Neighbors: 'Grandma Lynne' wants students to 'stand out, not fit in'

Lynne Crockett visited the North News journalism class at North High School in April for an interview with four student journalists.  Photo by Kenzie O’Keefe

Lynne Crockett visited the North News journalism class at North High School in April for an interview with four student journalists. Photo by Kenzie O’Keefe

Lynne Crockett has lived on the Northside for all her life except two years. She grew up on 6th and Olson where “everybody knew everybody” and “everybody got along.” The Northside is her favorite part of Minneapolis. She graduated from North High in 1962, and she has had eight grandchildren graduate from North since 2001. Her great granddaughter graduated last year and was the valedictorian. Right now she has two enrolled at North and a granddaughter working there. “It’s a family affair,” she said. 

Outside of the school, she is a leader to the community, sitting on several boards and committees. This month, she spoke with North High journalism students about how she supports kids, how she feels about the Northside, and what she worries about.

By Aryy Taylor, Frank Blount, Kevon Johnson, Mohamed Mohamed North High

Do you feel like the Northside could be better? Yes. I think our kids could act better. I think they could represent us better. I think our kids are outside acting like who they really aren’t and that forms people’s opinions. Mostly I’d like you kids to be more respectful, don’t swear, stop play fighting; they can’t tell you’re playing. 

How has the Northside changed over the years? When I grew up on the Northside, everybody knew everybody. We all walked to school. Everybody on the block knew your family. If you messed up, it would get home before you did. When you walked in the door, your parents would be like “I heard you were at the park today. What were you doing at the park when you were supposed to be at school?”

Would you say the Northside changed in a bad way? How would you put it? We lost something somewhere along the way. I don’t know if it was respect for the Northside or ourselves. The way kids talk around grown ups. Even the language kids use with little kids. It’s changed. And unfortunately it’s changed the way people feel about you guys. I’m arguing with people about this every day. When they see us on the news, it’s not our good side. They’re not showing you on the honor roll or you playing ball. Fighting gets the attention. I see you all as jewels in a treasure chest. You just need to be polished a little bit in order to shine. You are special. You survive. The things you have to confront, the things you have to face, I don’t know many adults who have the strength that you guys do. You could participate in changing the narrative about the Northside. I’d like you to be proud to be a Polar. 

What can we do to change the Northside? When you see an elderly person outside having trouble with stuff, help them. They’re alone, they’re scared. Go offer to cut someone’s grass if you see that it’s too tall. That forms a different vision of who you guys are. As you become invested in them, they become invested in you. Then you’re not the stereotype they have about you. I know you’re loving and caring people. 

What’s keeping you in North Minneapolis? I don’t want to live nowhere else.... I can tell when I’m in the Northside. There’s a sweetness in the air. The Northside took care of me. It nurtured me. I grew up in Sumner Field, at Phyllis Wheatley. At Lincoln. I can’t help but give back because people looked out for me. I will fight for you. If you have issues, I will help you. 

What’s your favorite thing to do in North Minneapolis? Lay in my backyard and tan. It charges my battery. The other thing is going to the parks and seeing all the kids playing. Any place you go, you learn something. 

What was your favorite thing about North High? I got pregnant in my junior year... I was determined not to let that get in my way. I came back before the school year was over. Back then you didn’t get pregnant and you definitely didn’t stay in school. The staff made me feel comfortable and made me feel like I wasn’t the worst person in the world. North High has meant so much to me. It was home to me and now it's home again. 

What’s your least favorite thing about the Northside? Shots fired. I listen to the scanner all the time. I’m worried one of those shots is going to hit you. One of the reasons I listen is so I can call and ask who. I worry about it a lot. I have kids, grandkids and great grandkids. I never know where they’re going to be. It’s 24/7. There’s no time you are safe.. I’m an adult and when a squad gets behind me, I get nervous. I can’t imagine what it’s like being you. I think you need to let people know what you want. Find your voice and don’t silence it. 

I’m a transfer here and my mom didn’t want to transfer me her because of what she heard about the school. I had to beg her. How do we change that? We just got to get you in the door. Once you’re here, we can get past what they say. You always shope the next generation is wiser, smarter, more beautiful.  I’m a Polar. I’m a warrior. There’s nothing I like more than a good fight, and I fight for kids every day. 

What are you passionate about?  I am passionate about justice. In high school, I wanted to become a lawyer. When I see a wrong or disservice done to someone in my family, community or anywhere, I feel compelled to address it. I spent too much time trying to be agreeable and get along with people who were working against us. Calling it out when you see it, freedom to express your truth, belongs to all of us.  Too often we are marginalized or discounted, for the value of our experience.  Finding my voice in advocating for others and holding myself responsible for my choices in life, has been very liberating.  I love what I do.  Advocating for others is like practicing law, seeking justice and helping others seek justice was always my goal.  

What is your greatest accomplishment? In my eyes, my greatest accomplishment is having built credibility and trusting relationships throughout the generations. I am often humbled by the respect and love my community shows me. I don’t do it for recognition or pay; it is being able to give back to the community that nurtured me. 

Kenzie O'Keefe