'Amen Corner' Turns 1, Community Gives Thanks
At Chicago and Franklin in south Minneapolis, one might not realize bureaucracy and buns really do go hand in hand.
As dozens gathered for free hot dogs and hamburgers on Thursday, the Ventura Village neighborhood celebrated the first anniversary of "Amen Corner."
"They'll come to something like this that's welcoming and open," explained Dee Henry Williams with the neighborhood association, "but they're not coming to a meeting."
So a year ago, the association decided to begin holding weekly open mike time in a corner of Peavey Park; no podium, no conference table, no formality. Just the microphone.
"They'd say, 'Well, I don't know if I should speak; they don't really want to hear me.' Yes, we do. Yes we do," Williams told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in an interview.
"You got to go where the people are. And this is where the people are," agreed fellow association member Jim Cook.
In the past 12 months, organizers say the open mike policy has made membership more inclusive, crime in the park has dropped, and homeless residents there are no longer marginalized.
Chris Jenkins, a 29-year-old Ventura Village resident, is one of those who never would have gone to a neighborhood association meeting. But one day last year on his way home from work on the bus, he saw the gathering at "Amen Corner" and got off at the next stop. Now, he's a regular.
"Instead of in the boardroom discussing what's going on," Jenkins said, "you can come out here and be a part of the *solution*, like hands on."
Watch our story above to see Amen Corner in action during its first anniversary celebration.
Another celebration will be hosted from 4-8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10, in the same location.