Somali president visits Twin Cities, receives mixed welcome

It was completely dark by the time Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud arrived at Northrop Auditorium on the University of Minnesota campus on Aug. 9. But the lack of light didn’t stop protesters, many of whom had been demonstrating for hours, from rushing to the curb and chanting “Down, Hassan, down!” as the president arrived.President Mohamud’s visit to the Twin Cities is part of his attempt to build relationships with the strong Somali population in Minnesota, but his reception was met with mixed feelings. More than 100 protesters showed up among the several hundred attendees at the event, attacking the president for his current policies, which protesters say lack adequate security improvements and fail to keep promises.“Somalis back in Somalia, they have been in civil war for 24 years and they don’t have a voice,” said protest organizer Abdirizak Jama. “President [Mohamud] is ignoring the federal system, the federal constitution.”Back in May more than 100 Somali lawmakers asked the president to resign for failing to deliver more tangible change, like improving security in a nation struggling to rebuild after two decades of war.President Mohamud’s support also doesn’t accurately represent the Somali-American community in Minnesota, Jama said, which he estimates at more than 25,000.The U.S. Census Bureau estimates about one in three of the 85,700 people with Somali ancestry in the United States live in Minnesota, according to their most recent data.Said Mohamed said he’s frustrated by the lack of government funds used to educate the people of Somalia about the dangers of the extremist ideology perpetrated by terrorist groups like Al-Shabab.President Mohamud is responsible for the death of Somali parliament member Saado Cali Warsame, who was killed last month in a drive-by shooting in Mogadishu, Mohamed said. Continue Reading

Voting rights on the line — and people lining up to defend them

Fifty years after the Freedom Summer work to defend Voting Rights, and 49 years after the passage fo the Voting Rights Act, threats to voting are emerging across the country. An interfaith group, including veterans of the 1960s civil rights struggle, convened June 22 at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in North Minneapolis. They commemorated the Freedom Summer anniversary of the deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner and issued a call to action to the U.S. Congress to reinstate key provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

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Fast food workers rally outside Lake Street McDonald’s

A group of fast food workers and activists gathered outside the McDonald’s at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Lake Street in Minneapolis on Thursday, May 15 as part of a nationwide event to raise awareness about low wages and workers’ rights in fast food establishments across the country.The crowd gathered outside as members from the McDonald’s corporate office looked on from inside the restaurant.Several of the activists shared stories of struggling to make ends meet, like Bernenice, a single mother from Minneapolis.“I am a single mother with three kids,” she said in Spanish, translated by Chris Gray, activist with the group 15 Now.  “I have only been able to find temporary work. They pay between $7.25 and $8 an hour. It’s not even enough to pay the rent.”Josefina Franco, another activist at the rally, has friends and family members who work at McDonald’s.“It’s urgent that the minimum wage be raised to $15. It’s urgent because it affects us, especially teenage kids. Continue Reading

May 1 march for immigrant, worker rights in St. Paul

Community organization Mesa Latina and supporters from more than 30 local groups assembled outside the Governor’s Mansion in St. Paul to rally support for immigration reform, worker’s rights, and MN bill HF348, also known as the ‘Driver’s License Bill,’ which would allow individuals in Minnesota to apply for a driver’s license regardless of their current immigration status. The rally was followed by a three-mile march down Summit Avenue to the steps of the State Capitol building, where the crowd swelled to almost 2,000 people.Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. Continue Reading

What’s the real Teach for America? TFA Truth Tour tells surprising stories

Every year thousands of students from more than 800 universities and colleges across the U.S. apply to become Teach For America (TFA) corps members, hoping to gain teaching experience with youth in low-income schools. The TFA Truth Tour told stories of under-prepared recruits, and sweetheart contracts between schools and TFA. Students at Macalester College hosted a presentation and Q & A session on March 31, which focused on adverse effects that corporate education groups like TFA might be having on public schools around the country. The presentation was led by Nick Faber, a teacher and secretary of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers; Neja Singhal, a former TFA corps member; and Fran Lawrence, Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers. The event drew more than sixty Macalester students, community members, former TFA corps members and the TFA Executive Director for Minnesota, Crystal Brakke.“I really believe that if more college students actually knew what TFA was doing at the policy level, they would not be applying to be a corps member. They would never want to be a part of this organization,” said Neja Singhal, who relocated with the program to the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas after her graduation from the University of Maryland.During the presentation, Singhal shared how she first got involved with TFA as a student organizer during her senior year as an international business major. Continue Reading

‘School-to-prison pipeline, stop, stop, stop!’

Twin Cities youth and their adult allies received supportive honking and shouting from drivers as they gathered with banners at the intersection of University Avenue and Lexington Parkway in St. Paul on March 13. Their aim: to raise awareness about discipline concerns in schools and to demonstrate against the school-to-prison pipeline.The group of about 30 advocates marched down University Avenue to Gordon Parks High School where they were joined by additional students and supporters. Standing in front of Gordon Parks High School, some students took turns sharing personal experiences with disciplinary action in schools.This was the second rally organized in recent weeks by the NAACP St. Paul Youth and Collegiate Branch. Continue Reading

Paper airplanes to suspensions: Solutions Not Suspensions gets students talking about discipline

A frustrated teacher at the helm of an unruly classroom– students shouting, texting and throwing paper airplanes. Although this type of ‘disruptive behavior’ may be a reality for many teachers on a daily basis, this particular scenario was part of a role play exercise performed by students at a recent Solutions Not Suspensions event in North Minneapolis, aimed at getting Minneapolis students involved in school discipline practices.

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Kenyan Member of Parliament, public health advocate looks to Minnesota, “my second home” for partners

Honorable Shukran Gure, one of the first women elected to Parliament in Kenya, has been in Minnesota since January 23rd networking with local non-profits, non-governmental organizations and city governments to create partnerships aimed at improving the lives of the people she represents in Garissa County, Kenya.Building maternity clinics, creating education and youth empowerment opportunities have been key goals of her foundation, which she created when she was elected to office in March 2013. She quickly realized that the government didn’t have any funds allocated to support programs for women and youth. So she decided to do something about it. “I created my foundation to mobilize resources so that I could help (the) people that I represent, women and youth,” she said.Gure has strong Minnesota ties, dating back to 2000 when she first came to the Minneapolis with her husband and began working at Fairview Health Services. She enrolled at St. Continue Reading

Red Cross tries to reconnect Minnesota refugee families

Since the 1980s, more than 95,000 refugees have resettled in Minnesota. Sometimes during the resettlement process, only one family member is selected and the rest of the family has to stay behind. Jason Viana, Preparedness and International Services Manager at the Northern Minnesota Region of the American Red Cross, says that this leads to many refugees becoming separated from their families.

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