BY STEPHANIE FOX
While a number of events around Minneapolis were canceled during this COVID summer, others were simply moved to fall, including Open Streets Minnehaha.
Now scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 24, Minnehaha Avenue will be blocked to traffic from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. (just about an hour before sunset) from 46th Street to East Lake Street.
While closed to motor vehicles, the street will be open to bikes, pedestrians and skaters. Organizers expect nearly 125 vendors, organizations and food vendors to be there to greet those coming out to celebrate.
“What makes this Open Streets unique is that it’s hyper-local, giving people an opportunity to learn about their area and the local organizations located there,” said Luis Mendoza. “We also have a lot of live performers. There will be bands and entertainers on almost every corner with chances to interact with the artists.”
This year, city office candidates, political groups and organizations will be there to answer questions. Walk, roll or bike the 16 blocks to grab a snack, to investigate new information, to listen to music and much more.
The Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery
“We are trying to raise awareness,” said Coventry Cowens, co-founder and manager of the museum. “We want people to consider visiting the museum and learning about the achievements of Minnesota’s African Americans since the early 1800s.”
Currently the museum is presenting four exhibitions, including “Unbreakable,” which focuses on Black history from 1800 until the 1950s. They also have a Facebook/Instagram site for information about events and a YouTube site with educational videos and a children’s reading circle.
The museum opened in 2018 and has featured more than 15 exhibits since then. While it draws many out of town and international visitors, Cowens sees Open Streets as a chance to engage with local residents to come and learn about their neighbors and celebrate Black history.
The museum is located in North Minneapolis, on the fourth floor of 1256 Penn Ave. N, with exhibits focusing on the Black community everywhere in Minnesota. “At Open Streets, we hope to make everyone aware that the museum and gallery are open to all and provide, perhaps, some missing education about their neighbors who have been in Minnesota for a very long time and who have contributed to its growth since the beginning,” said Cowens.
“It looked like it would be a fun event,” she said about Open Streets. “It’s always great to go to events that are outdoors. Everyone is relaxed and it makes for a great family and community event.”
BikeMN – The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota
The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, a nonprofit dedicated to making biking and walking better for everyone, has been attending Open Streets since the beginning, nearly 20 years ago. They continue to offer bicycle safety resources, information on their statewide elementary school education initiative with MnDOT Walk! Bike! Fun! and maps for bike trails, both local and statewide.
Communications Manager Maya Sheikh said that encouraging walking, biking and mass transit are part of the solution to climate change. “We realize that these are not the only solutions but the return on the investment is high,” she said.
“Our Streets does amazing work that betters bicycling and walking for everyone across Minneapolis. Centering on people and not cars through Our Streets events are fantastic steps to help people consider a Minneapolis where walking and biking are convenient and safe choices. Cars are not the only way to move,” Sheikh said.
By connecting with people throughout Minneapolis who bike, take public transport, walk, and use scooters or other methods of traveling, Sheikh hopes to share BikeMN’s new mission and vision and the goals and strategies related to implementation.
“We are able to provide things like training for teachers to use our bike/walk safety curriculum, updating the entire K-8 program for distance learning,” Sheikh said.
The organization also offers adult learn-to-ride programs and assists communities and businesses in finding ways to plan and implement programs. They also advocate for bicycle-friendly changes like bike lanes, bike parking and local policy initiatives like education and promotion.
Veterans for Peace
You can’t miss the Veterans for Peace bus parked at Open Streets events, with its sign “Abolish War” painted on the back. The group advocates for peace instead of war, handing out literature, buttons with multi-colored peace signs and stickers that say “Veterans for Peace Chapter 27.”
“We attend because it’s an opportunity to talk to people. People have questions,” said Dave Logsdon, the vice president of the local Chapter 27. “You want to engage people in dialogue, especially veterans. We want to hand out some of our literature and raise the awareness of the cost of war. We’re non-violent counter recruiters.”
Logsdon, a Vietnam War veteran, first got involved in the group in the early 2000s, around the time of the United States first getting involved in the war in Iraq. “I got more and more involved and the next thing you know, I was on the national board. I’m now knee-deep in the organization. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
“One of the things we will be doing at Open Streets Minnehaha is handing out information on a new initiative created by Veterans for Peace, Gamers for Peace,” he said. Gamers for Peace carries on the legacy of veterans speaking about their military service to young people, combining the efforts of anti-war veterans with the world of gaming.
“The military is investing millions of dollars to recruit young people with violent video games. Gamers for Peace is an alternative to military games. Younger vets are running it and it’s exciting. A lot of Iraq and Afghanistan vets are avid gamers,” said Logsdon. He hopes they will stop by the bus and become involved in the movement.
Meet Minneapolis is not just for visitors anymore. This city department focuses on tourists, but at Open Streets Minnehaha the plan is to introduce Twin Cities residents to everything the city has to offer.
And while they serve a lot of Canadians and folks from Des Moines or Duluth or Chicago, at Open Streets events they operate as a mobile visitor center, said Michael Hernandez, Director of Visitor Services. “A lot of locals are visitors outside their own neighborhoods,” he explained.
And, while he usually meets convention planners or visitors in town only for a few days, he’s available to give hometown Minneapolitans information about various attractions, from art festivals, theaters and museums, to parks and sporting events.
“We have a brick-and-mortar location, too. If you have a friend coming in from out of town, we’re here for you to let you know things you can do and places you can go and can answer any questions about the city.”
This nonpartisan grassroots organization affiliated with the ACLU will be at Open Streets for the first time this year, focusing on helping get out the vote, educating voters with information on how to vote, on early voting and what’s on the ballot for municipal elections on Nov. 2. “We want voters to have the information they need,” said volunteer Joanna Krause-Johnson. “Voting is the bedrock of our democracy. We support all voters to participate. Municipal elections like this one are going to determine our future.”
The group will also help register anyone who is eligible. “We want to meet as many voters as possible in a safe, outdoor event and the Open Streets seemed like the perfect fit,” she said.
And much more…
While walking Minnehaha, you’ll have a chance to question various local political candidates and people supporting Minneapolis ballot measures. You can stop by the booths of a number of civic and charitable organizations. You can buy from local artists, drop in at a dance party or try out specialty foods from more than a dozen food trucks. You can even stop by for your free COVID-19 or seasonal flu vaccine. And your dog is welcome, too.
“We’re super excited about all the artists and local businesses that will be there,” said Mendoza. “This might be the last chance to have some outdoor fun before winter drives everyone indoors. Some people are concerned about the weather, but with Open Streets Minnehaha, it’s a rain or snow or shine event.”