African Paradise Restaurant Opens in South Minneapolis

All week long, tantalizing aromas have been wafting from the doors of African Paradise Restaurant as they’ve rehearsed for their grand opening, Friday, March 20. The freshly painted walls and ceiling finished from earthy ocher pigments and ample seating split between the sunny front window and the shadowy, more intimate back section provided a choice for dine-in customers.I had the luxury of a sneak-peek sampling from their Mediterranean platter. A large rectangular dish arrived at my table filled with grilled beef and chicken cubes seasoned mildly. Mixed in with the meats were bell peppers and onions. Complementing the meat dish, a vegetarian entrée appeared with spiced peppers and black beans. Continue Reading

Sanneh Foundation Trains North Minneapolis Hmong, Latino Soccer Players

Last week, 40 North Minneapolis soccer players poured into Farview park for the Sanneh Foundation spring soccer clinic.Most of the soccer players were Hmong and Latino.  Many of the Hmong soccer players were born in Thai refugee camps.Several times during the year, the Sanneh foundation comes to north Minneapolis and provides training for players from poor families who could not normally afford this type of coachingSanneh Foundation fits donated soccer shoes on the feet of North Minneapolis soccer playersIn addition, the Sanneh Foundation has donated soccer shoes, soccer balls, water bottles, backpacks and shirts to the players.  The Sanneh soccer camps emphasize soccer as a fun part of a healthy lifestyle of exercise and good  eating.  Both veteran soccer players and those trying soccer for the first time enjoy coming to the clinics.  This April, in addition to learning soccer skills, players learned about good sportsmanship,  and even learned  a little Italian.  In  October,  the Sanneh foundation combines its soccer clinic with a Halloween party.  Sanneh Foundation Halloween Party and Soccer ClinicIn the fall, the North Minneapolis  Hmong and Latino soccer players play in the Minneapolis Parks League, for the Farview Park and Bethune Park soccer teams.  All the players have gotten training and soccer balls from the Sanneh Foundation, and most wear soccer shoes donated by the Sanneh Foundation.2014 Farview 13u soccer team celebrates winning Minneapolis Parks regular season championshipWith the Sanneh Foundation’s help, the Farview Park soccer team has won two city-wide tournaments and six regular season championships in the past three years, and the Bethune soccer team has won two city-wide tournaments and been runners-up in a third city-wide tournament.2014 Bethune 13u soccer team, finalists in Minneapolis Parks city-wide tournamentEach March, the Sanneh Foundation holds its major fundraiser, Gala4Goals.    And every year the Farview soccer team comes down and tells the participants how the Sanneh Foundation helps North Minneapolis soccer players.Farview soccer players at Sanneh Foundation’s Gale4Goals fundraiserIt is the soccer players’ way of saying Thank You Sanneh Foundation. Continue Reading

Power, Politics and Broken Elevators

Politics, dueling agendas and passionate pleas were all part of a recent  meeting at the Brian Coyle community center, where more than 250 tenants from the Cedar Riverside Towers showed up to complain about living conditions there.  Council member Abdi Warsame invited heads of city departments including the office of civil rights, health and safety, regulatory services and State Senator Kari Dziedzic (DFL), who represents the Cedar Riverside area, to be part of a listening session where residents of the iconic Cedar Riverside towers,  complained about broken elevators, lack of parking, and a lack of respect and cultural competency on the part of Sherman Associates and the employees who manage the complex. No representative from Sherman Associates, the company who owns the towers were at the table  listening alongside city employees. Nor was any representative from the Riverside Plaza Tenants Association. Organizers say it was about gathering the community and listening to the residents.”This is all about empowering the residents and hearing their concerns,” said Mohamed Mohamed of West Bank Community Coalition. His organization helped organize the listening session. Residents sometimes became emotional about issues they have been experiencing with Sherman Associates. Continue Reading

Somali students protest hostile racial school climate

Somalis are under attack in St. Cloud because of their race (they are Black), their religion (they are Muslims), and their immigration/refugee status (they are perceived to be untrustworthy aliens).In the 1990s Somalis began to trickle into the city, and now they are probably the largest Black ethnic group, surpassing the number of Black Americans. Like Black Americans, they also experience intense racial and cultural animus. As compared with the White population, Somalis are sharply different in four categories: race (White European vs. Black African), religion (Christian vs. Continue Reading

City hears Riverside Plaza tenant concerns

Cedar-Riverside community members and Riverside Plaza tenants convened Friday at the Brian Coyle Center gymnasium to formally assert complaints about the apartment complex’s management to city officials.For two years, community members have voiced grievances ranging from broken elevators to feeling unsafe in their homes. Minneapolis officials documented the complaints for the first time on Friday and said they will begin assessing them soon.Ward 6 City Councilman Abdi Warsame facilitated the session, while representatives from city offices, including the Department of Regulatory Services, documented the issues.“The most important thing is that tenants feel like they aren’t being listened to, and they’re being taken for granted, even though they pay rent,” Warsame said.Officials listened patiently as an interpreter translated each of the residents’ grievances, many of which were met with cheers and applause from the audience.All of the complaints pointed to the apartment complex’s management company, Sherman Associates. Sherman Associates’ Director of Marketing and Communications Valerie Doleman said its representatives attended Friday’s meeting, but weren’t asked by the meeting’s facilitators to sit on the panel.Some residents said they have seen the building’s security guards smoking marijuana in hallways or stairwells.Doleman said those concerns haven’t been brought up between Sherman Associates and the Riverside Plaza Tenants’ Association in previous meetings, and they haven’t been formally reported.She said the security guards are required to wear body cameras.Warsame said it can be difficult for tenants to express their concerns to the management group because of the cultural divide that exists between residents and the building’s managers.Nine-year resident Assad Birhie said he thinks Somali-speaking security guards would make the residents feel more comfortable.Sherman Associates is requiring extra sensitivity training for all of its Riverside employees this month.Apartment employees are already required to undergo sensitivity training upon being hired as well as throughout the year, Doleman said.Executive Director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota Mohamud Noor met with Sherman Associations and other community leaders late last month to produce a list of action items for the building’s management to improve.He said he didn’t sign the agreement they were discussing because he felt the residents’ concerns of discrimination within the complex weren’t addressed appropriately.Doleman said the sensitivity training is designed to discourage discrimination.“The aim of this was not to be a negotiation between the owners,” Warsame said. “This was just to listen to the community and to understand their concerns.”In 2012, Riverside Plaza completed a $132 million project that aimed to make the complex safer and more attractive. It was funded with both public and private money.Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, said considering the state’s large contribution to the project, she plans to investigate how the money was spent.The director of the city’s Department of Civil Rights, Velma Korbel — who attended Friday’s meeting — said the city’s next step is to analyze the complaints. Continue Reading

The People’s Passion Play

Today is Good Friday, the day Christians around the world commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion.I did not grow up Catholic, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to its iconography, its saints and the pageantry of holy days and feasts. I have a Saint Martin de Porres statue in my house. And sometimes, despite, my lack of religious devotion, I pray.My family was also not religious. In fact, my grandmother and great grandmother, both Salinan Indians from the central coast of California, viewed the Catholic church and all its Missions with a healthy dose of distrust. But, it was part of their lives…floating from background to foreground at any given time. Continue Reading

Uber protests have precedent

Uber, a ride-sharing business that has been in the Twin Cities since October 2012, is protesting a proposed bill that would require its drivers to have additional insurance coverage.  To be exact, the bill would require online ride-hailing companies to cover their business’ vehicles with $1 million insurance policies.  Current Uber policies do not cover accidents in which the other driver is uninsured, but its drivers are constantly at a high risk for traffic accidents — they’re driving in unknown areas while looking at their phones for directions.  However, Mike White, the general manager of Uber, believes the bill would be both unfair and unreasonable, saying it may cost the state jobs. There is now an online petition against it, and many Uber drivers rallied outside the Capitol last Thursday. Officials on both sides are nearing a compromise, but it’s likely this back-and-forth will continue. Despite Uber’s protests, the bill, which is now out of contention in favor of a different measure, wasn’t unprecedented or out of reach. The required insurance policy mentioned in the Minnesota Legislature is almost identical to the policies that limousine and taxi companies pay. Furthermore, Utah passed a similar bill last week, and Uber announced that the policy was acceptable. Continue Reading

Murals Bridge Divides on Snelling Avenue, Saint Paul’s Busiest Street

[At right: Snelling Avenue sidewalks. Photo by Bill Lindeke.]Snelling Avenue is one of the busiest streets in Minnesota, but it’s also one of the most overlooked: narrow sidewalks, aging buildings, and the steady stream of traffic filled with drivers that never seem to notice the rich diversity of the neighborhood around them.This summer, the Midway Murals project, which one a coveted Knight Arts Grant last year, will try to change that. Jonathan Oppenheimer, who wrote the grant for the murals project, is trying to bring together neighbors, business owners, and skilled public artists to bridge both the physical barrier of Snelling’s high-speed traffic and the cultural barriers around different immigrant and non-immigrant communities. The project, which just reached its goal of raising $22,000 from the community,I met Oppenheimer at the Midway Murals official launch at the Turf Club last month, and recently asked him a few questions about goals of the innovative public art project. Snelling Avenue is undergoing a big construction project this summer that will widen the sidewalks and attempt to calm traffic north of University Avenue and around Interstate 94. Continue Reading