By Eric Ortiz, former president of the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association and lives in the Wedge with his family.

Looking for something fun and meaningful to do this summer? Check out the Twin Cities Community Pop-Up Markets at Mueller Park in the Lowry Hill East neighborhood of Minneapolis. The next market is on July 23.

The Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association (LHENA) and Bread, a unique business incubator for retail businesses that focuses on communities of color, are organizing four pop-up markets at Mueller Park. After this weekend, the next two will be on Aug. 20 and Sept. 17. The outdoor markets are free, accessible to all, and designed to build local connections, boost the local economy and empower the community.

These aren't your average pop-up markets. Here are 13 reasons why you should go.

1. The pop-up markets have a public safety focus. They will bring together local business vendors, restorative practice leaders, wellness practitioners, community organizations, food trucks, musicians, artists, and community members for a vibrant marketplace of goods, ideas and services with a "restorative community" vibe and impact.

2. The markets have  a “restorative community” framework. What is a "restorative community," you ask? It's a way to make the community stronger, healthier and more peaceful. Restorative communities are grounded in the principles of restorative practices. These principles can be the building blocks to a better, more compassionate society. Restorative communities build community by repairing harm. They create a culture of healing. Restorative practices give young people and adults the tools to build meaningful relationships and resolve conflicts through nonviolence. Disagreement and conflict are part of life in any community. Restorative practices let us address conflict in a way that strengthens our community and expands our empathy. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, there will be restorative practice resources at the pop-up markets.

3. Restorative practice experts from the Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute, Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, Minneapolis Yoga, 846s, Restorative Justice Community Action and Koinonia Leadership Academy will provide restorative practices education and hands-on training to neighborhood residents and pop-up market participants and attendees. You can learn the restorative practices of peacebuilding, strategies for trauma awareness and resilience, conflict resolution, meditation, yoga, community building circles, mental health therapy and restorative justice. If you've ever wanted to do Zen meditation outside at a park or discover how restorative breathing could be the key to vitality (aka "the continuance of life") or learn what restorative justice really is all about, now's your chance. And that's just for starters.

A Minnesota Zen Meditation Center teacher provides outdoor meditation instruction at Mueller Park.

4. The Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association (LHENA) will be sharing its public safety vision and new restorative community building program model with pop-up market participants and attendees to build interest and gather support for restorative community building. LHENA was selected as the Minneapolis neighborhood to create a neighborhood public safety model and since January 2022, a core team of six people from LHENA has been working with Restorative Justice Community Action, Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute and community leader Manu Lewis to develop a new neighborhood public safety model called the "Block Buddha" program. It is an updated version of Minneapolis block clubs and has a restorative focus. The six-month training ends this June, and then the LHENA team will be rolling out a pilot "Block Buddha" program in the community. The goal is to create a restorative community model that can be replicated and scaled up with our community.

5. At the pop-up markets, LHENA will be gathering community feedback about public safety as well. We will be asking some simple questions. What are some concerns you have around public safety? What makes you feel unsafe? What does public safety look like to you? Anyone who wants to share their thoughts will that opportunity. The community feedback we get can help guide future public safety work and restorative community building.

6. Solidarity isn't all we will be building. The pop-up markets also have a raffle with prizes provided by ERIK's Bike Board and Ski Shop, Target Minneapolis Uptown and the Zookalex (a children’s book written by local kids with their dad). You could do more than just radiate strength, confidence, and a calm, resilient mind. Who knows? You might even achieve total consciousness. Which would be nice.

7. If you work up an appetite, we will have great food from two of Minnesota’s best-keep secrets, Sadie’s Taste of Love and Abi’s Cafe. Sadie's, also known as The Food Truck With Purpose, will serve a delicious all-vegan menu, including the Burger From Heaven, Juicy Lucy, smoked “turkey” burger, “salmon croquette” burger, and smoothies (berry, mango, tropical enzyme and protein). Abi’s Cafe will be making pupusas, tacos and more Salvadoran and Mexican specialties. Abi’s has served Salvadoran and Mexican food to our local Minneapolis community since 2015. The food is made from scratch and cooked with love. Just like Sadie’s food. You might remember Sadie's and Abi's from our the 2021 community festival we had at Mueller last October. They are not the only familiar faces returning, either.

Sadie's Taste of Love food truck serves delicious vegan and vegetarian food.

8. Nathaniel Harris will be providing music once again all-day long. As you might recall, Nathaniel is a one-man band who sings songs with messages of love and hope. They are songs people know and remember. He can play everything from soul to old-school gospel to funk to blues to Motown. He plays upbeat music for an upbeat audience. You’re in for a treat. Here’s a sampling. If you have any requests, he might play them.

9. For dessert, we will have free ice cream from Sebastian Joe's. That’s right, free ice cream. Again. We will be handing out scoops of vanilla, chocolate, raspberry chocolate chip, and Pavarotti, which has caramel, bananas, vanilla ice cream and chocolate chips. Fun fact: The Pavarotti flavor was named after Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, who performed in Minneapolis in the late 1980s and wanted some Italian ice cream to soothe his vocal cords. Sebastian Joe's created this flavor for the crooner, and he loved it.  So make sure you leave room for ice cream from Sebastian Joe’s. And thank all of our other sponsors, ArcStone, Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institue, Snapology, Urban Tails Pet Supply, Southwest Connector, Erik's and Target Uptown. Our pop-up markets would not be possible without the generous support of the community.

10. Southwest Voices will be there, too. [Editor's note: We did not require Eric to put us in the top 13 for us to publish this. It was a surprise to us, too.] After launching their listening tour at the LHENA community festival in October 2021, Southwest Voices is approaching its one-year anniversary as a news and information service for Southwest Minneapolis. Southwest Voices has a membership program, and they will be looking to sign up new members at the pop-up market. Your financial support will help Southwest Voices continue to grow and cover news and issues that matter to the community. As a bonus, they have partnered with several neighborhood associations across Southwest, and donate a portion of each membership fee back to the participating neighborhood association that represents the area where they live. In other words, if a LHENA resident signs up to become a member of Southwest Voices, a portion of their membership revenue will go directly to LHENA. That's a win-win for the community and community news.

11. In addition to all of that, we will have various local business vendors selling their goods. There will be gourmet treats for sale for humans or dogs. You could pick up a book, clothing, jewelry or body care products. You never know what you'll find. Bread's pop-up market empowers businesses from traditionally underrepresented communities and creates a fair environment that provides economic opportunities for all. Bread's mission is to give entrepreneurs of color a chance in the marketplace. By helping businesses grow, Bread helps communities grow. We want to build on the success of Bread's pop-up markets by adding a restorative component. We believe economic empowerment and opportunity, combined with restorative practices and action, can drive real social change and create communities free of violence that work for everyone. Bread and LHENA have heard from many Minneapolis businesses, organizations and residents that are concerned about current trends in the city. They are wondering how we can revise civic policies to be more community-minded and restorative. We want to show how businesses, restorative practitioners and the community can work together to grow the use of restorative practices and create restorative communities. After these summer restorative pop-up markets, we plan to organize more restorative pop-up markets and show others how they can do it. We believe these restorative pop-up markets can be a stepping-stone toward creating restorative communities across the Twin Cities.

Jessica Murphy owns Sapphire Sun Creations and sells soaps and candles.
Lake Seven Orchards is a local food business run by Barbara Koloshuk.

12. LHENA and Bread will document all four pop-up markets this summer and publicly share what happens. We want to show how a restorative practices pop-up model can work together with a pop-up market model to create a restorative community pop-up market model that can be replicated by other communities. After the markets end in September, we will develop a pop-up market playbook to show, step by step, how other communities can plan and organize restorative pop-up markets, to build restorative communities. We want to create a family-friendly event model that builds community in the physical, emotional, spiritual and financial sense.

13. You can be a part of the pop-up markets. If you want to be a vendor, sponsor or volunteer, please sign up here. We'll have something for everyone at the Twin Cities Community Pop-Up Markets at Mueller Park on July 23, Aug. 20 and Sept. 17. All are welcome. See you there.