Ward nine residents packed Friday's city council meeting

City moves forward with water yard site in Phillips

In a 10- 3 vote, Minneapolis city council members decided to move forward with acquiring the former Roof Depot site for a city owned water treatment facility, despite neighborhood opposition. Council members Johnson, Gordon and Cano voted against it. Members of the Phillips community, where the site would be located, say the proposed facility is yet another industrial site in a neighborhood plagued with pollution and environmental justice concerns. See the story in Monday’s Daily Planet for more background. There was a brief discussion about adopting an amendment put forth by ward nine council member Alondra Cano, which would have required city staff and departments to work with community members when developing the site. Continue Reading

Phillips neighbors oppose new Water Yard site

People in the Phillips neighborhoods of Minneapolis are incensed about a new proposed water-maintenance site (or, a water yard) they say will add to the pollution of the area. Seeing little promise of new jobs from the new site, neighbors will be packing the Ways and Means committee meeting of the City Council on Monday to urge council members to vote no on allowing city staff to enter into negotiations over purchasing the property. “Phillips has been dumping grounds and forget-me-nots of polluters for several years now,” says Jose Luis Villasenor, the Executive Director of the local nonprofit Tamales y Bicicletas. He’s been a resident of East Phillips for 19-20 years. “We have been working with the community and local stakeholders about how to get rid of the polluters.”

The community group East Phillips Improvement Coalition (EPIC) had two realizations when it came to the site, Villasenor said. Continue Reading

Flags waved while DJs played music at the Somali Independence Day festival in Minneapolis on June 13.

2015 Somali Independence Day Festival in Photos

The Minnesotan Somali community celebrated the 55th anniversary of Somalia’s independence from Britain and Italy this weekend at a festival that spanned three blocks of West Lake Street. According to the 2010 American Community Survey data, there are around 25,000 Somali-Americans in Minnesota, a third of the Somali population of the United States. Although Somali Independence Day is technically July 1, the Minneapolis festival was held on Saturday, June 13 because it will be Ramadan from mid-June until mid-July. Somali flags and balloons with the logo of Progressive Insurance, one of many sponsors of the event, were prominent features around the festival. Friends and families came together to celebrate on Lake Street, between Blaisdell and Grand. Continue Reading

Drivers license bill stalls as session ends

Much-awaited legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses (HF97) was shot down in the House Transportation Committee as the 2015 legislative session hurtled to a close.  All House Republicans voted against incorporating the language into legislation at a 5-5 vote. “The bill is included in a transportation bill, and the only thing that the house has to do is to agree with the bill that is being proposed by the Senate. The House simply has no excuse not to do this this year. They made a commitment last year. Continue Reading

Martha Sofia Acuna, center, after becoming a US citizen

New citizens make it official at Festival of Nations

Amazing ethnic dance performances, foods, and exhibits – that’s what usually comes to mind when you think of the Festival of Nations, in its 83rd year as the region’s largest multicultural festival. But, the 52 men and women who gathered in the Roy Wilkens auditorium of Saint Paul’s RiverCentre on May 1 will always remember this year’s Festival of Nations as the place they became U.S. Citizens. As the soon-to-be citizens waited, excitement and nervousness in the room was palpable as three women, clipboards in hand, circulated throughout the arena. “We’re with the League of Women voters,” explained Paula Clark. League volunteers attend all naturalization ceremonies in the state (28 this year), registering the new citizens to vote. Continue Reading

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Backers push for vote on driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants

More than three hundred Latino residents rallied in front of the St. Paul Capitol building to urge Governor Dayton and House Speaker Paul Thissen to pass HF348, a bill  that would allow drivers licenses for all.  Organized by Mesa Latina and supported broadly by the immigrant rights movement  protesters raised signs and chanted “Si se puede!” “Yes we can!” Many drivers and passerby joined in solidarity, supportively honking or walking along. The demonstration concluded at the Cedar Street Armory in a cultural celebration with musical performances by local artists.  
Currently, more than 34,500 Minnesotans with temporary visas or deportation reprieves under a 2012 Obama program have driver’s licenses that say “Check status” and list their visa expiration date. Continue Reading

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Her dream came true: Meet Husna Ibrahim

When Husna Ibrahim stuck her hand inside the envelope and pulled out her acceptance letter for the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, her life’s dream came true. “Every day just being able to say that you go to the University of Minnesota and walking up and saying ‘oh my gosh, I’m a college student.’ That’s a huge deal,” Ibrahim said.  
Ibrahim is currently a sophomore student at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities and is an alumnus of Project SUCCESS, a program that showed her college was possible.  
Ibrahim was originally born and raised in South Africa. Growing up, her mother wanted her and her four sisters to be independent and educated. 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

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas spoke about undocumented immigrants at the University of Minnesota.

Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, arrested in Minnesota, returns to speak at U of M immigration symposium

On Tuesday, when Jose Antonio Vargas took the stage at a packed University of Minnesota auditorium, he began his nearly 40-minute speech with the story of his 2012 arrest in Minnesota.“I got arrested on your freeway by driving and unfortunately listening to Beyoncé with my headset,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist told a crowd of more than 250 people at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.He joked that since it was an Asian-American officer who pulled him over — Vargas was born in the Philippines — he thought the officer wasn’t going to punish him for the violation. That didn’t happen. The officer handcuffed Vargas on the freeway after realizing that Vargas carried an invalid driver’s license.The crowd erupted into laugher when Vargas talked about how the officer found out that Vargas was also an undocumented immigrant: the officer searched Vargas’ bag, only to find three copies of a TIME magazine cover with a photo of Vargas and a story about his life as an undocumented immigrant and how people like him were coming out, as he did in a New York Times Magazine article in 2011. Vargas’ speech painted a vivid picture of what it means to lead a life of an undocumented immigrant — a story that also offered an unvarnished look at the state of the nation’s immigration policy. The discussion was part of a daylong “Out of the Shadows Immigration Symposium” event featuring, among other things, panels of policymakers and immigration advocates.       Vargas, who at age 12 was smuggled into the U.S. from the Philippines, offered many examples of the legal predicaments faced by the more than 11 million undocumented people. Continue Reading

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Meet Sadam Haska, founder of the popular Oromo Vine

On Nov. 10, 2013 Sadam Haska, 23, started his popular Facebook-based Oromo Vine with a simple post: “Hey guys plz pass these to your friends.” The page now commands more than 6000 likes.The Brisbane, Australia based comedian and satirist says he was propelled into action out of frustration that the Oromo — despite being “funny and numerous”— lacked proper venues to channel their inner funnyness.Haska is the lead actor and producer of the vlog collective. Most of his stints focus on smart caricutures of the tension between Oromo and western culture. But Haska says his work is not all for laughs: he has taken stances on social issues such as #OromoProtests and also challenges old customs such as certain Oromo marriage practices. Last month, during his visit to Melbourne, he sat down with OPride contributor Sinke Wesho. Continue Reading