Residents from across Saint Paul’s West Side neighborhood are gathering this Thursday in response to Amir Locke’s father’s call for peace in the midst of increasing violence in the community.
“We have family the same way that you do. And we want to go home safely to our families. We want to be able to eat dinner with our families, be able to laugh with our families, hold hands with our families, walk, dance, we want to be able to hold our families and just be able to have a conversation. Amir doesn’t have the opportunity to do that any longer,” said Amir’s father, Andre “Buddy” Locke. “I’m asking for people of color, Black, brown, Asian, that we stand together: 22 days of peace,” in honor of the 22 years Amir lived.
Call for Peace is a West Side community gathering planned for this week, and will be centered around healing neighborhood youth through wellness, performance, arts, and sports. This free, all-ages event will feature live music, an open mic, free food, games, prizes, and more.
Maria Isa Pérez-Hedges, a West Side community leader running for a seat in the MN House of Representatives, posted on Facebook: “Once again the devastation continues. Our communities are retraumatized by the instances and images of violence from those sworn and paid to protect us. Another life has been taken away, another family is torn apart. My heart is with the family of Amir Locke. [...] Our community, in particular our BIPOC communities … are worried, angry, and numb. Our humanity once again has been devalued by a system that continues to fail.” She called for “community safety, spaces for healing, and movement unifying peaceful resistances.”
Saint Paul’s West Side is both one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods, and one that has seen a historic lack of investment, leading to the underlying issues harming the community such as lack of safe and affordable housing, jobs, schools, food, and access to services. “When a person is without hope, they begin to self-destruct; when a community is without hope, it also begins to self-destruct. We can’t lose hope. We build hope by investing in our youth and in our neighborhood,” said Monica Bravo, Executive Director at the West Side Community Organization. “We join the call for an end to no-knock warrants, and for investment in life affirming public safety. Together, we can build power and transform our community into a just and joyful place for all.”
The West Side Community Organization issued a statement that resonated with neighbors, who have begun a campaign to place candles in their windows to call for peace:
West Side, we are hurting. As neighbors, parents, teachers, youth, and friends, we know that every life taken from our community too soon sends out shock waves of loss and pain. We are still feeling those shock waves from last week. A young community member was killed in his home on February 1st. The next day, another West Side young man could not carry the pain, and ended his life too soon. Humboldt High School students were impacted by a fight last week involving dozens of our kids. And last Wednesday morning, Amir Locke was awakened and killed by the Minneapolis police in under 9 seconds, while he was still wrapped in a blanket. He was 22 years old.
We know that peace is not just the absence of violence, but the presence of justice. When we met with community members this week, we heard: “We need counselors in our schools, we need access to mental health care, we need support from adults who come from our community and understand what we’re going through. We need our schools and our families to recognize that we are not okay, and do something about it. We need to grieve. We need to heal the cycles of violence that keep repeating.”
We know that to heal, all of us need a solid foundation of food, jobs, housing, and health. As West Siders, we want to come together to build the community that we need so that our youth have a chance.
The Call for Peace event is free and open to the public. It will take place on Thursday, February 17th, 2022 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at El Rio Vista Rec Center, 179 Robie St. E. on St. Paul's West Side. This event is organized by the West Side Community Organization, community leader and musician Maria Isa Perez, The Twin Cities Mobile Jazz Project, the Westside Boosters, and the Ramsey County Office of Violence Prevention.
Pictured, above: West Siders come together to support youth in times of crisis: community members gathered for a healing justice event by and for West Side youth on April 20th, 2021, just as the guilty verdict was announced in the trial of Derek Chauvin.