Hope. In 2020, our notions of hope were challenged beyond measures previously defined. We witnessed, without blinders, the ways our systems of health care, housing, policing, and education fail the most vulnerable in our communities. We were faced with ourselves and our capacity to move systemic injustice to a place of balance, a place where all humans have space and opportunity to live life to its fullest.
In 2020, we witnessed human greed, corruption, xenophobia, racism, and ableism prevail over the greater
good. When the state, and eventually the world, went into lockdown, we were forced to wrestle with the outcomes and health disparities of our elders, of our educators, our healthcare workers, and our houseless. As things shut down within our city, the reality that North Minneapolis is a food desert struck hard. Folks worried about their capacity to pay rent and worried about feeding their children as work hours became limited or they were laid off. We experienced the collective worry around how much wider the gap in student education would grow and the impact of our already entrenched housing crisis. The weight was unbearable. And yet, there was hope.
Other parts of the world encouraged us to remain steadfast in our lockdowns with tender songs and Facebook messages (like these). Healthcare workers determined to continue their efforts, even as depression spiked in the field. We found hope in these sparks. We found hope in their light. We had hope that we would be together again, hope that we would slow the rate of lost lives, hope that our young people would somehow thrive and grow and learn and hope that our elders would be safe.
We held tight, as a moratorium on evictions went out nationally, and as nonprofits, food shelves, and independent neighbors began providing food within communities that had lost their already limited access. Hope. Hope leads us to see abundance in crisis. Hope leads us to acknowledge our excess.
At Urban Homeworks, we slowed our development work, eventually bringing it to a halt as we responded to the immediate needs of our communities. And we looked to you, our donors and supporters, to stand with us with contributions as we shifted to that “innovative community development” that is responsive to community need because we have Hope that the human capacity to neighbor overcomes our capacity for avarice.
For many of us, the world ended again when we witnessed the torture and death – the public lynching – of George Floyd. Our breaths grew shallower as we tried to fathom the unnecessary and inhumane stealing of life amidst a year of already so much useless human loss. The year, once again, forced all of us to reckon with the impacts of systemic racism, injustice, and white supremacy. We were required to examine ourselves and the oppressions we have allowed to persist. And yet, we continued fighting for justice, fighting for the humanity of all people to be recognized because we held tight to Hope. A hope that the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech would finally ring true. A hope that our communities sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. A hope of Jubilee for all.
In 2020, we struggled and fought alongside those most impacted by system failure. We continue to fight so that survival will no longer be the baseline for anyone living in our Minneapolis and St. Paul communities. We fight because we believe, as Christ did, that each and every one of us was created to live a full life. A full life is a life that is valued enough to be protected and not targeted, no longer viewed as disposable chattel, but held up as worthy and deserving of love. At Urban Homeworks, we believe that means a life uplifted by a place to call home, nutritious food that nourishes our bodies, and quality education that nourishes our minds.
Some have balked at our determination to speak truthfully about the roots of systemic oppression – at our clear and defined use of the words white supremacy. As we continue into 2021, we commit to acknowledging the heinous truth of white supremacy at work in this country and our community, and to remain in the societal tensions that that truth inevitably bears. We are resolved because we know that if we do not speak truthfully, if we do not acknowledge the roots of housing injustice, the roots of poverty and disinvestment, the roots of crime and violence – nothing will change.
The path of justice has never been an easy road, but we fight on. For we all have a right to shalom, a right to thrive. There is abundance. There is enough.
Thank you to all of those who stood staunchly alongside us in 2020. To the residents and homebuyers, the volunteers, community organizers and partners, the funders, and supporters – thank you for standing with us in Hope.
In solidarity with gratitude and love,