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#FrontStepProject: Aiyana & Tyler


Tyler, Aiyana, Harrison, and Silas

Welcome to another #columbiaheights #frontstepproject brought to you by MarKei Photo & Video. I began this initiative to facilitate connecting the humans in my city, to celebrate our diversity, and share our challenges during this pandemic and beyond. If you’re enjoying this series, please share. To support my photography, like & follow MarKei (on FB, IG, Twitter, &/or YouTube). We are still offering socially distant photography in MN, so feel free to reach out!


Aiyana (pronounced “ay-yana”) and her boyfriend Tyler started renting a duplex on the border of NE Mpls and Columbia Heights in 2015. They loved the area so much that when they had the opportunity to buy in the fall of 2018, they bought right here in Columbia Heights by the reservoir.


Aiyana loves Columbia Heights’ suburban feel and the friendly, tight-knit neighborhood. It’s the best of both worlds for her with suburbs and also being just 10 minutes away from downtown Minneapolis. They enthusiastically prosthelytize their friends, encouraging them to move here.



Tyler & Harrison

Aiyana and Tyler have two sons, with a third due to arrive in July. The oldest, Silas, is just 2.5 years old and the youngest, Harrison, is 13 months. With a cautious anxiety yet unparalleled parental bravery, Aiyana acknowledged that by July, they will be raising three boys under the age of three. In case you’re wondering how they came up with those names, they were inspired by the shows Weeds and Dexter. And if you’re wondering if the soon-to-arrive will be named Morty or Archer, they have not yet picked a name and, even when they do, won’t announce until he arrives. I asked Aiyana if she’s concerned about being in a hospital during a pandemic. She admits it’s been a little confusing with the expected “peak” of COVID19 moving further and further out. However, this will be her third kid and she has a good sense of what to expect from the hospital experience. She is content enough with going through it with just Tyler by her side. She is disappointed by the little things that she’ll be missing because of the pandemic, like grandparents being able to visit the hospital, but she’s just happy to have what she has.


Aiyana does incredibly impressive work. She is a stay-at-home mom for Silas and Harrison. Their lives at home have been impacted by the pandemic in certain ways but Aiyana doesn’t seem too worried about the temporary impact. Silas had been going to speech therapy twice a week but that was discontinued. The family walks past taped up parks, the parents explaining to the boys that, “they’re being fixed”. They’ve had to teach the kids how to wash their hands very carefully and cover their mouths. The kids are too young to understand the concept of germs, so they just keep it simple. What Aiyana says is the hardest part is that she can’t get away on her own for a leisurely outing. In the past, Tyler would watch the boys as she went on a slow, relaxing trip to the grocery store. These days, she has to focus. Get in, get out.



Tyler, Aiyana, Harrison, and Yogi Silas

Aiyana told me that before the pandemic hit the US, she watched the documentary “Pandemic” on Netflix and thought to herself how she’d never have to live through something like that. Surely it would be something her kids would experience long after she’s gone.


Tyler is a worker at a Frito- Lays warehouse. I ask Aiyana what Tyler does there exactly. She says that Tyler goes on a lot about “picking and loading”, so that’s the best summary she’s got. Since the warehouse produces food, Tyler is considered an essential worker. Unlike other warehouse workers I’ve spoken to who have had their hours cut, Tyler is working more than ever. In particular, he and his coworkers had put in a lot of hours at the end of March when our communities were a bit more panicked and buying up a lot of food. It’s starting to slow down, now, though. Aiyana says proudly that Tyler is such a great worker, that “he’s got the best work ethic I’ve ever seen”. I asked whether him working extra hours has been unwanted or stressful. Aiyana says that the warehouse workers are committed to doing what needs to be done and working together to do it. Plus, Aiyana and Tyler’s family don’t mind a little extra income right now before the new baby arrives. Aiyana says, there are certainly bummers about this whole thing but going to work is the least bummer of all for Tyler.


Aiyana’s mom, who lives with them, has been helping out with the kids and has been a major source of relief to the family. It’s one thing to have two young kids in the middle of a pandemic. It’s another to have two young kids and being five months pregnant in the middle of a pandemic. Aiyana says that their little family is very close and they don’t get sick of each other. The family is mentally coping with this experience by just staying focused on what needs to be done.


They have experienced some personal disappointment and loss as a result of the pandemic, of course. They had planned for a vacation during the two weeks that the first shelter-in-place order was executed. So they had to cancel their trip to California which they were looking forward to since Tyler had never seen the ocean, and instead, have an extreme staycation. Additionally, Tyler’s sister had her baby last month and Aiyana’s family is feeling grief over not being able to visit.



Talking about the cat across the street

Aiyana & Tyler have a very close community of friends and family who they stay in contact with daily through Facebook posts and video chatting. The family also makes sure to go on a daily walk to get some fresh air. Plus, it helps keep sleep schedules on track. They’ve had some window visits with grandparents. For example, their dad visited to fix the gutter. Silas and Harrison wanted to go outside to see grandpa but they just had to watch him through the window.


Like most of us, this family has been enjoying their takeout and drive-through meals. Aiyana highly recommended Ember’s breakfast. She says it tastes like it’s homemade and is great comfort food. They’ve also been patronizing Brothers Taquería on Silver Lake Rd, which I haven’t gone to yet, but definitely will try after her recommendation. And now I’m hungry.


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#FRONTSTEPPROJECT: If YOU want to be featured, message me! It is free for Columbia Heights residents. Donations to SACA Food Shelf & Thrift Store are encouraged. Special priority for residents who are members of a disenfranchised community, essential workers (particularly healthcare) or local businesses. Please share this opportunity with your neighbor who may not be on social media.

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#COVIDHIGHLIGHT: If you know an essential worker, immunocompromised individual, or otherwise marginalized/impacted individual whose story you want to elevate (with their consent), consider hiring MarKei for a #COVIDHighlight photoshoot & interview for $175. For example, purchase for your next door neighbor who is a doctor and has had to live in the family garage for the last 2 months. Or for the teenager next door who is missing out on prom and graduation. I will interview them on the phone and do a socially distant photo shoot with them (even through glass, if extra precautions are necessary!) Reach out for more details! Available to any metro resident.

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¡Se habla español!

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