Erasing racial covenants, writing new future

Local artists raise awareness through Free the Deeds, encourage community conversations about redlining


In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the Uprising, artists Diver Van Avery, Lacey Prpic Hedtke and Miré Regulus created an art project called Free the Deeds. It invites the Minneapolis community to learn about and act on the way racial covenants have shaped access to housing, the racial makeup of Minneapolis neighborhoods, and the largest homeownership gap in the United States. Free the Deeds uses the Mapping Prejudice (MP) map to help owners identify which homes have racial covenants that need to be removed. 

Longfellow Community Council has taken over running the Free the Deeds project as of September 2022, and Diver Van Avery is stepping down from her former position. Because there are so many covenants across the city, they envision the project being in relationship with different neighborhood organizations in the next few years. Lacey Prpic Hedtke and Miré Regulus collaborated on the answers to the questions below. 

What does Free the Deeds do?

Free the Deeds is a community/public art project that aims to elevate people’s awareness about racial covenants and their impact on the racial housing gap and the racial makeup of our neighborhoods. Through several methods: a website with stories, invitations to learn about racial covenants and guidance on how to understand if you have a racial covenant and how to remove it; artistic engagement through paintings, drawings, lawn signs and poetry into the value of housing; and through public conversations at farmers’ markets, Open Streets events, door knocking and between neighbors.

Why is this symbolism so important?

While removing a racial covenant from a deed is mainly symbolic, we’re hoping to start a conversation and bring more awareness to homeowners as to why their neighborhood looks the way it does, racially and resource-wise, how they might have access in ways they hadn’t considered before, and striking it from the record is a symbol of denouncing the covenant system and all it stands for. To take it from symbolic to impactful, the reparations piece of this project is just as – if not even more so – important than removing the covenants. The reparations Free the Deeds is raising from the sale of lawn signs, posters, and through donations, goes towards the African American Community Land Trust, putting money into the hands of those who were hurt by these covenants.

What does the process look like?

Go to and work through the process:

1. Look up your property to see if a covenant was found on your deed. 

2. Fill out a form to receive free support to have your covenant discharged from your deed.

3. Purchase a lawn sign.

4. Display your lawn sign to offer people the chance to see and feel the history of this discriminatory lending practice 

If you discover that your home did not have a racial covenant, we still encourage you to donate and receive an artist print and interact with this project’s resources with your family and community. Whether your home had a covenant or not, you can still become a supporter of the African American Community Land Trust and practice reparations through financially contributing the AACLT down payment assistance fund. 

How do land trusts help?

A community land trust (CLT) is a nonprofit, community-based organization that works to provide perpetually affordable homeownership opportunities. In the truest sense, a CLT acquires land and removes it from the speculative, for-profit, real estate market. CLT’s hold the land they own “in trust” forever for the benefit of the community by ensuring that it will always remain affordable for homebuyers. 

Owning a land trust house is a way to ensure that housing remains affordable for the next person, and is in investment on both the land trust and homeowners’ part. While the homeowner doesn’t build equity like in traditional home ownership, they are able to afford and buy a house they might not have access to otherwise.

How can people help?

More than 10 percent of the racial covenants in Minneapolis are in southwest Minneapolis. People can go to the website and determine whether they have a racial covenant. They can apply to have the covenant removed, donate, and get and place a lawn sign in their front yard. They can talk with their children, neighbors, family, and friends both in the Twin Cities (and across the nation) about the existence of racial covenants and how they have profoundly shaped the racial housing landscape and the largest home ownership inequality gap in the nation. They can decide to work, either by themselves or with others to understand and work through their discomfort with the ways they feel implicated in this history. They can reach out to Longfellow Community Council, and offer to volunteer with them to talk with people in community about racial covenants.


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