Somali youth criticize "Countering Violent Extremism" program funding at a youth forum on July 25 at the Brian Coyle Center. Photo by Cristeta Boarini

Counter terrorism programs are targeting Somali youth. We need to talk about it.

In the wake of yet another state-sanctioned killing by police, the names Terrence Crutcher, Korryn Gaines and Philando Castile sink heavy in the voices of protesters. From Tulsa to Baltimore, St. Paul and beyond, racial profiling disproportionately targets black and brown lives. In the Twin Cities, Somali youth are voicing their dissent over a federally funded program called Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) that aims to surveil and stigmatize the predominantly Muslim community. In July, Somali youth held a forum at Brian Coyle Center to discuss the implications of Islamophobic programs like CVE and how they could work together to dismantle it.

Back in 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced CVE as their new anti-terrorism initiative to deter U.S. residents from joining “violent extremist” groups. Religious and community leaders from Somali communities across the country joined with law enforcement, health professionals, teachers and social service employees to endorse the program under the slogan “building community resilience.” By 2014, CVE launched in three pilot cities: Boston, Minneapolis and Los Angeles.

Youthprise, a nonprofit located in Northeast Minneapolis distributed the $300,000 from the DOJ to six Somali organizations eligible for CVE programming. Those organizations and their payouts were: Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota for $100,000, Somali American Parent Association for $85,000, Shanta Link for $35,000, the Ummah Project for $30,000, Africa Reconciliation and Development Organization for $25,000 and Westbank Athletic Club for $25,000. Continue Reading

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“I’m ready to die” Jamar Clark, school violence and toxic stress

What does it say when, within a minute of the police arriving, a young black man speaks those words? And when, within 61 seconds, that young black man lies dead? What does it say when teachers who are worried about their (and their students’) safety are labeled racist? What does it say when the vast majority of our children who grow up in worlds of “toxic stress” are low-income students and students of color? It says a lot about us, about our disregard for our children, particularly the most vulnerable. Continue Reading

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McCollum, Ellison cosponsor resolution calling for end to conversion therapy

Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison are cosponsors of a resolution in the U.S. House that calls on states to ban conversion therapy for minors. The Stop Harming Our Kids Resolution was introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California. McCollum and Ellison are among 34 co-sponsors of the resolution.The SHOK resolution states, in part:It is the sense of Congress that sexual orientation and gender identity or expression change efforts directed at minors are discredited and ineffective, have no legitimate therapeutic purpose, and are dangerous and harmful.Congress encourages each State to take steps to protect minors from efforts that promote or promise to change sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, based on the premise that homosexuality is a mental illness or developmental disorder that can or should be cured.“It’s time to end this abusive quackery masquerading as medicine,” Speier said in statement. “Being transgender, gay, lesbian, or bisexual is not a disease to be cured or a mental illness that requires treatment. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Documentary film hires north Minneapolis youth to challenge dominant narratives

In September of 2013, I joined the Community Technology Empowerment Project AmeriCorps, or CTEP (“C-tep”) for short. I’ve spent the last year promoting digital access and literacy with my cohort of 30-some fellow AmeriCorps members throughout the Twin Cities. That’s where I met Adja Gildersleve. Adja has a vision. She is, among other things, a documentarist, and wants to engage our local communities in dialogue about issues she’s passionate about, like racial and social equity, empowerment of community voices, and digital literacy. She had been dreaming up this particular project for a while, and has been so excited to make it into a reality. Continue Reading

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Youth Performance Company’s Artistic Director Jacie Knight: “Freedom Riders” a reminder there’s more work to do for equality

Freedom Riders is an original musical production created for the Youth Performance Company by Jacie Knight, Matt Koskenmaki and Kahlil Queen (music and lyrics).  In the summer of 1961, a group of students boarded buses to challenge segregation. Next to Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Emmett Till (don’t miss Penumbra’s production The Ballad of Emmett Till), the March on Washington and all the events in Birmingham, Alabama, the Freedom Riders created a force that spanned the divisions of race. These young people fought for one common goal: equality.    Continue Reading