News // January 22, 2018

Designing a Public Safety Strategy through Community Engagement


Write-up by Roxxanne O’Brien, Kristen Murray, and Melanie Stovall

Over the last few years, Juxtaposition Arts Tactical Urbanism Lab worked to create welcoming public spaces with music, art, and other activities centered around community engagement. Through talking to community members at everyday public spaces, like the bus stops along West Broadway, we were able to engage with people around different topics relevant to our neighborhood in North Minneapolis.

Last year we started Broadway Vibrations after being inspired by the impact we saw from our community engagement. The program was a chance to step up the previous work of our Tactical Urbanism Lab and bring community-inspired ideas to life. Particularly around public safety.

JXTA youth and staff directly experience the pain and injustice that goes on in our community. We had two bullets come through our windows in 2017. Both occasions were during broad daylight when our campus was busy with youth and adult staff working. Building a creative space that feels safe is a top priority at Juxtaposition Arts. The concept behind Broadway Vibrations came from understanding that crime is something that needs to be addressed with a holistic approach that goes beyond policing. We wanted our neighbors in North Minneapolis to join us in creating our own public safety strategy.

That strategy was focused on activating West Broadway when and where things can get hot on Friday afternoons and early evenings, especially near Hawthorn Crossings. We intentionally did activities around healing and raising endorphins in a healthy way. From blowing bubbles to playing old school music, to serving home cooked meals, our initiatives were all centered around wellness. We wanted to design a space that uplifted people, making them feel safe and loved through creating hopeful energy and positive vibrations to spread throughout our community. And it worked. People came through to make a smoothie, take a free book, get a massage, do yoga, snap a photo in the photo booth, participate in the open mic, watch a movie, enjoy a community meal, and play in one of the Spades tournaments.

Throughout the summer, we used our JXTA branded pedal-powered smoothie bike to offer a fun, active, environmentally-friendly way to make healthy snacks. We hired community members to share their services and skills: massage, yoga, meditation, legal advice, cooking, and healing. We had experts lead workshops on dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and grief. We also hosted a day-long Psychological First Aid training workshop with counselor and author Resmaa Menakem. On the 50th anniversary of the Plymouth Uprising, we screened TPT’s documentary on North Minneapolis and The Children’s March. In late September, we screened a feature-length movie in the parking lot of Hawthorn Crossings, creating a pop-up drive-in theater on West Broadway.

Between July—September of 2017, we hosted 13 Broadway Vibrations. Our locations included the Hawthorn Crossings parking lot, the corner of West Broadway and N. Lyndale, and our JXTA campus. We engaged with almost 800 community members, a number of which were walking past, saw the activities and stopped to join. One night, we were able to engage with a group of young people just hanging out at the McDonalds near Hawthorn Crossings. They tried yoga, talked with older community members, and came back for the meals. Two of them participated in both of our Spades tournaments we hosted, taking first prize in one.

This summer, Broadway Vibrations became a place for North Minneapolis to gather, talk, and share resources. It was a magnet for positive energy in the community. We heard so many words of encouragement, affirmation, and gratitude from people who participated. There were no incidents of violence at or around our location, and we are eager to see MPD data for the vicinity to understand if there is a correlation between our work in community engagement and public safety on West Broadway. Based on our experience and the feedback we got from community members, we believe that there is.