"Will I go to the 10th annual event next year? I hope I don't have to. Why? If nobody dies from addiction in this next year, there will be no need for it. But if there is a need, and my youngest daughter is still in the fight to save lives, my wife and I will be there again."
Oh Jacob Frey - did your parents not teach you a very valuable lesson while growing up? Be careful for what you wish for - you just might get it. Last night, my wife and I, along with my State Senator, Michelle Benson, and Donna Bergstrom (Jeff Johnson's running mate), ventured into South Minneapolis to attend the 9th Annual Overdose Awareness Day Vigil, put on by Minnesota Overdose Awareness. But first a word about our journey to get down there.
We met Michelle and Donna by Rosedale, and I drove the rest of the way to the venue. The event was held at "All God's Children" Church on 3100 Park Ave. So. - very close to ground zero for the Minneapolis heroin epidemic. When we got near to the church, the GPS directed us on Hiawatha Avenue. What I saw next was jaw dropping - the tent city. We drove this the ever growing community of 300 people living in over a hundred tents. Side by side, on a small piece of land right off a very busy road. As long as I have lived in this area, I have NEVER seen anything like it.
We got to the church, parked, and went inside. We were warmly welcomed. The purpose of the event was two-fold. First, it was to inform. What is going on with programs which work together to try to help, and thereby save the lives of the addicted. The second purpose was to honor and remember the ones who could not be saved. The ones who perished at the hands of fentanyl, heroin, meth, or whatever other poison they used.
The people attending were largely Native Americans, as the drug epidemic has hit that community very hard, for very many years. In the front of the church, some members of Little Earth Community formed a circle with drums, and started the pow-wow portion of the service. I had never witnessed a pow-wow before. To say it was impressive would be an understatement. Sage was burned and passed around for the purpose of cleansing. All were invited to allow the sage smoke to drift over their heads and by their hearts.
One of the tribal leaders then gave a blessing for the evening. Then it was the speaker's turn. To tell their story. Yes, even to vent. The first speaker, the same tribal leader who gave the blessing, gave a very powerful message. But in that message, came the first volley aimed right at the newly elected Mayor of Minneapolis. And the Mayor (as well as the Chief of Police), and the state government, took some heat during the presentations.
Why would the Mayor take so much heat? First off, he had been invited months ago, and could not find the time to put this on his calendar. While he is trying (like his predecessor did) to make Minneapolis a magnet for the rich and famous, to move here, buy very expensive condos in the Warehouse District, and live the good life, other people are literally dying on the streets in his city.
We know about the heroin epidemic. It is alive and well in Anoka County, killing our young people in growing numbers. Our oldest daughter is on a task force in Sherburne County, which is fighting a growing opioid epidemic up there. Basically, it is all over the state. And it keeps growing and becoming more insidious. Fentanyl is showing up in more and more drugs. Fentanyl - one of the most deadly drugs ever to visit our streets. Where one very small dose can stop your heart and stop your breathing - just like that.
Even though the Mayor could not be at this most important event, he did send in a message to be read to the gathering. Nobody would read it. This was a huge misstep for a Mayor who was elected by people who really thought this young man from the East Coast would be better than the career politician he replaced. Nope. Same old, same old.
Mayor Frey - the soft underbelly of your city needs help right now, and needs it badly. Don't worry - the rich and famous you have attracted here are doing just fine. But one death to this poison is one too many. These people need your help, and need it yesterday. Rather than the city passing BS resolutions about selling menthol cigarettes, or passing moratoriums on smoke shops, how about focusing resources on those in your city who need it the most.
One final thing Mayor. For someone who was against gentrification, your fair city is becoming more and more gentrified all the time. Gentrification is taking place in housing, in the achievement gap in education, in healthcare, and in addiction. Yes, your "equal opportunity" city is looking more and more like two cities living in the same space. It is disgusting.
Will I go to the 10th annual event next year? I hope I don't have to. Why? If nobody dies from addiction during this next year, there will be no need for it. But if there is a need, and my youngest daughter is still in the fight to save lives, my wife and I will be there. What say you Mayor Frey? Would you like to join us? Just like this year, I will supply the transportation.