Metro State student envisions a future of mutual aid

A woman stands in front of a gas station with painted doors.
Huda Yusuf stands outside of the People's Way, formerly a Speedway gas station, at George Floyd's Square on Dec. 4.
Lillian Wunderlich for MPR News

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.

The summer's unrest, coupled with financial hardship caused by the pandemic, led to an outpouring of donations and volunteerism in south Minneapolis. Metro State student Huda Yusuf was one of the people who stepped up. 

She started out serving food to mourners at the intersection where police killed George Floyd. Yusuf then began helping people experiencing homelessness.

“Our community has developed something called the supply depot. It's this huge room with all these supplies that go directly to the encampments,” Yusuf said. “And when I tell you it's filled, it's filled to the brim. It's beautiful. It makes me so happy.”

A typical day at George Floyd’s Square means being prepared to address a variety of needs. Yusuf works with leaders at the square to raise funds, which can go towards helping people pay their next month's bills or for bus tokens. She also helps people find housing and has even helped people get access to cars. Another part of her day is spent just listening to what people need. 

“Usually it's just holding space — talking with others, seeing what they need. There's so many individuals that come by and so many things that happen throughout the day. You don't know what's going to happen at the square. You also shouldn't be surprised about anything that you'll see down here.”

Yusuf envisions a future of mutual aid where people take care of one another. She thinks the city needs to step in and listen to and find ways to work alongside community members, especially when helping people who are living in encampments.

“If we don't move diligently and the city doesn't step in to help, we're going to burst. We extended so much of our time and energy and money,” Yusuf said. “A lot of our mutual aid as far as funds has run out. And we've already had a band aid in for so long. It's a temporary solution. It's not a forever solution.”

As summer has turned into winter, the pandemic has worsened and as the cries for justice continue in the streets of Minneapolis, the problems can feel overwhelming. For Yusuf, putting this work ahead of everything else in her life comes naturally. But she acknowledges that it's challenging. Getting people to listen can be hard, she said.

“You can talk all you want. You can preach all you want. But the one thing is really getting to that person to genuinely listen, to genuinely give out their time and their energy.” 

Samira Ahmed, Sundus Ahmed and Lillian Wunderlich are students 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’s Square.


Interactive map:   Click to navigate a map of George Floyd’s Square

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