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

Bernie Sanders makes his first campaign appearance in Minnesota

It’s no secret that most of the heavy-hitters in the DFL are already pledged to Ms. Clinton. So who were the people who turned up to hear and cheer for Bernie Sanders? Generationally, they appeared to be a diverse crowd, ranging from 18 to 80-plus. The crowd was noticeably less diverse with perhaps 5 to 10% people of color. Primer on Bernie Sanders: He’s 73 and has been the junior Senator from Vermont since 2007. Continue Reading

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Tackling achievement gap for American Indian students

Before the first class bell rings on Monday mornings, students at Nay Ah Shing High School gather to participate in a tradition that was instituted long before they were born. “Pipe and Dish” sets the tone for students and staff at the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe-run school in Onamia. The ceremony allows participants to “offer” tobacco and food to the Creator to ask for help in their studies and work in the days ahead. The morning ritual serves as a symbolic opportunity for students and staff to recognize the cultural roots the school was founded on 40 years ago. But Nay Ah Shing’s emphasis on its American Indian culture is not limited to the “Pipe and Dish” offering, according to Suzanne Wise, education commissioner for the Mille Lacs Band. Continue Reading

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A Bemidji statue reveals uncomfortable Native history

We grew up hearing the story of local trader and store owner Andrew Myrick, who told starving Dakota people to “eat grass or their own dung” if they were hungry. He was one of the early fatalities of the 1862 US-Dakota War, a figure our very conservative father offered as a cautionary figure to encourage us to use civil discourse 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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American Indian Month Kickoff

May is American Indian Month in Minneapolis. To celebrate thebeginning of the month and all the activities and celebrations that will follow, people and organizations gathered at Little Earth on Friday, May 1 for a parade through the Phillips Neighborhood. Continue Reading

MinnesotaCare should not be eliminated in the state budget

The Minnesota House passed a Republican-led budget plan last week that eliminates MinnesotaCare, a public health care program that provides coverage for the working poor. Unfortunately, such a plan would harm these individuals the most. The strongest justification that conservatives use for their budget is that the nearly 100,000 Minnesotans currently on MinnesotaCare could switch to MNsure, the insurance exchange set up through the Affordable Care Act. Even with tax credits, poor Minnesotans could pay more under MNsure than MinnesotaCare. Individuals on MinnesotaCare pay between $15 and $50 in monthly premiums for their plans. Continue Reading

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Hooray for Mayor Hodges’ Courageous Soccer Stadium Stand!

Bill McGuire and his sports buddies the Pohlads, who own the Twins, and Glen Taylor, who owns the Timberwolves, want to build a stadium in downtown Minneapolis just for soccer.  And here’s the good news: They want to build it using private money.  And here’s the bad news: They want a rebate on sales taxes and they want a permanent exemption from paying local property taxes. Mayor Betsy Hodges went on record as saying “No,” and she said it in a public and detailed letter:
“There is no need for a subsidy for this facility, or this ownership group, whatsoever. The subsidy they are requesting will have a direct and negative impact on the taxpayers of Minneapolis. “First, the McGuire group is asking to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes—not just for a limited term of time, but forever. “The land where the MN United ownership group proposes to build the stadium is currently privately owned, so it currently pays property taxes [$334,000 a year] that would disappear if the soccer stadium were exempted from taxes. Continue Reading

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Dinkytown panel compares 1970s, current activism

For one month in 1970, protesters occupied two buildings slated for demolition to build a fast-food restaurant called the Red Barn in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.One predawn morning in early May, police in riot gear cleared the protesters while bulldozers leveled the buildings. Within a day, the demonstrators built a peace garden on the site and, a year later, Red Barn gave up the idea of building another fast-food store in Dinkytown.Subsequent efforts to stop development in Dinkytown haven’t gone so well. Matt Hawbaker, who helped organize Save Dinkytown in an unsuccessful effort to stop a much larger development two years ago, said he felt awe and jealousy as he watched Al Milgrom’s “The Dinkytown Uprising,” a film about the Red Barn protest.Hawbaker and a panel of other neighborhood activists and residents compared notes April 20 with Monte Bute, one of the protestors featured in the film.“We went with a more political solution,” said Hawbaker, who noted that they came close to having the City Council block demolition of buildings to make way for the mixed-use Opus Development, now called Venue. “The projects that are proposed are not the best shot for independent business,” he said. “We got a Starbucks, a Great Clips and an offshoot of Goodwill.”He and Lynn Nyman, a manager for Loring Café and Varsity Theater, said that more than 60 percent of Dinkytown’s businesses are still local, adding that the area has been and continues to be an incubator of small business.Another panelist, Hung Q. Russell, chairman of the Marcy-Holmes Land Use Committee, called the film a well-drafted story narrative. Continue Reading