REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK | The State Fair: More than corn and Scandinavians?

Spread throughout the metro are billboards advertising “The Great Minnesota Get-Together” in languages other than English. The sign translates in Somali as “Waa Kulankii Minnesota Wayn” and in Spanish as “La Gran Fiesta De Minnesota.” Fair planners see this as a way to break the stereotypes of a typical Minnesota fair-goer. “The State Fair belongs to everyone in Minnesota,” says Brienna Schuette, the Fair’s Marketing and Communications Manager. “We wanted to reach out to new immigrants, make them feel welcome and introduce them to this state tradition,” as well as “re-welcome the long-time members of those communities.” For Schuette, “these groups are a part of the state’s fabric and culture, which is exactly what the fair celebrates.” These billboards provide an opportunity to discuss how international and multicultural the State Fair is, beyond things like billboards and the “International Bazaar” entertainment stage. We want to hear from you. Continue Reading

A breakdancing phoenix: B-Girl Be rises from the ashes

B-Girl Be is back.“It’s the phoenix rising from the ashes,” said B-Girl Be co-founder Melisa Rivière. Rivière, the head of Emetrece Productions and an anthropology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota, is one of the original founders of B-Girl Be, the summit that stands as one of the few places in the world that not only defiantly makes claims for an expanded role of women in hip-hop, but also for a radically different image of hip-hop itself and what it can accomplish socially.While the first B-Girl Be was held in 2005, its roots extend back into the history of Twin Cities hip-hop. It began as the Encyclopedia of Hip Hop Evolution concert series in 1999, organized by Jamaica Del Mar, Desdamona, Toki Wright, and Larry Lucio. These were monthly concerts featuring performers from all over the Twin Cities. One show per year had an all-female lineup and it turned out to be their most popular show. Continue Reading

Minnesota Somalis gather, reflect on Independence Day

Starting on June 27 and continuing through the next five days, many Somalis in Minnesota will celebrate the 49th anniversary of their country’s Independence Day. Officially July 1, the date commemorates the founding of the Republic of Somalia, as it gained freedom from colonial British and Italian rule in 1961. There are a number of events planned throughout Minneapolis, including all-day events at various cultural centers, soccer tournaments, fashion shows, and concerts designed to unify Somalis in Minnesota that have been divided and dispersed by civil war. Safari Express, a restaurant at the Midtown Global Market, owned by brothers Sade and Jamal Hashi, will offer a full day of events, including historical presentations, a fashion show, live music, cooking demonstrations by Jamal, and children’s activities. “I want to do an introduction of what Somali culture is, Somali 101,” Sade Hashi told me, in hopes of “giving a good exposure of what Somali culture is like.” There are also events, such as these being held at the Brian Coyle Center in Cedar-Riverside, that seem catered less as an introduction to Somalis and more as a day of unity for those members of the diaspora living in Minnesota. Continue Reading

Fong Lee rally video

Here is a video I put together from footage shot at the May 11, 2009 rally for Fong Lee held in downtown St. Paul. Fong Lee was shot by St. Paul police in 2006. For more information, see Fong Lee supporters flex muscle three years after controversial shooting death Rally for Fong Lee from Justin Schell | 612 to 651 on Vimeo.From Fong Lee supporters flex muscle three years after controversial shooting deathFong Lee was shot and killed on the playground of City View Elementary School in Minneapolis as he fled police in July, 2006. Continue Reading