JOHN UvLead-7.jpg
 

The Healer:
The amazing story of John Turnipseed

 
 
 

John spent the first half of his life with a gun in one hand making Minneapolis a nightmare — which is uniquely positioning him to lead its most troubled citizens into the light.

Adapted from The Healer by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl for MSP Magazine

 
Minneapolis-panorama-20070130.jpg
 
 

REMEMBER “MURDERAPOLIS”? 

The tag was coined in the mid-1990s around the time gang turf battles were ripping Minneapolis apart, bumping local murder rates far past those of cities with more dangerous reputations.

Many of those murders were happening because, in about 1990, three branches from the same family tree founded a gang called the Rolling 30s Bloods. Their territory stretched from I-35 to the west, Chicago Avenue to the east, Lake Street to the north, and 39th Street to the south. (The outfit was not related to the national Bloods gang.)

Once the new crew was established, turf feuds followed on every edge of the territory. 

 
 
 
 

JOHN WAS A GANG LEADER. 

He started doing drugs at age 12 and was an accessory to murder at 14. By 17, he was fighting turf wars with Molotov cocktails. No fewer than 50 Edina businesses had their safes cracked and computers removed. Nursing home residents were relieved of their heirloom diamonds.

While in jail, Turnipseed established a prison gang, as well as loan-sharking and drug-dealing operations. Dice games were rigged. Tens of thousands of dollars were lost to local casinos. Drugs were hoovered. Children were abandoned.

John was living proof of just how bad a bad guy in Minneapolis really could be. But, in 1994, he was inspired by a rival gang’s assassination attempt against his son. 

 
Nov2011_UrbanVentures_046.jpg
 
 
 

TODAY, JOHN RUNS THE VERY PROGRAM THAT HELPED SAVE HIS LIFE. 

The Center for Fathering graduates over 1,000 parents a year from its parenting and healthy relationships classes. For those amenable to starting over, Urban Ventures gives felons and others job training, and hosts private job fairs with businesses that are open to hiring convicted felons.

Over the life of the program, Urban Ventures programs have moved over 800 people from poverty to full-time employment, returning $5 million dollars a year in wages to the community.  

 

 
“What we do here [at the Center for Fathering] is not Pampers and brain development. We’re going to work on the character of the man. Are you clean and sober? Are you working? What values and ethics are you bringing to your child?”
— John Turnipseed
 
 
 
John today near the intersection of Lake and 4th Ave. Photo by Caitlin Abrams for MSP Magazine.
Urban Ventures' Center for Fathering in session.
 
 

TURNIPSEED NOW OFFICES NEAR LAKE ST. AND FOURTH AVE., WHERE HE USED TO WREAK HAVOC. 

Each morning, he passes buildings he once robbed with a firearm, and walks over patches of sidewalk where, years ago, some of his cousins bled to death from gunshot wounds.
 

 
“Every day I get reminded of the tremendous needs in the community. I’m living proof that change is possible. This is my territory—why lose it now?”
— John Turnipseed
 
 
 

Request John as a speaker


Read

John's comments in the Star Tribune's Sunday Op-Ed. Click the thumbnail above.


Watch

John speak at TEDx:Twin Cities. Click the thumbnail above.


Take Action

 

MORE TO EXPLORE

J O I N   U S  O N