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Immigrant Communities: Get Connected!
New Normal 2012 builds on work begun by TCMA and the Twin Cities Daily Planet in 2011. The goal of “The New Normal: Deciding Community Priorities in a Downsized Economy” was to identify challenges facing Minnesota citizens and communities, and evaluate possible solutions. This year the focus is on action steps. Over the next six months, the Daily Planet will publish a variety of articles, interviews and issue guides related to these organizations and the issues they are working on.
During the 1990s, Minnesota’s foreign-born population more than doubled, jumping from 110,000 to 240,000. Today, over 370,000 Minnesotans are foreign-born. While that may sound like a large number, it amounts to only about seven percent of Minnesota’s population.
Learn more about the challenges, contributions and organizations connected with new Minnesotans in the community engagement guide, and in articles published in the Daily Planet (below.) To join in a series of community "Get Connected!" meetings in partnership with Twin Cities organizations working for change in immigration policies, see the schedule of meetings and links to register.
Twin Cities Somalis despair over hawala closures by Lolla Mohammed Nur • Amina Hassan hasn’t felt this helpless in a long time. A refugee who fled Somali 20 years ago and now an American citizen, the middle-aged single mother can’t send remittances to her impoverished relatives in Somalia anymore.
Somalis in schools: One in three chooses charters in Twin Cities by Alleen Brown • Around 1200 school-age kids reside in Riverside Plaza’s nine paneled towers. The majority of them are Somali or East African. Cedar-Riverside Community School, a tiny charter nestled in the middle of the plaza, can only fit 150 of them, but school director Ricky White says if he were to open a new charter, he would know what to do to attract Somali families.
Immigrant couple applies Tejalpa business experience to Twin Cities opportunities by Bruce Johnson • Armando Ocampo calls himself “an optimist, someone who’s always looking forward.” His wife, Lilia Zagal, “has more new ideas every day.” Together, the two have opened four Los Ocampo taquerias and one full-service restaurant in rapid succession since 1999, shortly after emigrating from Tejalpa, a small village in the state of Morelos, Mexico. John Flory, special projects director at the Latino Economic Development Center, says he’s watched the couple’s business venture blossom into one of the biggest, yet largely unrecognized local immigrant success stories.
Baby steps: Minneapolis Public Schools work to bring back Somali students by Alleen Brown • January 19’s Soup with the Supe event began with a song and dance performed by students from Whittier elementary school. The kids sang in Somali before a crowd of mostly Somali parents and community members, who were gathered to share a meal and participate in a question and answer session with Minneapolis Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson.
Minnesota conference brings together immigrant and minority farmers by Jeanette Fordyce • “The highlight clearly was that this is a immigrant farmers’ conference; its their conference,” said Glen Hill, the executive director for Minnesota Food Association. “They are represented, feel comfortable, speak and share, and they feel empowered.”
Nearly 500 people came registered for the Seventh Annual Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference. According to Joci Tilson, assistant director for MFA, 278 of the registrants were farmers. Eleven states were represented with the larger groups coming from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Kentucky.
At the Bright Moon Cafe at the corner of Cedar Ave. and Lake Street in Minneapolis last weekend, Abdikarim Hashi sipped on steaming cinnamon-ginger Somali tea, peering into his cell phone for news of home.
Hashi’s home is the sun-drenched Somali port city ofKismayo, where year-round blue skies, lush vegetation and sugar-white beaches would normally qualify it as among the most stunningly beautiful cities in the Horn of Africa.
What can bring the SEIU, UFCW Local 1189, UNITE HERE Local 17 together with Ecolab, Cargill, Carlson Companies and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce? They're all on the same page, signed on to a joint statement supporting immigration reform now. Also on that page are civic and advocacy groups, such as Isaiah and the League of Women Voters.
On June 9, the business part of the coalition brought together about 70 people in Brooklyn Park to talk about how immigration leads to economic growth and American jobs. Under the auspices of the Business Immigration Coalition, the Partnership for a New Economy, and the Minneapolis Foundation, three Minnesota business executives spoke about Minnesota's need for immigrants.
Wellstone Bike Club empowers East African women in Minneapolis through cycling by Mike Jones • The air is brisk, but not exactly cold. The sky is infinite blue. I throw on my thin merino undershirt and think about sunglasses which I haven’t worn since I was a child due to the eternal presence of high-prescription eyeglasses. I’m heading down the oversized sidewalk known as the Hiawatha Avenue Trail to Roosevelt High School to meet the Wellstone Bike Club.
Beauty and solidarity: Exhibit and presentation celebrate strength and culture of Oromo women by Sheila Regan • A new photography exhibit and cultural presentation at Augsburg College’s Foss Center on February 24 and 25 aims to show the strength, beauty and endurance of Ethiopian women who have joined in solidarity and peace despite many obstacles. Through photographs and talks by the artist and two Oromo women from Ethiopia, the presentation will shine light on both the deep challenges and strength of women in East Africa.
The pieces of Morelos, Mexico that remain in 18-year-old Oscar Martinez’s memories include himself on horseback at two years old, the death of a nameless dog, and the creek he crossed on his way to a crowded schoolhouse.
His border crossing, too, exists now only in glimpses. He remembers a truck driving into the desert. He recalls a coyote’s gun pointed at his head when he complained of the heat. For a while he walked. Before he knew it, there was snow everywhere and smiling faces.
The teenager would not get out of Gada Roba’s car. He had seen the people drinking as they waited outside the homeless shelter. The youth was Muslim and had never been around people who were drinking. Threatened at home, the immigrant student had approached his teacher, Roba for help. But he was too frightened to stay at the shelter and insisted Roba drop him off on Lake Street. “It was near a mosque where they often let people stay the night,” Roba explains. “I went home. But I couldn’t sleep. I had just left a child on the street.”
Apology lingers in Roba’s voice as he tells the story at Spyhouse coffee shop on Hennepin. He’s trim and not too tall. His white t-shirt and dark blue windbreaker lend a formal tone to his casual clothes. Ten years ago, Gada Roba was himself a teenage runaway. This year, he’s one of six recipients of the 2012 McKnight Binger Award for his work in the Twin Cities Oromo community.
"There is no wire connecting my mind to yours,” Abdikadir Adan Xiito informs me crisply. He’s explaining his philosophy for teaching math to children, in between sessions correcting the workbooks of two dozen young students in an afternoon homework class at the tutoring school here that bears his name, the Xiito Academy.
The young Somali boys and girls bend over their desks solving sets of addition, multiplication and fraction problems. One might expect high-energy hubbub and hijinks in a late afternoon class for kids, after they’ve spent a full day in school. But no, the room is quiet, energized but serene.
The swish of turning notebook pages is the loudest sound in the room.
MN VOICES | Tenzin Pelkyi: From refugee family to U of M law student by Valerie Steffl • In a coffee shop full of University of Minnesota students behind glowing screens in the peak of finals weekend study hours, there is nothing outwardly remarkable about Tenzin Pelkyi. Her quiet demeanor and small stature are in stark contrast to this college senior’s accomplishments, life story and dedication to advocating for human rights of the Tibetan people and of the diaspora.
As a former Tibetan refugee born in New Delhi, India who can still envision India’s yogis, monkeys and beautiful natural environment, she considers herself much like her native Minnesotan U of M classmates.
Woman. Mother. Community organizer. Advocate. Inspiration. Jovita Morales wears many hats, but her role as survivor is at the core of everything she does. As someone who has experienced domestic violence firsthand, she is using her own story of survival to inspire others to seek healing and empowerment. And it has been through these interactions that Morales has discovered her own sense of self.
Growing up in San Francisco del Rio, located in the municipality of Ixtlahuaca, Mexico, her family spoke Mazahua at home while she learned Spanish in school. After completing sixth grade, Morales worked in Mexico City before moving to Minnesota at the age of 15. When she arrived in Minneapolis, Morales spoke no English at all. “It was a long day when I came here,” she said. “A different language, cold weather. It was a big surprise for me.”
Get Connected: Organizations working on immigration issues
The Advocates for Human Rights: works for immigrant rights in Minnesota and the United States by providing innovative educational materials to schools and communities, building the capacity of local immigrant organizations and activists, and advocating for policies that protect the human rights of immigrants. Recently, The Advocates created the One Voice Minnesota Monitoring Project to investigate, document, and assess how fully Minnesota welcomes all residents of our state. The Advocates is looking for interested individuals and organizations who want to be part of this ground-breaking monitoring project. For more information, please contact: OneVoiceMN [at] advrights [dot] org http:www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/
Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota: provides quality immigration legal services, law-related education, and advocacy to meet the steadily increasing needs of Minnesota’s immigrant and refugee communities. Its Action Center invites members of the community to create and send messages to decision-makers.
Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network: a state-wide immigrant integration group whose mission is to fix the broken immigration system in the U.S. They do this by empowering and engaging new Minnesotans and their allies through access to education, civic engagement, and leadership development. Their initiatives help eliminate discrimination based on immigration status to ensure all new Americans can fully participate in building a more united and sustainable Minnesota economy.
Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAc): organizes the immigrant community and allies to try to win legalization for all and equality in all aspects of life. MIRAc was formed in Spring 2006 and has organized many protests, marches and other activities for immigrant rights since then.
New Normal 2012 is a project of the Twin Cities Media Alliance and Twin Cities Daily Planet, supported by a generous grant from the Bush Foundation.
For More Information: Contact Bruce Johansen: brucejohansen [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net or click here.
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