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Minneapolis city resilience officer helping community rebuild

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Posted at 12:13 PM, Nov 05, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS, Mn. — In the midst of a pandemic, a fight for equity and unprecedented politics, many Americans are unsure about the future.

“People are exhausted. People are losing faith in our institution of government. Democracy is teetering on an edge. I'm worried, but I'm, I'm optimistic,” said Ron Harris, who works as the chief resilience officer for the City of Minneapolis.

Optimism is part of Harris’ job.

“Resilience is essentially our ability to adapt or a system's ability to adapt in the face of shock or stress.” Ron Harris, chief resilience officer

Harris works with lawmakers creating legislation and community programs to address climate issues, epidemics and political unrest, so his community can recover from a crisis faster.

2020 was a wake-up call, and now, Harris knows resilience is needed more than ever.

“My first message is: I hear you and I apologize. I apologize that we have not even to this day, got our institutions to a place, got our government to a place, got our politics to a place that actually reflects people's lived experiences,” said Harris.

With his apology comes action. Harris is helping build a resource center just blocks from the intersection of 38th and Chicago. It will be called a "resilience hub."

“There are resilience hubs in a couple of different cities around the country that I'm in contact with and learning from them. And it would be beautiful for us to have the city's first one blocks away from where George Floyd was murdered as evidence that we're committed to coming back and we're committed to coming back in a different way that, in a way that builds communities of agency that drives towards their self-governance. That's the one thing we haven't tried yet, right? It's one of the few things we haven't tried yet as government is to give people more voice, give them more resources, give them more space and support their leadership.

Those ideals are exactly why activist Marcia Howard has been here every day for 18 months.

“We know that this fight is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” said Howard. “We keep going because of the power of collective action.”

Howard is a high school teacher by trade, but when school’s out, she’s at George Floyd Square, as part of an occupation of community members demanding change.

“I keep coming back for the possibility of change after the events of May 25, 2020, when George Floyd was lynched a few steps from my front door. It was obvious the traditional routes of systemic change needed to get shaken up a little bit, and this occupation is part of that change,” said Howard.

Howard, along with a group of community members, is demanding the city listen to the community’s plan for resilience: 24 demands for change.

“Multiple modes of community sustainability, systemic change, things that have to do with the way we navigate being community members, the way the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is run and who is running it, something as particular as one person being released from prison because they were unjustly convicted,” said Howard of what the 24 demands for justice and a better community are about.

“I am a Black woman. I am 48 years old. I am from the South. I have seen change, but I also know that in order to usher in change, you have to do things that are dramatic,” said Howard. “What we have shown and are showing our state, the world and our city is what you can do by standing in solidarity for what you believe in,” she said.

Solidarity is how both Howard and Harris see a path towards resilience for the city they both love.

“I think we all want that, and I think we can get there,” said Harris.

While it may take a winding road, the path forward is one no one has to walk alone.

“The power is still within us, no matter how bleak it looks, no matter how dour we feel,” said Howard. “Where there’s people, there’s power. You realize that when you come to 38th and Chicago, you realize that when you come to George Floyd Square.”