Building trust with residents

On June 20 dozens of Folwell residents showed up to the Folwell Neighborhood Association (FNA) monthly board meeting at Folwell Park. Many came with questions, frustrations and curiosity, but one thing everyone had in common was heart and determination. Historically, neighborhood associations (NAs) have a focus on crime, safety and housing. Citywide, most boards are made up of white homeowners and business owners. With some exceptions, of course.

Like many NAs, Folwell’s board lacks the diversity that represents the neighborhood in which it serves — with many residents not knowing what neighborhood organizations do, or even that they exist. Residents are feeling empowered by frustrations at long-standing systems that lack transparency and commitment to marginalized communities. With limited access to information and funding, and impending gentrification, residents are coming out in large numbers to push back against political powers on the most local levels, and demanding that we build stronger, connected neighborhoods. They are demanding that the system starts to make changes.

As the June 20 meeting commenced, the FNA was operating with four vacancies on their board. In addition, some long-standing board members were sitting past term. With this knowledge becoming public, a number of Folwell residents have applied to fill those positions; to sit in those seats of power to help mobilize real change.

The tension in the meeting room was palpable, as racism, classism, sexism, ageism, privilege and power were all laid out on the table. These conversations are never easy, are always charged with historical context and personal experience, yet have proved critical to the process of achieving equality, power redistribution, and creating space for every person to feel valued.

After an hour of heated debate, applicants each spoke to what they had to offer the community and why they wanted to be on the FNA board. Together, the Folwell residents and the board approved four new board members. Two men of color, one Mexican American and a white woman, starting to bring more balance to the process. Renters, young people and people of color remain the least represented at this time.

At the meeting people spoke and kept fighting for what they wanted; seats in power that reflect diverse experiences and perspectives. A strong message was sent that residents cannot fight for the entire neighborhood if there’s a limit on who has a seat at the table. This was a significant step in the right direction for Folwell, but it was made clear that more work has to be done. To remain persistent in the public’s right to demand honesty, transparency and ethical behavior by those in power. Current procedures are limiting. Focusing on crime, safety and housing is important, but more can be accomplished. There is a call to reimagine what NAs can be!

Every Folwell resident is invited to bring their voice to the next Folwell Neighborhood Association meeting while they work towards a more inclusive, engaged, justice-driven neighborhood. Rebuilding trust between the people and the process. Visit and Facebook for details on the next meeting, or call FNA at 612-521-2100.

Editor’s note: The Camden Community covers the entire northwest area of Minneapolis and has seven neighborhoods. Don’t know which neighborhood you live in? Check the map on page 8 and get involved with your neighborhood.