Birdell and Bruce: Part 2

*Last week, Birdell’s name was spelled two different ways in various places online. This week, I have corrected the spelling to match what’s stated in her obituary.


Five days after Birdell Beeks was killed, Husband and I attended her vigil. We gathered with many others at the corner of 21st and Penn—the location of the woman’s death. One by one, residents of the neighborhood strode up to the microphone.

“They used to be throwing footballs,” one man said. “Now they’re throwing bullets, and you can’t take that back.”

“We’re going to put the ‘neighbor’ back in the ‘hood’,” said another man. The crowd cheered.

A marching band and dancers—all kids from the neighborhood—performed for us. The range of instruments reminded me of our music teacher Bruce Jackson, gone just the day before. He had played piano, guitar, mandolin, accordion, harmonica, banjo, and dobro, and they had all been his favorites—just like the Northside kids he had served.

We clasped hands with neighbors we hadn’t met before and formed a circle big enough to hold all our colors, ages, and backgrounds. Then more people wandered into our assembly and broke through the ring to grab onto our hands too, making us even stronger. And we prayed.

The recent shootings in our part of town—and Birdell Beeks’ and Bruce Jackson’s deaths—had blown up my positivity, blasting the bits—along with the shell casings—into the streets. But the vigil dispelled the dark cloud dangling over me.

Some days later, I heard a woman had been shot in the head as she sat in a beauty salon on Broadway. Then a guy on a north Minneapolis Facebook page wrote about a new incident: More gunshots… at least three. This neighborhood is a cocktail of awesome mixed with random terror. And on a different day, I learned four more people were injured when a fight erupted in gunfire.

The summer was shaping up to be the bloodiest we had known in all our years on the Northside. Would the violence ever end? Should we pack up our belongings and move away? My desire to raise our girls among diversity and poverty hadn’t changed, though, so I again preached the old three-part sermon to myself: We’re not too good for north Minneapolis; it’s okay to be uncomfortable; this life isn’t about us.

But one night, as gunshots rang out, my thoughts again tried to own me. Once more, I took the slimy things captive, wrangling them back into their box. And in those dark hours, I knew The Great Realtor who had chosen our home for us fourteen years earlier hadn’t made a mistake.  

A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.

Was it true? Would we live in safety if we stayed? Had my self-preservation stomped out my trust in the One who had moved us there in the first place?

The next day, I received messages from several women who knew our Realtor too.

“I see His hand of protection lying over your family.” “He’s placed you there, and He’ll protect you.” “Although He may not ask you to stay, you don’t want to leave until He says so.” “You are loved, and you are covered.”

This time, I held onto the truth with everything in me. It didn’t matter how it appeared on the news or the way it sounded when explosions split the night air. We lived in the safest place in the world, and no human could make us go.

North Minneapolis peace activist (and friend) Kay G Wilson and me at Birdell Beeks' vigil.

North Minneapolis peace activist (and friend) Kay G Wilson and me at Birdell Beeks' vigil.


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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.