Many thanks to all who came to our 2022 Annual Meeting. With over 200 attendees, you packed the Harriet Island Pavilion to celebrate all the things that make the West Side the best side!
This year's theme was Stories of Our Past, Visions of Our Future. We brought together diverse voices to speak about the history of the West Side, present day community organizing, and reflections on how to move towards a stronger future.
The gathering included a photo exhibit with portraits of West Side elders who grew up on the flats before facing displacement by the city, and speeches from Monica Bravo, Mayor Melvin Carter, and Ricardo Levins Morales, among others. We celebrated the launch of the West Side Tenant Union and the election of our new Board of Directors.
Click through the slideshow, above, to check out photos from the event.
Our wins in 2022
“WSCO was born out of grassroots organizing, and that’s what we stay true to today,” said Monica Bravo, our Executive Director.
This year, we celebrate the growth and transformation that has come from powerful community organizing:
- We successfully grew our fundraising, grew our team, and grew our impact.
- We organized renters across the West Side and advocated for strong rent stabilization.
- We formed a new food justice network and built community in several community and communal gardens.
- We held community care gatherings and workshops on overdose prevention and how we respond to violence.
- We worked towards more equitable development in the neighborhood through community meetings with developers and public workshops on collective ownership, while advocating for increased affordable housing and investment on the West Side.
- We celebrated the culture, history, and identity of our neighborhood through the arts, and unveiled a new storytelling series about the West Side Flats.
All of this was possible because of you, our neighbors, showing up every day to build a better future together!
Speakers address Stories of Our Past, Visions of our Future
Renowned local activist and artist Ricardo Levins Morales gave a keynote address at the gathering. He drew connections between the displacement of the Dakota people in Minnesota, the colonization of Puerto Rico, the displacement of families from the West Side flats, and ongoing gentrification today.
“The destruction of the viejo West Side fits a pattern: the decisions were made elsewhere, among politicians, developers, and manufacturers who told you they had to move you because of the flooding that would put you in harm’s way, and then they built the flood wall to protect the businesses that they then moved into the space. Stories like that are written all over the urban landscape. The residents of Rondo were not consulted, they were evicted. And I think we’re still waiting for these stories to be acknowledged, right? The telling of stories is not just to remember them, it’s because they’re an earlier chapter of the story that we’re still in, and to understand the chapter that we’re in, we have to have read the rest of the book. And I think what needs to be acknowledged is not that a tragedy happened, but that a crime was committed. And the injuries of that crime are still carried in our bodies and passed on to our children.”
“The most profound feeling that I had reading all of the stories around the photographs, was that I’ve heard these stories before,” said Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, pictured, above, after the unveiling of WSCO’s new photo exhibit with portraits of neighbors who were displaced from the old West Side Flats. “The truth is, that this story of displacement and dehumanization isn’t new,” he said, recalling the destruction of the Rondo neighborhood where he grew up. He called for a new approach to city-building, and highlighted the importance of telling the story of the West Side Flats in moving towards a better future, “because telling a story is what gives a story power, and giving it power is what enables us to move the world in a fundamentally different direction.”
Check out the portraits and quotes, and learn more about the Stories From the Flats exhibit here.
Renters Unite: Join the West Side Tenant Union!
West Side renters took the stage to declare the official launch of the West Side Tenant Union. A tenant union is a group of renters who are organized to defend their own and their neighbor’s rights and take action for housing justice.
“I’m speaking from my heart. We’re here to inform all the renters who are being put out of their apartments… we’re all going to come together to try to change that,” said Marcus Troy, West Side renter, WSCO board member, and founding member of the West Side Tenant Union. “We have addressed our political leaders about their lack of political will; they’re now going to face the will of the people. We will try to unionize as many people as we can, to change the current status quo. We don’t have to put our heads down in shame, we don’t have to tell each other ‘we got put out.’ We’re not going anywhere!”
Join us! If you’re a West Side renter interested in joining the union, contact our housing justice organizers Joshua Toor ([email protected]) and Mayra Avila ([email protected]). New meetings will be announced soon!
- Click here to watch a video of the tenant union’s launch.
- Learn more about WSCO’s Housing Justice work.
West Sider of the Year and Spirit of the West Side
Congratulations to this year’s West Sider of the Year, Agustina Borroel!
Agustina is recognized for her work volunteering at Cherokee Heights Elementary and Humboldt High Schools, as well as volunteering in community gardens around the West Side and working with neighbors in the Free Farmstand Network and West Side Seed Library.
“Agustina, with her enormous heart, has been a thoughtful, hard working, fun and positive force on the West Side for many years, reaching out to her community in small and big ways, making vital connections and strengthening the fabric of our neighborhood," said Sue Letourneau, WSCO board member.
In addition, this year’s Spirit of the West Side Award recognized the Pfeiffer family for their work organizing the Capitol View Communal Garden. Monica Bravo said: “This orchard and garden came from this family. They told us, “This is for everybody, it’s free, you don’t pay anything. You just come and eat!’ They’ve grown community and resilience on the West Side.”
We’d like to thank all of our generous volunteers, donors, and sponsors for their support. At this year's annual meeting, neighbors enjoyed food and refreshments from local restaurants El Burrito, Boca Chica, Millie’s Cupcakes, Backstory Coffee, and fresh salads from Youth Farm (click here for that fabulous Butternut Squash Fall Salad recipe!. The opening ceremony was led by the Mexica dancers Kalpulli Huitzillín, and local mariachi musicians Trio Mexico kept spirits high during the event.
Check out even more photos from the event! Click here to visit our Facebook album.