history of racially discriminatory housing covenants that prevented people of color from buying homes in certain neighborhoods. That history ripples in the present-day affordable housing crisis: By limiting opportunities for home ownership, people of color were stripped of one key way to build equity over time. Discover more in “Mapping the Roots of Housing Disparities in Minneapolis.”

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