Transit time hinders upward mobility

Community members, along with leadership from Neighbors Organizing for Change (NOC), Take Action Minnesota, ISAIAH, and several State representatives presented the report It’s About Time: The Transit Time Penalty and Its Racial Implications, which was written by The Center for Popular Democracy, along with additional assistance from local partners. It highlights the racial disparities in the transit system and adds that extra time spent on commuting actually hinders people’s ability to lift themselves out of poverty. Anthony Newby, the executive director of Neighbors Organizing for Change, cited, “the need for more and better funding to get to the heart of racial disparity in transit.” All public transit users spend more time than drivers on their commute alone, but black and Latino transit users spend the equivalent of 3.5 weeks of work more than white drivers on their commute. A May 7th New York Times article reported that commuting time is the single strongest factor that changes the odds of escaping poverty. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Minnesota Oromo demonstration against killing in Ethiopia

In the bracing chilly winds Friday morning May 9, 2014, the Oromo community of Minnesota began their 3-day demonstration, hunger strike and 24 hour vigil, seeking to end the killing of innocent people who are oppressed by the Ethopian regime, Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. “We are together here to voice our opinion against the killing of the students back home in Ethiopia,” said Lalistu Woyesa, a young mother, who along with her children, husband and family, came to show support.  “There are teachers, families, and students who are imprisoned unjustly.  We are showing up here to encourage democratic political change.” At least three Ethiopian regions were represented on the steps of the Minnesota State Capital at the demonstration: Gambella, Ogaden and Oromia.  The approximately 250 people gathered in the early morning, were led in multi-denomination prayer. More demonstrators continued to arrive into the afternoon. Mr. Merga, an Oromian-American for 17 years, came to draw attention to the senseless killings. Continue Reading

REVIEW | Artifact Traffic: multidisciplinary storytelling performance

Daina Ashbee roiled and sinewed herself crossing the stage floor more amphibian-like than human, breathing thick water from low or pawing the air for a gulp of oxygen, during her first dance performance on the stage of Intermedia Arts.  Phil Fried voiced her actions through his electric bass, the audible brother to her physical sister.  Two more dances choreographed by Rosy Simas and danced by Ashbee were accompanied by Fried bringing happy cheers from the audience. Opening night of Artifact Traffic, a performance that is part of the Indigenous Voices Series in conjunction with Pangea World Theater and Intermedia Arts Presents, played to a packed house on November 15. Directed by Heid Erdrich and R. Vincent Moniz, Jr., the show had the feel of a hanging out with buddies while they played with you during recess to entertain you.  Yet, inside the entertainment is a powerful awareness. In the program, Erdrich and Moniz  said, “The performance is a collage made up of collaborative works that contain the artifacts of images, ideas, and influences shared between artists, across artistic genres.”Erdrich’s “Indigenous Elvis” was a series of quick, almost improv skits, involving what would happen if a 911 call came into the center and Elvis, as in Presley but this time an Indigenous man and his response came in the answer of an Elvis song to suit the situation. Margaret Noodin lulled blues songs in Anishinaabe, to Briand Morrison’s deft finger style guitar work, and sang Heid Erdrich’s poem, “The Clouds,” in Anishinaabe.Stuart “Big S2” Perkins and R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. showed their chops as versatile performers, ranging from serious poets to silly dressed bit characters in a collaborative piece, “Pawn Shop.” When Moniz, Jr. donned a set of fragile wings, dream flying round the stage, versing his heart’s wishes, the audience flew with him under his wing.Without titles or introductions of the works to frame the artist’s intention, the audience had to guess at what the intention to be conveyed was. Perhaps as in Stuart Big S2 Perkins’ poem, it is, “yesterday is over-tomorrow never comes-today my heart beats likes the drum.”The show runs Saturday, November 16 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, November 17 at 4:00 pm. Continue Reading

St. Paul Avalon School students talk about censorship

Gathered in Avalon School’s full office, Rhiannon, Miranda, Keara and Michelle were passionate about their desire to be able to read and decide for themselves what they believe. They want to read Eleanor and Park, which their school will be reading as part of the Read Brave program. That’s a St. Paul Public Library program that has teens all reading the same book at the same time — a book that “discusses important topics like bullying, abuse and love.”Rainbow Rowell, the author of Eleanor and Park, spoke to Avalon Students on October 30th, after their lunch time. She’d been scheduled to speak at an Anoka County library, but after a group of parents objected, her appearance was cancelled. Continue Reading

Talking beading and buffalos in South Minneapolis

Somali and Native American women discovered shared cultural similarities at a small group meeting at East Phillips Community Center on October 21. Fowsiyo Aden noted that there is a structure in Somalia called a qualdo, which reminded her in its similarity to the teepee. She also said they have buffalo in Somalia.  Easy laughter followed when Rukia Mohamud asked if they milk the buffalo here. There are buffalo in Somalia but they are wild, while domesticated  camels are milked.Native bead artists taught Somali women how to bead, working on a simple pattern for a key chain. Continue Reading

North Minneapolis mayoral forum disappoints community members

When DeVon Nolen asked her question on food justice at the October 8 mayoral candidate forum at Folwell Park, she expected them to answer. But the 10 candidates recited stock phrases from their print literature. She was disappointed and frustrated with them all.”I asked a multi layered, multi-textured question,” said Nolen, a community activist and lifelong resident of the North Side. “I asked about food justice. I asked about racial justice. Continue Reading

Peacemaker Sami Rasouli: 100 percent Iraqi, 100 percent American

“I am 100 percent Iraqi. I am 100 percent American. So I am now 200 percent humanitarian,” said Sami Rasouli, receiving the 2013 Honorary Award from the Hawkinson Foundation for Peace and Justice. The Hawkinson Foundation page describes Rasouli’s life:”Sami Rasouli left his native Iraq at age 24 to teach in United Arab Emirates and later in Germany. He came to Minnesota and drove a cab until he had enough money to buy a cafe and market. Continue Reading

Minneapolis transit plan for Nicollet Corridor: $94 million or $398 million?

Streetcar advocates, including the City of Minneapolis, dominated the discussion of transit options for the Nicollet Corridor at a September 9 public forum at Minneapolis Central Library. Proponents of enhanced bus and no-build options were hard to find, and streetcars were the darlings of the evening.The complete corridor is 9.2 miles from 46th Street South to 41st Street NE. A proposed streetcar “starter line” would run on only 3.4 of those miles, leaving the remaining 5.6 miles to be served by regular bus — at least in the first stage. With 2013 construction prices, that streetcar line could cost between $183-200 million. An enhanced bus line would cost $94 million and would serve the entire 9.2 miles.Some 23 percent of the residents of the Nicollet Corridor are folks living below the poverty line, and that is a highly transit-reliant group, according to the summary material presented at the meeting.Charleen Zimmer of Zan Associates, acting project manager for the City of Minneapolis, led the presentation. Continue Reading