'Right thing to do': Volunteers turned bus into 'MASH unit' at George Floyd Square. They're not done yet.
This is part of a monthlong series looking at how the community has transformed the site of George Floyd’s killing — 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis — and at the people behind its transformation. It is the culmination of reporting over several months, and a partnership with South High School to engage neighborhood youth in telling their community’s story.
Kia Bible is a single mother of five who turned a bus into a medical unit at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue to treat protesters over the summer. It's since grown into a nonprofit called “612 MASH” staffed by volunteer medical professionals who provide routine care for people in the neighborhood. The acronym “MASH” stands for Minneapolis All Shall Heal.
Below is a transcript of Bible’s interview. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Can you talk about yourself, your background and life experience that led you to George Floyd Square?
I am multiracial person. I grew up predominantly in a Black household. All I know is Black culture. This is my roots. This is what makes me feel good on the inside. I grew up right here on 37th and Columbus. This is my stomping grounds.
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On May 27, my daughter came to me and asked, "How do you expect for me to explain this to my grandchildren?" And I'm like, "That's a good question. We're gonna have stories to tell." We started out the very next day with going to different protests. I remember her telling me, "Mom, I want to know what it feels like when George Floyd said that he could not breathe. I want to be gassed by the police so I can know that feeling." As a mother, having Black children, that's one thing I never want for them.
After showing her all of the different types of protests, we came here [to 38th and Chicago]. And I'm like, "OK, I need to go stop in and say hi to my uncle." That's when he had told me about the white bus. He was like, "I think it would be a good idea for us maybe to make a medical bus or something." And I'm like, "Yeah, that's a great idea."
That very first day that I came to look at the bus, two young ladies walked past me with a big, huge red cross on the sides of their arm.
Something told me I can't just let this opportunity walk past.
So I jumped up off my chair, and I chased them halfway down the way. I'm like, “Hey, wait a minute, wait a minute.” I asked them what they were doing here and they told me. Then I explained to them what my uncle had thought would be a great idea. And lo and behold, it took off overnight.
This is the craziest thing I've ever done in my life. They always say a career is something that you're going to love to do. You're going to want to get up and go outside and do it every single day. I look forward to coming out here every day, even off of 45 minutes asleep, because I know it's the right thing to do.
How did you first come up with the idea of 612 MASH?
612 MASH came up kind of out of us joking about what we were doing in the middle of the street. It started with just a bus. And then the next day, somebody donated a tent. Literally within like three days, we were treating full-blown trauma in and on the middle of the street. And so we also often joke like we're working out of a MASH [Mobile Army Surgical Hospital] unit down here, right here in the middle of 612 Minneapolis — “Oh, 612 MASH!”
Has the city of Minneapolis shown any support for 612 MASH?
No, they actually are opposed to us being here.
What can the community do then to show up for the work being done at 612 MASH?
We're always looking for volunteers. Right now, we have a core team of maybe five people that are here anywhere between five to seven days a week. Those people actually still work in the hospitals and in clinics outside of the space. They're putting eight- to-10-hour shifts in and then they're turning around and coming right here.
We realized that it was bigger than just providing trauma care. The trauma went way further than just a bullet wound. The mental health that we see out here is so sad. And yet at the same time, [people coming to George Floyd’s Square] feel safe in this space and that means a lot. So it's important that we continue to be out here and develop that relationship with them. We want to take a more unique approach to health care in our community.
This is the biggest platform that Black people have had in their entire life and, excuse my French, but I'll be damned if my daughters don't have an opportunity to walk a path that a white man has walked. It's not fair and we're tired of being suppressed.
Where do you see the 612 MASH in the future?
Hopefully next month, we will be opening a free clinic right on the corner of 38th to be able to provide free health care. In addition to that, we are hoping that we will be able to secure a space down on Ninth and Fourth with Twin Cities Stands Together to provide preventative health care. And then our final thing would be to have a mobile medical unit to be able to go into the underserved communities and actually provide care right there on the spot.
It's all about Black liberation and Black power at the end of the day.
Editor’s note: The city has said it would consider donating retired city vehicles to 612 MASH.
Leo Peterson and Ashlyn Ziegler are seniors at South High School in Minneapolis. Their class, "voices" teaches the fundamentals of journalism and worked with MPR News on a project about George Floyd Square.