Wilder Foundation hosts unFRAMED conversations: Blacks discuss Zimmerman verdict’s effects on youth

On Wednesday, August 28, 2013, the Wilder Foundation’s Wilder Center for Communities played host to what was referred to as a “community conversation,” where members of the Twin Cities community were invited to listen to and partake in a discussion about what impact the aftermath of the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent verdict in the Andrew Zimmerman trial will have on how young people — particularly young people of color and specifically African American boys — are taught and raised by those who care about them. The event, billed as unFRAMED: The Lessons of the Zimmerman Trial, was organized by Barbara “Bob-e” Epps and Dave Ellis of the Black Men’s Early Childhood Project (BMECP).

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Up-and-coming playwright Junauda Petrus shows There Are Other Worlds

Junauda Petrus had been living in New York when she was initially inspired to begin the creative process of writing and developing the concept for the gripping play entitled There Are Other Worlds. Her original idea for the performance, which sold out each night of its four-night run, was a little different than the work which was presented at the Open Eye Figure Theatre in Minneapolis April 25-28, 2013.(l-r) ShaVunda Horsely, Nisreen Dawan and Junauda Petrus (Photos by Sally Nixon)At first Petrus just “wanted to do an aerial performance piece featuring all Black women” and combine those elements with “poetry vignettes,” and was inspired by Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. But during the creative process, the concept eventually transformed into a powerful and poignant story that touched on a number of topics considered taboo, such as the treatment of Black women, rape, murder, and the prison industrial complex in the United States.One element of the original concept that remained was the aerial performance, something Petrus wanted to exhibit. She describes aerial performance as “a circus art that deals with hanging apparatuses,” where acrobatic movements are incorporated with the use of materials hung from the ceiling. Petrus started training on the corde lisse, which is French for “smooth rope,” where the performer works with one long rope. Continue Reading

Community involvement now emphasized in Minneapolis Park Board planning

Over the years, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) has had its fair share of critics. Often the criticism has come from residents concerned about the amount of effort the Board and its members have put into providing resources to the community and maintaining park grounds and facilities.Park attendees playing soccer at the East Phillips Park. (Photos by Jamal Denman)Some such critical sentiments were recently expressed in a story published in the MSR (“Youth sports build more than just muscle,” April 4, 2013), where youth sports coach and community leader Laverne Turner questioned if the MPRB’s actions were matching up with their claims of providing extensive programs and activities for youth.MPRB Communications and Marketing Manager Dawn Sommers agrees with Director of Recreation Centers and Programs Al Bangoura that such concerns were warranted some years ago. “We saw the story…and we appreciate [and] we understand his [Turner’s] criticism of the time,” said Sommers. However, they claim that the MPRB has made significant improvements in recent years. Continue Reading

Minneapolis to build 100 green homes on city’s North Side

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is spearheading a project he calls the Green Homes North Initiative, in which he plans on having 100 energy-efficient houses built from the ground up throughout the North Side of Minneapolis. The homes will be built using materials that make them more efficient at controlling interior temperatures and fitted with energy-efficient appliances. They will utilize other products and materials to help reduce waste, conserve energy, and improve air quality.Welcome, MSR readers, to a new section you will see appear regularly in these pages, something we call Green2Green. Most of you by now have heard of the green movement to clean up our planet, stop the waste of precious natural resources, and get climate change under control. What is not always clear is just what this movement means to each one of us in our everyday lives. Continue Reading

Minneapolis’ Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota reclaims cultural wisdom in respecting the earth

In today’s high-tech, hustle and bustle society, it is hard to imagine anyone taking the time to consider the impact their lifestyles have on the planet we all live on. It is even less likely for those in challenging economic situations, who spend most of their time dealing with immediate burdens such as making sure their family has enough food to eat and the rent is paid, to take a moment and think about how their decisions on what to eat and how they live affect the earth.

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North Minneapolis Earth Day celebration focuses on environmental justice, impact on communities of color

On Saturday, April 27, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota (EJAM) and the Minneapolis chapter of the Sierra Club Environmental Justice Program played host to an Earth Day Celebration, held at the Kwanzaa Community Church in North Minneapolis. The event was an opportunity for the community to hear about how the treatment of the environment has an impact on their daily lives while enjoying some food, entertainment, and being in each other’s company.“It’s a celebration. It’s about bringing all kinds of different folks together to share information, to begin building authentic relationships, and to celebrate our connection to each other and our connection to the earth,” said Sierra Club Environmental Justice Organizer Karen Monahan.While many people like Monahan who are passionately involved in environmental justice believe the movement is gaining momentum, they feel that more work still needs to be done. She hopes that they will continue to be able to “move forward with the work that we need to do around environmental justice to make sure that all communities have access to clean air, clean water, and healthy foods.” She also wants to inform people in the community that they “have a chance to be a part of the green renewable economy.”EJAM activist Louis Alemayehu imparted his wisdom to the crowd and recited a poem. He introduced all the other speakers throughout the event, and he was very direct about the importance of understanding how our lifestyles impact the environment, and in turn the population:“We need to reclaim some really traditional values that maybe come from the very villages our [ancestors] started from, where we were living in harmony with our environment and had a lot of respect for it.”Alemayehu said, “There’s got to be a shift. Continue Reading

Youth sports build more than just muscle — Laverne Turner helps students achieve academic success, learn leadership skills

As a youth, local community leader Laverne Turner was heavily involved in organized team sports, and he remembers how positive an impact it had on him growing up. As an adult in 2003, he says he noticed there were no athletic programs for youth in his community, which motivated Turner to develop a sports program for young people in his South Minneapolis Phillips neighborhood — the East Phillips Park Sports Association (EPPSA).To decide which type of sports team to organize, and if there would even be any interest among the kids, Turner surveyed the young people in his neighborhood to get their feedback. “Most kids wanted to play football, so I tried to put together a football team in cooperation with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board [MPRB] at the time,” Turner says.The partnership lasted for a year, and he says it “had some successes. There were a lot of kids that wanted to be a part of [EPPSA]. There was a buzz in the community…but my expectations and the park board’s expectations weren’t the same.”While Turner felt that the quality still had to be at a high level, it soon became apparent to him that having a community sports team provided more than just the opportunity to keep young people physically active. Continue Reading

Minnesota immigrant plans U.S.’s first Somali museum

On Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16 there will be a benefit held at Lincoln International High School in South Minneapolis to increase awareness of and support for a Somali Artifact and Culture Museum. The concept for the museum comes from the mind of Osman Ali, a local businessman and Somalia native who has been living in the Twin Cities with his family for more than 17 years.The museum will be the first to showcase Somali culture and artifacts outside of Mogadishu (which is no longer in operation), and the only one of its kind in the United States and the world.Ali’s arrival and subsequent settling in the United States might be considered a twist of fate, as he initially did not intend to come to America, much less make his home here. He actually was living in Dubai for years, where he said he had a good life, before coming to Minnesota.Although Ali held a well-paying job with excellent benefits, and the government paid for his family’s home (which he described as a “large villa with a swimming pool”), he was encouraged to consider making the move to the States by friends and family who had grand illusions of what life is like living in America.“The name of America was big in the Middle East,” says Ali. “If [someone asks if] you want to buy a visa to America for $30,000, they would accept… If somebody from America says, ‘Hey, don’t go there, you’re going to struggle. Nobody’s going to give you anything, you have to work hard. Continue Reading

Local youth join international poets to hone Brave New Voices

Almost every practitioner of creative art, regardless of the discipline, will be quick to point out that they are motivated to do what they do for very personal reasons. One’s affinity for a particular art form is often connected to at least one emotional, enlightening, and/or life-changing experience.
Tish Jones, executive director of TruArtSpeaks, held a preliminary poetry slam for Minnesota youth looking to compete internationally.

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James Cook still has big dreams for Sabathani

James Cook’s humble beginnings started in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he was born in November 1941. Back then, Pittsburgh was more of rural town where there were no paved streets, and most families lived in homes with large fields where they would plant fruits and vegetables.Cook and his seven siblings were raised in the community by both parents, who did their best to instill strong values in them, such as self-sufficiency, connection to community, and hard work. The importance of such values was mainly exhibited through the work done on the family’s farm.In a system passed on by Native Americans who lived in the community, the Cooks, along with many of their neighbors, grew their own crops and raised animals. “I wouldn’t trade that living experience with anything that I’ve known since,” says Cook.“We were poor, but we weren’t poor; we were very rich in terms of family. We were very rich in terms of environment. Continue Reading