“They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of Life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.” – Hermann Hesse
The lakes hold us.
The rivers direct us.
The oceans move us.
The rain washes us.
And our tears cleanse us.
MPR approached the Folwell Community in North Minneapolis with an idea to host a community gathering focused on the racial and cultural inequity of their access to the river.
People on a fixed income and groups who are marginalized have historically been put on undesirable and toxic land across the country as place holders until maximum profit can be reaped. Their lives, cultural experiences, and histories are easily discarded to achieve the ultimate American dream: money.
If water is the source of life and a sacred element for human and cultural survival what does it mean to cut off an entire community’s access to that resource? What is your personal relationship with water? Your cultural history with it? How does the intentional separation and racial inequity around access to the Great River play out in the everyday lives of Northsiders?
These are the questions that spurred on the “Let the Water Speak” event held at the Story Garden with MPR’s The Water Main Project.
“The Water Main aims to bring people together to show appreciation for their personal bodies of water — the pond in their favorite park, the river they cross on the way to work or the lake they visit every summer. So whether it’s helping communities improve the health of their local creek through volunteer events or creating memories at a concert on a lakeshore, the Water Main is dedicated to being with you in your community.”
MPR created space for the community to come alive and lead an event that was built by local artists, storytellers, and cooks. In partnership with MPR, local Northside talent nurtured the environment they wanted to see. We were able to fill The Story Garden, a local community garden, with magic, soul and beauty. More than 40 neighbors came out to engage in a deeper conversation around their relationships with water, cultural histories and their responses to being intentionally separated from the water.
The days ahead of the gathering were filled with pulling weeds, building a platform and setting the stage to encourage an open and honest exchange of experiences. Feeding folks and creating space for people is part of the foundation of the way Gatherhaus shows up in the world.
The Story Garden has long been a place in the community that elevates peace, fosters hope and fights for the integrity of every person. That energy permeated this Water Main Project and created an event that was joyful, inspiring, and stirred folks to a deeper conscious around their relationship with water.
Folks told engaging stories about playing in the water, questioned what it means to be forced away from the water, and collectively sang a call and response chorus about being environmentally focused citizens.
People got to watch the kids play in the hydrant, snapped along to ShaVunda’s poem, experienced Joe Davis leading a storytelling exercise, and enjoyed the kids drumming with Marcus. There was a brief outline of how the evening would go, but the team wanted to bear witness to the organic experience birthed by those who chose to come and participate.
The Northside community came out in their power and gifts. They were vulnerable and ready to share.
That night restored, refreshed, and renewed community members. It drew them deeper and closer to each other.
My sincere gratitude to all who helped make “Let the Water Speak” possible.
Opportunities like “Let the Water Speak” that are centered in drawing out the beauty of artists and community members is where the work of activism is revived. It is our connection to each other, the work for peace and the fight for justice that makes us stronger in our ability to create the future we want to see.
D.A. Bullock with Bully Creative Shop
Katrina Hannamann with Studio Laguna Photography
Marcus Kar with Youth Farm
Kaitlyn Porter with Panda X Designs
Artists and Performers:
Joe Davis who performed Spoken Word, drumming and a Collective Group Poem Exercise
ShaVunda Brown who sang and performed Spoken Word and drumming
Annie Hejny – Artist
Planning team and Event Staff:
Kate Moos – MPR Executive Producer, Financials, Mic Handler and Greeter
Melissa Townsend – MPR Producer
Johnny Vince – Technical Director
Lauren Humphert – Mic Handler and Greeter
Dan from the Water Main – Mic Handler and Greeter
Dani Tietjen with Folwell Neighborhood Association
Stayci Bell – Northside Photographer