Community Comes Together in Fire Relief Efforts

On the morning of Wednesday, April 15th, a fire completely destroyed a row of apartments and storefronts on West Broadway. Approximately 30 persons residing in 11 households were displaced by the fire, with several stores and offices destroyed. This event was indeed a tragedy, but the swift response from neighbors affirms some of the values central to the Northside: collaboration, resilience, and community. Continue Reading

Invest in housing supports to maximize investments in education

As the school year comes to a close, lawmakers are considering an investment of $39 million to address homelessness and housing shortages in Minnesota, as proposed by the Homes for All alliance. Working every day in schools, my colleagues and I know how essential safe and stable housing is to our students and fully support this proposed investment. Each year, 13,000 students in Minnesota experience homelessness and lack a stable place to call home. Last school year, nearly 4,000 were enrolled in Minneapolis Public Schools. Research has shown the negative impact homeless can have on academic performance. Continue Reading

The Coptic Grave

The Coptic Grave…
Standing along with a few hundreds Muslims at the Garden of Eden Islamic Cemetery located in a remote corner of a Christian cemetery in Burnsville, Minnesota; mourning the death of one of our friends. The reverences and the respect were not just giving by Muslims who came to offer their respect, but by the staff and workers at the Christian cemetery. Everyone was taken by the gravity of the situation; cemetery workers dog the grave, carry the coffin, dangling inside the grave and waited quietly away until the end of burial, cleaned up and walked away. I thought wow, what a contrast; Muslims in the United States, in post 9/11 era are constantly exposed to all sorts of bigotry and discrimination,  media demonization, are chased, attacked, racially profiled at Airport, spied on in schools, mosques, and young Muslims are entrapped by FBI for show and tell press conferences. But when they die they are welcomed and giving most respect at Christian cemetery in unmarked graves not too far distant from dead Christians. Continue Reading

Parent engagement and early learning scholarships or universal public preschool?

Minnesota has made some progress since the U.S. Department of Education published data in 2012, which ranked our state as the worst and near-worst in the achievement gap and HS graduation rates of disadvantaged children. The 2014 performance of these Minnesota students has improved and the achievement gap has been reduced. But we still have a long way to go to ensure equal opportunity for all children. One initiative that is likely to make a difference is the Early Learning Scholarship program, for which the Legislature appropriated $46 million dollars for 2013 and 2014, $4.6m for 2015 and $9.7m for 2016-17. The scholarships help thousands of children reap the benefits of high-quality preschool. Continue Reading

Our (their?) legislature in action. Should we laugh, cry, or organize?

Well, the Minnesota Legislature is entering its last week, with a great deal of mischief in the pipeline and not much to feel good about.  Most Minnesotans seem to have little real idea what’s going on and how their interests are threatened.  How would they know?  Who would tell them?  I’m subscribed to the email newsletters of maybe six Senators and Representatives.  Not one tells constituents what’s really going on. Even a casual visit to the Capital makes painfully clear that most legislators’ primary relationships are with each other, regardless of party, and with lobbyists, not with citizens. Let’s envision a discussion in a House Committee.  Rep. Jean Wagenius points out that climate change is a serious threat to Minnesota and further  steps need to be taken to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.  She and her colleagues say the Republican plan to roll back energy efficiency and “green” energy quotas is irresponsible. Committee Chair Pat Garofolo, also Minnesota co-chair of ALEC, the Koch Machine, in Minnesota, responds: “Reputable scientists have established that the earth is really flat and the moon is largely made of green cheese.”  One of his fellow Republicans responds “Definitely cheese, but possibly not *green* cheese; the flatness question needs further investigation.” A DFL member says: “This is silly, American astronauts collected rocks on the moon and brought them home.  The moon is made of rock.”  Garofolo interjects: “I wish my liberal friends would use a little common sense.  You would not deny that both cheese and rocks are found on the surface of the earth, and the moon is an offshoot of the earth, so it follows that both cheese and rocks are also on the moon.”

A long discussion ensues, a hearing is scheduled, and the next day the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports “Legislators differ on how to protect Minnesota cheese makers from unfair competition.”

At the hearing, a lobbyist from the Farmers Union expresses concern about unfair competition from Mooncheese.  He admits that none has yet been seen in Minnesota, but claims local producers need protection against such a serious threat. A lobbyist for the Farm Bureau says the highest authority on Earth, Monsanto, says Mooncheese is safe and healthy because any harmful organisms would be zapped by intergalactic radiation.  And, each container of cheese can be dipped in Roundup [glyphosate] to ensure that no lunar superweeds sneak in.  Committee members nod approvingly. Continue Reading

Women Leading Change: Profile of Barbara Arnwine

Barbara Arnwine has played a key role in advancing justice in the arena of civil rights. Arnwine has served as the President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law for over 26 years. Within this leadership role, her stance has been strong and her commitment has been unwavering to secure through rule of law, equal justice under the law. One such example is her determination to protect one of our most fundamental rights— voting. She has waged war against the direct assault of democracy as evidenced by laws and policies which restrict access to the ballot box. Continue Reading

No Easy Answers

You go to a community gathering; you believe that the speaker, a white male, will listen and take you, a white woman, and your friends in: black and white men, black and white women. And he does, for a moment, but he seems to be crouching there, waiting to spring with his response. To give him credit, he lets us talk and even nods his head and affirms us. Yet he dominates the room. I wanted a circle, I wanted him to end the cyclic way his words came back and back and back to integration as the only solution to educational reform. Continue Reading

Cinco de Mayo

It started as invasion by France to collect a debt, but the larger and better equipped French invasion force was defeated by a ragged group of Mexicans, some armed with little more than machetes and pitchforks. The Battle of Puebla on 5 May 1862 was 150 years ago this Saturday. Continue Reading

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 2.54.45 PM

Martin Luther King Goes to the Mall (or WWMD?)

“It’s important to make an example out of these organizers, so that this never happens again.” This message was sent to the managers of the Mall of America by Sandra Johnson, the City Attorney of Bloomington, Minnesota, where the Mall is located. The “organizers,” whom she also refers to as “criminals,” assailants” and “ringleaders” were involved in one way or another with a peaceful, multi-generational, multiracial rally held in the Mall’s rotunda to draw attention to racist police brutality. Such events are what “must never happen again.”

Johnson’s over-the-top push make the defendants pay for the police overreaction has raised eyebrows in legal and business circles and alarmed civil libertarians. The Mall had earlier rebuffed her proposal to punish Mall employees for showing sympathy with the rally, citing “the potential for further press.” “Further press” is what the City Attorney appears determined to deliver. Continue Reading

Amran Farah, right, offers advice about individual rights and police interactions. MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi

Law group teaches immigrant communities how to navigate police interactions

Late last week, scores of immigrants filled the seats of the dimly lit conference room in the Minneapolis Brian Coyle Center as a group of lawyers addressed the crowd about their legal rights when it comes to police interactions. Local leaders of the North American Somali Bar Association brought their second educational event since its launch in January to the immigrant-populated Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to educate the community about their constitutional rights and responsibilities when dealing with authorities. Among the presenters was Amran Farah, a Minneapolis attorney and an NASBA member, who spoke to a crowd of more than 50 people about possible scenarios of a legal encounter with law enforcement. If an officer pulls over a driver, Farah explained to the crowd, that driver is being seized under the Fourth Amendment.  “It’s a seizure when a police officer has flashing lights on, and in that way, you feel like you’re duty bound to submit to that authority.”

She added: But “you’re not seized when an officer merely approaches you in a public place. If an officer just walks up to you and starts a conversation, you’re not seized.”

At a time when a deep distrust exists between many police departments and many communities of color nationwide, Farah accentuated that an officer cannot legally stop someone because of the person’s skin color. Continue Reading