Title: Activist Dottie Titus was a force for good
In a neighborhood plagued by drugs, prostitution and violence, Dottie Titus’ solutions for her community’s problems were many. Whether reaching out to children, videotaping lawbreakers or gardening in empty lots, Titus was a fixture on Penn Avenue N. She died March 10 after a long battle with cancer. She was 64.
Titus was born in St. Paul. Life took her to Frederic, Wis., and Ruckersville, Va., but she always wanted to return to Minnesota, said her daughter, Kim Bly, of Richmond, Va.
As a helper with Pathwork, an organization dedicated to spiritual counseling, she saw an opportunity to take her practice to the Twin Cities. In 2000, she settled on 27th and Penn Avenue N., in the Jordan neighborhood.
Bly said her mother reported back about open-air drug deals, crack houses and prostitution on her street.
“I was scared to death,” Bly said, adding that she feared Titus’ work would bring retaliation. But as years passed, her fears were not realized.
Titus was known for videotaping drug deals and prostitution transactions and sending footage to police. But she also involved children in gardening in the empty lot next to her house and led Saturday cooking classes for neighborhood kids at New Life Church.
“They would bake hundreds of cookies or brownies and send them home,” said neighbor Megan Goodmundson. In between, it was known, her house was open to the kids.
Titus also was active in neighborhood organizations, serving as board member, treasurer and executive director of the Jordan Area Community Council (JACC). She was active in the Fourth Precinct Community Council (4PAC), the Neighborhood Revitalization Program and DFL politics. She kept a blog about the neighborhood, from JACC politics to issues with problem landlords and odes to neighborhood do-gooders.
She was a competent and calming presence during turmoil on the JACC board, Goodmundson said.
“Dottie was always someone who could look at the conflicts or the issues from all angles and could really come up with a wise, calm and righteous way to approach an issue, instead of the emotions or snap judgments or grudges that can sometimes surface,” she said.
Tim Hammett, a crime prevention specialist for the Minneapolis Police Department, worked with Titus on 4PAC in the mid-2000s.
“If people want to honor her memory, the best thing they can do is show the love for their community that she had for hers, and to reach out to kids and other people in the neighborhood to make the neighborhood a better place,” he said. “She really did love her neighborhood, and she loved her neighbors, and I think if we all do that then our neighborhoods can’t help but become vital, healthy places.”
Besides her daughter, Titus is survived by her mother, Rose Hughes, of Luck, Wis., her brother, Ashley Hughes, of Denver, and two grandsons.
To my teacher Marieke Mars who taught me self-honesty. To my courageous and loving pathwork helper Dottie Titus.