MINNEAPOLIS — Walking down a Minneapolis street to grab groceries for dinner, therapist Cherie Hanson and her son passed the Holiday gas station near their home, and they were jolted back to last summer.
Crime tape fluttered in the wind and the chop of a helicopter thundered overhead. Hanson watched her 11-year-old grow tense.
"You can see his shoulders going up, you can see his eyes getting big, looking at me like 'what's going on?'" Hanson said.
The family later learned that a man named Dolal Idd had been killed at the gas station in an exchange of gunfire with police. At home, watching the news, they saw fear on their neighbors' faces as they told reporters that they did not want this violence and pain in their Powderhorn Park neighborhood — not again.
Months after video of George Floyd's death under the knee of a Minneapolis Police officer shook the nation, any encounter or reference to violence can set off strong emotions, Hanson and other therapists say.
"This was a whole different situation, and yet it felt exactly the same," Hanson said.
Such trauma responses are likely to surface as the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is underway, mental health experts say. It could hit especially hard for Black and brown people living in Minneapolis, who are exploring a variety of methods of coping and healing.
"When this stuff starts to come back up, when this trial starts to trigger those things that we remember from last year, I think there will be some acute pain," Hanson said.
In addition to the killing of Floyd and the racial uprising and unrest that followed, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people of color at significantly higher rates than white people. Now, as Chauvin's murder trial is likely to drag on for weeks, many living in the city are approaching the livestreamed legal proceedings with trepidation, anxiety or even fear.
Traumatic events leave an imprint on our brains and bodies, Hanson said. Our bodies worked hard to keep us emotionally safe during an extended period of chaos.
In October 2019, Hanson started Canopy Health, a BIPOC mental health practice in Richfield, Minn. Facing high demand, the practice expanded rapidly and now boasts almost 20 providers. Nationally, just one in three Black people in need of mental health care get help, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Those who had the opportunity to process the impact of last summer likely still have those emotions sitting inside them, said Hanson. But she said it's likely that many people have not had the luxury of taking time to mourn and let go.
Practicing restorative, relaxing yoga is one way to help people get through difficult times, said trauma-informed yoga instructor Marjorie D. Grevious.
"I think it's really important for us as a community, especially those of us who feel everything that is going on so deeply, to take this rest, because it takes such a stress and toll on our entire system, on our physical bodies," Grevious said.
Minneapolis artist D.A. Bullock created a multimedia art project he titled "Excited Delirium," a play on the controversial term often used by law enforcement for extreme agitation that can sometimes lead to death.
The trial represents an accumulation of trauma for the community, not one singular event, Bullock said.
"That accumulation is about more than whether Chauvin gets convicted or not. It's more about all of the people who have come before, all the cases that came before, most of them have not been adjudicated, and really haven't even been addressed by the justice system," Bullock said.
People are concerned and steeling themselves to stay resilient once again as they remain hesitant to depend on police during times of trouble.
"I feel like people are going to rise to the occasion ... the same way we did during the summer. I don't know how folks are taking care of their mental well-being and their mental health and their healing," Bullock said. "We're relying on our neighborhoods and our community healers and our community artists to try to pull that together and help with that. But I don't feel like we're getting a great deal of support from the system itself."
When Bullock was looking to bolster his own mental health, he didn't find a lot of places dedicated to Black people, he said, So he turned to his artwork. He sought to redefine "excited delirium" with movement, projecting images of a euphoric Black dancer onto buildings in Minneapolis.
"You could look at the same Black body and think of this term, (excited delirium) and, think of something entirely beautiful and wonderful," Bullock said.
He expects to open the second of four installations this spring.
Neighborhoods are also forming community support groups. Rita Ortega, a community leader in the Little Earth neighborhood and candidate for Minneapolis City Council, said she will be inviting people to come together digitally during the trial.
"People are scared, people are afraid," she said, especially with an increased law enforcement presence now that jury selection has started.
"People are really getting anxious about what that means for the community," Ortega said. "There's a lot of questions and a lot of anxiety around the whole situation."
Ortega said she doesn't want anyone to feel alone, especially if Minneapolis ends up under curfew, as it did last summer.
"I wanted to be able to create a space so people could be able to come together weekly during the trials, so people have a space to express their feelings during that time," Ortega said.
For those seeking coping mechanisms, Hanson suggests refraining from obsessing over the trial's livestream feed, the events surrounding it or the news.
"Engage with it in a collective way with others and in a fact-based way and then move on with your life, keep living it as best as you can," Hanson said.
She emphasized the importance of having an outlet to engage with other people. "Reach out, draw from the collective, talk to a group of friends about it," Hanson said. "Attend an NAACP meeting where they're collectively processing it, really, really reach out to others. Don't get shut in. Don't suffer in silence."
Both Hanson and Grevious stressed the importance of self care — from mediation, to cooking, reading or taking a long bath.
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