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.
Since the summer’s unrest, a local nonprofit has been working to “bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement” in south Minneapolis.
Agape Movement has been a security force at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue where George Floyd was killed and where community members and activists have created an autonomous zone. The nonprofit trains young people to participate in community patrols instead of committing crimes.
“It's getting young brothers that really didn't have no hope to do anything else,” said Marquis Bowie, one of the nonprofit’s co-founders. “It's giving them a chance to be a part of something positive.”
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One of Agape’s mottos is to “transform street energy into community energy.” The organization connects people to food and housing resources and offers job and education opportunities. It also provides violence prevention and security training.
“All the training that we do — whether it's mental health training, whether it's de-escalation training, whether it's trauma training — those are the different things that have been missing in the education of the young men who serve to turn their life around,” said Agape’s senior advisor, Steve Floyd.
Steve Floyd said their presence has been met with a positive reaction. During a patrol at George Floyd’s Square one time, members of the Agape Movement were alerted about a woman who was in distress and they went to check on her. After seeing the group, she told them that she appreciated having them out there and respected them, Steve Floyd said.
As debate continues over public safety while violent crimes have increased, some question whether a community approach is better than the presence of police. Steve Floyd says there are reasons why Agape’s approach is preferred.
“Most police officers when something happens, they don't know what happened when they show up. They just hear the call. And then they try to figure out what happened,” Steve Floyd said. “We see what happens, know what happens, and indeed can go deeper in the sense of why it happened.”
Rather than asking what’s wrong with the person committing the crime, Floyd said “the question should be what happened to them in their life?”
Rico Anderson is a member of the Agape Movement. He said the organization is giving him an opportunity to turn his life around.
“I can't be doing what I'm doing and it forced me to do better. To try to get a job. To do better for my family. To try because they’ve given me an opportunity with a job,” Anderson said.
Floyd said Agape’s impact on the southside has been to restore community.
“We have a saying: We're putting a neighbor back in the hood. Making it a neighborhood,” said Floyd.
Anton Jahn-Vavrus, Pablo Giebink Valbuena and Ilyas Bouzouina 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.