COMMUNITY VOICES | 200 pack Osseo school district Parents of Color meeting

 On May 22, More than 200 people crammed the main meeting room at the Brooklyn Park Community Activity Center to participate in the Community Town Hall for Parents of Color in the Osseo School District. Most of the participating parents were African immigrants and African Americans. The meeting was hosted  by African Immigrant Services and Legacy Family Center. Teachers and staff of Northview Junior High participated in the planning and logistics of the meeting.A top goal of the meeting was to give the parents an opportunity to talk about what they wanted changed in  their schools, identify solutions, then work together to get solutions implemented.Small group brainstormingPeople gathered around tables in groups of about ten.They then in turn brainstormed these questions: What do you like/dislike about your child’s school?What solutions would you propose?What kind of follow-up would you like to see after tonight?The answers to the like and dislike questions were then written on big easel sheets, and the sheets were taped up on the wall.As the meeting ended, people were given five dots, and asked to vote for the five things they most liked and disliked about their school and the school system.Voting PrioritiesThese dislikes got the most dot votes:1.    Staff not racially similar to students (41 votes)2.    Low expectations for black students (38 votes)3.    Need better support for immigrant students (36 votes)4.    Inconsistent communication from teachers to parents (35 votes)5.    Not enough diversity (32 votes)6.    Blowing black student school issues out of proportion (32 votes)7.    Teachers lack cultural understanding of their students (31 votes)8.    School board is not racially similar to community (30 votes) These likes got the most dot votes: 1.    Hiring people of color (25 votes)2.    Good at getting communications out to parents’s homes (15 votes)3.    There is good diversity (13 votes)4.    Progress made regarding racial equity (11 votes)5.    Cares about exceptional students (10 votes)6.    Open communication (10 votes) Over the next few weeks., parents and community members will be reaching out to more parents, researching possible solutions to the biggest problems, negotiating with the Osseo school district, and working together to get solutions implemented.Even though  the room was packed and noisy, people came away energized and vowing  to work together to improve  their school systemBelow are the easel sheets with dots and the vote count for each like and dislike Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Hmong families tour Minneapolis bikeways, vote to keep streets as is

 To learn more about the possible impact of the proposed North Minneapolis Bikeway, On May 16, North Minneapolis Hmong families packed a van and went on a tour of Minneapolis bikeways.All the participants live on one of the proposed routes for the North Minneapolis Bikeway.The Hmong families toured four Minneapolis bikeways: Milwaukee Ave., Midtown Greenway, Bryant Ave. S., and 37th Ave. N.During their tour, the families saw all three major types of bikeways as described by the city of Minneapolis:Bike boulevard. Bicycle symbols and traffic calming features, parking and street remain. Seen by Hmong families at Bryant Ave. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Minneapolis’ Farview Park hosts inaugural Hmong Flag Football Tournament

On May 3, Minneapolis’ Farview Park hosted its inaugural Hmong flag football tournament.Eight teams vied to win the inaugural Farview Park Hmong Flag Football tournamentEight teams participated, and 300 people came to the tournament. Last fall, a brand new turf football field was built at Farview Park, with support from the Cal Ripken foundation.  Farview staff wanted to increase and diversify the people coming to Farview Park.  A number of Hmong flag football teams play and practice in north Minneapolis, and Farview staff asked players if they would be interested in having an inaugural flag football tournament to officially open the new field. The players gave an enthusiastic thumbs up, and members of team Termination X helped Farview staff plan the details of the tournament and invite teams to participate.On tournament day, five teams came from Minneapolis: Termination X, DOD, New Era, Outlaws, and Avengers.  Three came from Saint Paul: Family, Team Central, and EliteThe flag football tournament was geared towards high school aged players.Minneapolis’ newly elected councilmember Blong Yang gave words of support to the players, and threw out the ceremonial first football.  Before being elected councilmember, Blong Yang was a championship winning soccer coach for Farview Park.MPD officers Blake Moua, Kou Vang talk strategy with Termination X flag football teamMany people working with Minneapolis’ Hmong community came out for the event.  MPD Hmong outreach officers Blake Moua and Kou Vang walked the spaces between the games, shaking players hands and yelling words of encouragement.  Minneapolis Parks police officer Sam Xiong joined them in the afternoon.Tastiest Hmong Eggrolls this side of the PacificWhen they were not in action, players and fans enjoyed a cookout of hotdogs, Hmong eggrolls, and chips. The Hmong football players quickly proved that this was not your grandmother’s genteel flag football tournament.  For six hours the players weaved and swerved, crashed into each other, and threw spectacular passes.When the dust settled, the Saint Paul Family team walked away with the first  Farview Park flag football trophy, edging the gutsy and nimble Minneapolis New Era team 3 to 1Saint Paul  Family, winners of 2014 Farview Park Hmong Flag Football tournamentMinneapolis  New Era, runners-up in 2014 Farview Hmong Flag Football tournamentMinneapolis  Termination X, who helped plan and host the tournamentMany players urged that the tournament become an annual event. And Farview staff said they were ready to continue supporting the flag footballers.Farview Park is located in North Minneapolis. Councilmember blong Yang thanks MPD officer Blake Moua for helping at tournament Congratulations to the winners Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Councilmember Blong Yang gives City Hall tour to North Minneapolis Hmong students

On March 28, Newly elected Minneapolis councilmember Blong Yang gave a tour of City Hall to 20 North Minneapolis Hmong students on spring break from school.trying on hardhat councilmember Yang uses in city tunnelsFirst they crammed into councilmember Yang’s office.  Then they walked the halls of city hall.Some are more spellbound than others by councilmember Yang’s wordsThe students got to see council chambers where for 30 minutes they took over city council. They also saw the office headquarters for Minneapolis police, firefighters, and  Hennepin County sheriff’s office.The new mayor of Minneapolis – at least for the next 30 minutesAlong the tour, students talked with councilmember Yang about what they wanted improved in their neighborhood, from fixing potholes to fewer gunshots to more soccer fields to less snow.The next councilmember YangCouncilmember Yang talked about how important it was to stay in school, and hoped some of them would follow him as members of the Minneapolis city councilPractising his best Law and Order courtroom staredownBlong Yang is Minneapolis’s first Hmong councilmember. Many of these students know him better as soccer coach for the Farview Park soccer teamAfter the tour of city hall, the students got a chance to walk through the skyways and try some pizza.Hmong students run into councilmember Cam Gordon outside city hall, thank him for supporting Hmong police officerEnjoying some downtown pizza after city hall tour Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | North Minneapolis Hmong Families Question Proposed Bikeway

  North Minneapolis Hmong Student Surveys Hmong Families Living on Proposed Bikeway Routes During the first three weeks of March, North Minneapolis Hmong students interviewed 20 Hmong families about  a proposed bike path in North Minneapolis.  All 20 families surveyed  live on one of the proposed routesThe City of Minneapolis has announced that plans are being developed for a greenway and bike path  in north Minneapolis, and has offered three different possible routes.  The Hmong families were given maps showing the possible bike routes, and then asked  these questions: Did you know about the proposed bike path? Answer: 19 out of 20 families said they had not heard of the proposed bike paths.  1 woman said she had heard of the proposed bike path.Has anybody asked you your opinion of the proposed bike path? Answer: All twenty families said that nobody had asked them of their opinions of the              proposed  Bike pathBased on the map, do you want to see the bike path go in, or keep your street the way it is? Answer: 19 ½ families said that they prefer to keep the street as it is.  At one house the younger sister said she wanted the bike path, her older brother said that he wanted to keep the street as is.Many Hmong families surveyed mentioned losing parking as a top concern.  They said that many Hmong households have a lot of family members and several  cars, and need  to be able to park their cars on the street in front of their house.  Several surveyed Hmong families also said that they frequently have gatherings with many guests, and they need the street parking to accommodate their guest’s vehicles. One student surveyor said his family just bought a new car for his sister to get to work, and his family doesn’t  have space in the back to put the new car. Continue Reading

Minneapolis Hmong Outreach Police officer Kou Vang Meets with Northside Hmong Families

 On January 9, 25 North Minneapolis Hmong family members met with Minneapolis Hmong outreach police officer Kou Vang.  They met at University of Minnesota UROC on Plymouth Ave. N. The meeting focused on reducing crime and making their neighborhoods safer.Councilmember Blong Yang and Minneapolis Outreach Police Officer Kou VangThe Hmong families also got a surprise visit from newly elected councilmember Blong Yang.Much of the conversation focused on two problems:  bike stealing, and staying out of  fights at school.The Hmong students said that at school they can be the targets of hitting and bullying and racist comments by other students.  And they said the zero-tolerance policies of some school systems can end up punishing the victims of bullying.The Hmong students asked how they can get help to avoid fights without risking suspensions or expulsions.In one example, a Hmong girl was jumped by four other girls after gym.  The other girls knocked her down, got on her back, and pulled her hair and punched and kicked her.  No adults were around.  When the Hmong girl attempted to defend herself, the school suspended her and told her if she did it again she would be expelled.In another example, some other boys walked up to some Hmong students, called them racial slurs, and started a pushing match.  The Hmong boys were afraid there could be a full scale fight behind the buses the next day, and went to the vice principal to ask his help to prevent the fight.  The vice principal responded by suspending the Hmong students for pushing. Officer Vang suggested that the Hmong students talk with a trusted teacher about what was happening, in detail and right at the beginning of problems before they get really serious.  The teacher is not going to suspend the students, and if necessary can talk to the administrators to head off fights without using student’s names and putting them at risk of suspension.Many north Minneapolis  Hmong youth also complained that they they often get their bikes stolen, sometimes out of their garages and porches, and sometimes by other kids pushing the Hmong kids off their bikes and riding off.  Hmong students reported that sometimes they see other families with their bikes, and often when they go to the families and/or the police to get the bike back, the other families will simply repaint the bikes and claim it was always theirs.Officer Vang told the Hmong kids that when they get bikes, they should always take pictures of the bikes and write down the serial numbers, so even if the bike is repainted the Hmong kids can prove the bike was originally theirs.  The Hmong kids can also take the seat off, write their names on a piece of paper and stick it in the hollow of the steel tube, and put the seat back on. Officer Vang also said that when the Hmong kids play and ride bikes outside they should go in groups, that usually Hmong kids get knocked off their bikes when riding alone.Officer Vang also said that the Minneapolis police department was getting a lot of calls from  northside residents speaking Hmong.Hmong families thank Councilmember Don Samuels (photo by Don Samuels) While the Hmong families were having their meeting with officer Vang, A celebration  for outgoing councilmember Don Samuels was going on in the next room. The Hmong families went over to the celebration and thanked Don for working hard to get a Hmong outreach police officer. The Hmong families had campaigned with Don samuels for three years to get the Hmong police officer.During the meeting everybody enjoyed pizza and pop.Flaming Hot Cheetos – the officially endorsed snack of Hmong soccer players Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Neighborhood groups, ramp up your media coverage!

I want to see neighborhood organizations get more media coverage for their projects and events and meetings.. If you have a picture of a meeting or event, write a caption and email it to your local and/or ethnic papers. They will often print the picture. Submit your picture and caption to the Daily Planet: they can run the picture in their Community Voices. And sometimes Twin Cities area media such as Channel 5, the Star Tribune, and Minnesota Public Radio, will troll through the Daily Planet and local and ethnic papers to find interesting story ideas, and contact you to do follow up stories. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Hmong North Minneapolis Soccer Players Cheer Coach Blong Yang Victory

 Farview Soccer Shout-Out:  “Yeah Blong Yang!!”North Minneapolis Hmong soccer players have some special reasons to cheer  the election of Blong Yang as Minneapolis’ first Hmong councilmember:  not only is he their new alderman, he is also the founding league coach for their  Farview Park soccer team.As the van picked up  Farview soccer players Saturday for indoor soccer, they were asked what they thought of Blong Yang’s election.“I think Blong Yang will be a good councilmember, because he was a good coach,” says Ab Vue.Je Yang gives his thumbs up to Blong as councilmember “Because he is a Yang like me.”“Blong will have some new ideas,”, says Yeng Vang, “and he speaks Hmong, so he can talk with my parents.”Tou Wang Lee is proud that “Blong is the first Hmong elected in Minneapolis.”Coach Blong Yang with 2006 Farview Park 14u soccer teamIn 2006, Blong Yang coached the Farview Park 14u soccer team. This team literally came out of nowhere:  18 months before, all but one of the players were living in a Thai refugee camp.  The players were small and scrawny, and the players from the other teams towered over them:  But with Blong’s drive and guidance,  they won their first game 6-1, and went on to an undefeated regular season and league championship in the Minneapolis Parks Soccer League.  Coach Blong talks strategy with his soccer playersBlong coached Farview teams for three more years, and each year his team won the league championship. As their coach, Blong heard about the many problems his refugee players had in  their schools:  getting hit, lack of bilingual teachers, overcrowded classes.  And he also heard about criminal attacks suffered by the refugee families:  doors busted down while the families were inside, a robber pointing a gun at children  in their house and threatening to blow their heads off, assaults on the street,  thefts and car break-ins. Two  Farview soccer players were hit with stray bullets – both survived. Blong also knew that these refugee families spoke very limited English and would face challenges getting their voices heard.  Blong Helps refugee families explain to Minneapolis Public Schools officials that a 45 student classroom is too bigHe came to meetings and supported families when they said their 40+ student classes were overcrowded and needed to be cut. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | North Minneapolis Hmong Trick-Or-Treating

 University of Minnesota tutors and volunteers took a group of 25  North Minneapolis Hmong refugee youth out trick-or-treating last Thursday.  The tradition of taking Hmong refugee kids out trick-or-treating started in 2005.  A group of Hmong refugees had just arrived in the United States from a Thai refugee camp.  One day they reported hearing the strangest story:  That one day out of the year, they could walk up to someone’s house, mumble some noises, and the person would throw candy at them. These Hmong refugee students said that of course they were way too sophisticated to believe such a ridiculous story.  We told them it was true, and took them out for their first Halloween trick-or-treat in their lives. Every year since then volunteers have taken Hmong refugee students out for Trick-Or-Treat. This year, 25 refugee youth put on face paint in the basement of St.  Olaf church, then went over to St. Olaf Trunk-Or-Treat.Minneapolis police gave out candy at Saint Olaf Trunk-Or-Treat Finally they  then headed out to the Plymouth home of the University of Minnesota’s Jeff Corn, and visited his neighbors. Most of the Hmong refugee trick-or-treaters play soccer for Farview Park.Enjoying their new soccer balls, donated by the Sanneh Foundation The refugee trick-or-treaters got two chances to celebrate Halloween this year:  the Saturday before, the Sanneh foundation came to Farview Park and held a combination Halloween party and soccer clinic.  25 soccer players participated. There was a contest for the best costume/face paint, and the Sanneh foundation gave all the participants soccer balls. Thanks to all who helped. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Bethune Soccer wins on the field and in the community

On Tuesday night, October 15, the Bethune Park soccer team won the 2013 Minneapolis Parks citywide 13u tournament championship.  Bethune defeated Kenwood in the tournament finals 3-2 with a come-from-behind overtime victory. The tournament win caps a year of victories both on the soccer field and in their community.Most of the Bethune soccer players live at City View apartments, north Minneapolis’ largest predominantly Latino housing complex.For over a year the City View soccer players have been working hard to get La Montaña razed. La Montaña was a 30 foot tall pile of construction debris, nearly as high as the three story tall City View apartments next door. The construction rubble was left over from when the Heritage Park housing was built several years ago.   Hidden behind the weeds was a hangout where  men partied, slept and drank.  The hangout was littered with beer cans,  liquor bottles, bedding, toilet paper, underwear and used hypodermic needlesStarting in the spring of 2012, residents of City View apartments worked with Councilmember Don Samuels to get La Montaña taken down.City View Soccer Players Share Findings with Councilmember SamuelsThe City View soccer players  were leaders in the drive to raze La Montaña, meeting with councilmember Samuels in his office and on the soccer field, giving him tours of  the site, documenting problems, and keeping the councilmember up to date on developments. City View Soccer Team Stands Next to The Steam Shovel That Ate La MontañaLast fall, residents of City View apartments cheered as they watched a steam shovel, a bulldozer and other construction equipment ripping into La Montaña.  It took two weeks for La Montaña to be leveled.Councilmember Samuels Drops First Ball for New Soccer Field Where La Montaña Once StoodThis spring, grass seed was laid down on the field which replaced La Montaña.  This summer, Minneapolis Parks donated two soccer goals and set them up where La Montaña once towered.  And on August 5, over 70 residents of City View apartments cheered as councilmember Don Samuels dropped the ceremonial first ball onto their brand new soccer fieldBethune Soccer Players arrive at University of Minnesota UROC Community Open House Two days after their tournament victory, City View soccer players came to the University of Minnesota UROC open house, and told their northside neighbors and U of M faculty about their hard work and their successes.  The soccer players are already talking about what else needs to get fixed in their neighborhood, and inspiring others to join with them.Bethune Soccer Players show U of M Provost Karen Hanson Pictures of La Montaña and players inside the steam shovel diggerBethune Soccer Players Guess Where CURA Ambassador Jeff Corn was Born (Answer:  England)  Continue Reading