Migizi Communications, a longstanding Native organization that supports and empowers Youth, lost its new building to fires that destroyed it and many others during the unrest following the murder of George Floyd.
reporter Leah Lemm speaking to Kelly Drummer, the President of Migizi Communications, about what occurred after Memorial Day and what has happened in the month since.
Leah Lemm: Memorial Day and George Floyd’s murder, a terrible event in Minneapolis, and then the resulting protests and lots of destruction that happened. Can you talk a little bit about what was happening at MIGIZI during that timeframe?
Kelly Drummer: Wednesday night, the second night, my husband and I went down at about nine o’clock. There was just more and more destruction happening. We were blessed because that night our building was untouched. Every other business had been broken into. Then on Thursday morning, we had a staff meeting and I suggested that we hire AIM Security, [American Indian Movement] Security.
Kelly Drummer: When the police withdrew from the third precinct, it became just very destructive and I just want to state, I really understand that hurt and anger that was happening in our community. I always feel like out of anger and hurt, sometimes comes destruction. AIM Patrol left at about 12:30, 01:00 in the morning when the liquor store was burning and there was news that the gas lines were going to break. But my husband and my daughter and I ended up staying, ended up seeing the post office on fire and all of the buildings on our street on fire. It was a matter of time when we started seeing cinders falling on our roof and so we left. And then I went back at 05:00 in the morning, about 05:30 in the morning, the State Troopers were there and our building was burning.
Leah Lemm: That’s got to be so hard. Can you talk a little bit about what was going through your mind at that point?
Kelly Drummer: You could just feel the frustration, the anger, the hurt that was happening. And it was a very scary experience. I called 911 at about 02:00 in the morning when the post office was on fire, they finally answered and they said they would see what they could do. And I just felt like our systems and everything had failed everybody.
Leah Lemm: Yeah. So I heard, even though so much was destroyed at MIGIZI, the fight with the fire and the sprinkler system going off, even through that, that the medicines you had at MIGIZI were spared?
Kelly Drummer: A huge paper-mache Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman. She was standing in the front and behind was a bookshelf with various pottery and some of the medicines and birch bark baskets. And behind the woman, everything was dry. My mom was there and she was like, “Oh my goodness. Even the matches were dry.” You could have just smudged right there. It was pretty amazing.
Leah Lemm: So what has happened since Kelly? Lots, right?
Kelly Drummer: Lots. Lots of interviews, lots of donations. We’ve raised about 1.2 million. What’s really interesting is that donations have come in from all around the country. I would say about 60% of the donations are from other states and other communities. I think it really brought awareness to our native youth and what we provide, but also the need for MIGIZI and what we do. But all these volunteers came out the next day after the fire, cleaned out the building. I think that everybody in the community really felt strongly that they wanted to help.
Kelly Drummer: The first week we spent the time healing. I think that was real closure for me personally, but also for our youth in the community. And the staff have come together, we move quickly, we’re still having our programs. It’s kind of like little baby steps, day by day.
Leah Lemm: So, Kelly, what does rebuilding look like for MIGIZI?
Kelly Drummer: We have a rebuild committee of our board and we’re looking for space in the area to rent, then focusing on what does it look like to rebuild? But we’re holding strong together. One of the things that we’re doing, we started it last week, is we’re putting together medicine bags and kits and a letter to all of our youth that we serve. And we’re delivering them to their homes. We have the four medicines and a gift card and a little letter in there, letting them know we’re still here.
Leah Lemm: Do you have any other reflections from this last month?
Kelly Drummer: Out of all of this that’s happened to MIGIZI and our community, I think that it was needed in order to create the change and to create the visibility of the injustice in our world. If you can come out on the other side, things can only get better. We are blessed with all these people that have come forward and are supporting us.