From the Ashes
Our North Minneapolis clinic was damaged after the murder of George Floyd. We aren’t mad at the protesters.
U of M physicians Renee Crichlow, M.D. and
Andrea Westby (M.D. ’09), both practice in
North Minneapolis, an area that was hit particularly hard by some who used the largely
peaceful George Floyd protests as cover for
acts of vandalism and destruction.
While their longtime clinic in the area
was a target and damaged, both say they
understand the profound anger of their community over systemic racism and the cost it
has exacted on people of color.
The duo penned this article in the immediate aftermath of events. Today, their clinic has reopened, but the memory of their community burning and the rage that fed the protests lives on.
We are family physicians and educators who provide full-spectrum care in the Hawthorne neighborhood
of North Minneapolis. Hawthorne is one of the
seven North Minneapolis neighborhoods that
has experienced systemic and structural racism and disinvestment by the city and those in power since the early 1900s. North
Minneapolis has also experienced defunding of local social
services and safety nets, over-policing, redlining, school neglect,
excessive air and environmental pollution, predatory lending, slum leasing,
and an attempted silencing of strong
and vibrant community leadership.
And yet, North still somehow is an
amazing, resilient, thriving community of primarily Black, Hmong, and
African immigrants, and its strength
Our clinic has been in North Minneapolis in the strip mall near the U.S.
Bank for 20 years and on Broadway
for more than 40 years. The majority
of our patients are local residents and
Medicaid or Medicare recipients.
We’re here for pregnant people and
their babies, for teens in their athletic
prime, for people with disabilities,
mental illness, and multiple chronic
health needs, for those who want
office-based medication treatment
for opioid and alcohol use disorders,
for sexual and gender minorities
looking for inclusive primary care,
and for those nearing the end of their
lives. Simply put, we are here for the
people of the community in sickness and in health, wellness
or injury. We care and we are here.
On the Monday evening of May 25, George Floyd was
murdered by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his
neck for almost eight minutes while Mr. Floyd was handcuffed,
prone, and calling out for help.
“I can’t breathe.”
For three days after that, communities in Minneapolis and
the surrounding metro experienced the burning of righteous
fire and rage sparked by Mr. Floyd’s death, and in response to
decades of oppression, racism, and violence.
On Thursday night, May 28, the Broadway Avenue corridor
surrounding our clinic experienced similar violence, and our clinic
was damaged. On May 29, we were forced to close our doors
temporarily to protect patients and staff while we regrouped
and rebuilt the physical space, although we did continue uninterrupted virtual care for a week, and then reduced operations until roughly mid-July, when we were able to reopen fully.
We have a lot of emotions right now…
We are afraid for our patients and community because
the pharmacies they depend on to provide medications
and important supplies have been damaged and are
We are concerned about how people will get food,
formula, and diapers when our grocery stores and convenience stores are closed. The lack of public transportation
means many people are stranded without resources, a
situation that is exacerbated by the pandemic.
We worry about the health of our patients who are
unable to complete the telephone or video visits that
we are offering instead of in-person visits, or those who
need urgent medical care we cannot provide.
But we are not mad.
We are not mad at protesters, rioters, or those whose
anger, fear, and pain boiled over and spilled into our
physical clinic space.
We are enraged that our community has been ignored
and dismissed for decades and that it required generations of toxic rage overflowing to get the attention of
those in power.
We are outraged that people in power could have chosen to make this different, could have chosen to express
values of justice, equity, and reparations, and didn’t.
We are incensed that health inequities experienced by
people of color are attributed to individual choices and
behaviors instead of the impact of historical trauma and
chronic toxic stress.
We are frustrated that our own medical systems would
rather focus on finding “genetic” or “biological” reasons
for poorer outcomes than to address the racism and
structural determinants at the core.
We are angry that the dignity and humanity of Black
and brown people are repeatedly and systematically
ignored and violated.
We are furious that Minnesota is touted as exceptional
in so many ways, except if you aren’t white.
In the poetic words of local activist D.A. Bullock, we
understand the anger and despair that has led to the
“harnessing [of] revolutionary fire.” We aren’t mad at that.
Justice and accountability are more valuable than
And as for us, we aren’t leaving. We will continue to work
in and with our community in the ways we can.
We have been here to care for a vibrant and thriving North
Minneapolis, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Andrea Westby, M.D. and Renee Crichlow, M.D. are family physicians who practice in North Minneapolis