As Give & Take wound down last night, a friend’s assessment was that it had a lot of great moments. I think that’s right. When you design an event to be spontaneous, you’re trading consistency for lulls and moments of genuine surprise. Here were my favorite moments from last night:
- Ishmael Israel from NRRC’s introduction, explaining that this was the first celebratory event on the Northside since the tornado, pointing out that the intersection right outside was all over the media coverage of the aftermath.
- Just the experience of having what amounts to a party in a vacant storefront. Catalyst has a beautiful space, and we felt lucky to be there.
- I thought it would be funny to start off with the call and response thing where you go, “When I say [A], you say [B], [A],” “B!”, “[A],” “B!”, but in a monotone. An allusion to being a white host of an event in a mostly black neighborhood? That, too. So I did it with Give/Take, and North/Side, and I definitely embarassed myself for the sake of the joke, but it got everyone involved right from the get-go, so I’ll take it.
- Having Big Sy, the morning DJ for KMOJ, wander downstairs from the station and do a flash presentation about his story and KMOJ’s history.
- The Q&A following Mary deLaittre’s presentation on the Mississippi Riverfront Redesign Competition - she had to go very quickly over their plans, and the questions got right to the heart of people’s concerns. Yeah, you want to build a bridge/park connecting the Northside with the river, but are you going to knock down people’s homes? You say you want to build a remembrance to Spirit Island, the sacred Dakota site in the river that was demolished, but have you been talking with actual Dakota people? The answers she was able to give were heartening, and the questions were telling about how community members are used to being treated.
- A moment during TAG, the game where we go around the room connecting people based on what they know and want to know, when I felt a little twinge of panic because people were talking in this unrushed, conversational way to the whole crowd, and I worried it was getting boring, wasn’t entertaining enough. But I looked around and people were smiling - it was exactly like ~80 people (strangers an hour earlier) hanging out.
- Akilla, a six-year-old girl, approaching me to see if she could perform a dance and a song after intermission. I ask the crowd if they’re into it, they are, she does her thing and finishes with saying, “Are there any questions?”
- Crowdsourcing a Flash presentation, we see what people in the crowd know, people want to hear Bruce talk about brains, he says he can’t possible cover it in 3 minutes, people start chanting “Brains! Brains! Brains!” He riffs on questions about neuroscience, covering memory, drugs, fame, and disorders. No minds appear unblown.
- Lynette Coleman, a Northside entrepreneur who’s starting a pie business called The Pie Nettework, tells her story about baking pies to trick her picky son into eating vegetables. Her sons take questions, are charming. The crowd eats up the whole thing. She serves pecan pie, apple crisp, and sweet potato pie after the show.
- I’ll own up to being wary about performances at the event by artists I haven’t seen before. I’m consistently proven wrong. The Cottman family, Bill, Beverly, and Kenna, close the night with a dance and spoken word piece about who they are, and being from North Mpls. Joy and pain, direct expression, pride. All of us can see life going on along Broadway and Penn behind them as the sun sets.
- Several people come up to me afterwards, bursting with energy, asking if we ever need volunteers, if we’re having more of these maybe they could host one, I get it now can I be a part of it? I get to reflect their energy back to them and say yes.
It was the closest we’ve come to what we’re after, the best of the 18 so far - thanks, everyone.
Photo credit: @RyanSiemers
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