Rochester Somalis say Council on Black Minnesotans no help


Helping to solve the problems of Minnesota’s Black people is among the responsibilities charged to the Council on Black Minnesotans (CBM), a legislature-sanctioned body. Yet, according to longtime Rochester resident Mohamoud Hamud, the tax-funded Council has not offered any meaningful help addressing the problems confronting the Somali community in Rochester since a town hall meeting that the CBM conducted in 1995.

“They [the CBM] haven’t done anything,” Hamud said.

However, Hamud singled out as an exception CBM Board Member Lucky Rosenbloom’s assistance in the Muhdin Yahye Mumin murder case. Mumin was found beaten to death last October in a Rochester alley; two Rochester men currently are awaiting trial on second-degree unintentional murder charges.

Rosenbloom said he began working with members of Mumin’s family, Hamud, and other Somalis about four months ago, showing them how to track the progress of the case. “I was just trying to help them understand how the [justice] system works,” he explained.

“I taught them how to track the case themselves so that they can follow the case and see what motions have been filed, what the prosecuting [and defense] attorneys are doing. What I am doing right now is just making sure they understand what is going on during pre-trial,” said Rosenbloom.

When asked to comment on Hamud’s statement, CBM Executive Director Lester Collins said that the CBM has monitored what’s been happening with the Somali community in Rochester, including hosting a forum held there earlier this year with residents and City officials.

“As a body we may not have been there, but I have been up there several times, along with other people, dealing with different issues,” Collins told the MSR.

“We have talked with the superintendent [and other local officials], and we are still looking at some of the issues, particularly around the lines of criminal justice issues.

“As far as we are concerned, we are following up, assessing information, and trying to look constructively and progressively as we can in resolving issues,” Collins said.

After initially meeting with Somali residents, Rosenbloom said, “I came back and I gave the case over to the Council on Black Minnesotans [sometime in March], and they said they would deal with it,” he reported.

Later, according to Rosenbloom, the Mumin family again asked for his assistance. “The family called me back and said, ‘We heard nothing from anyone — we want you involved.”

Rosenbloom insisted that at no time did he act as anyone other than a CBM board member. However, Collins said that Rosenbloom acted on his own: “We didn’t want to be in conflict with another board member around that issue,” said the Council’s executive director.

Charity McCoy, a CBM board member since 2007, accompanied Rosenbloom to Rochester. “[The family] appeared to be very comforted by us being there,” the St. Paul resident recalled. She added that she also heard comments from Somali individuals to the effect that the CBM does not care about what is happening in Rochester.

“I was sorry to hear that,” McCoy pointed out. “Sometimes when you delay responding, people think you don’t care.”

On whether or not she went to Rochester as a representative of the CBM, McCoy said, “I feel whether I’m going into a grocery store or at work or anywhere, I am representing the Council. When I am no longer an appointed member of the Council on Black Minnesotans, I will no longer be representing them when I leave my house — or when I am in my house.”

Collins argued, “I understand people’s frustrations or feelings on what we might do. I can only tell them that we take it very seriously.”

Rosenbloom believes that it is incidents such as the Mumin murder case in Rochester that most call for the CBM’s involvement. “If we are afraid to get involved in this type of a hate crime,” he said, “then we can’t justify the Council’s [existence] to serve the Black community. Our duties should be working in the best interests of [Black] people.

“I trusted [the Council] to follow up on the [Mumin] case, and they didn’t, so I got back on the case,” said Rosenbloom. “I am going to stay on it until it is over.”

McCoy added that if the CBM is perceived by members of the Somali community in Rochester as not being more actively involved in their concerns, it might be because “we have quite a few individuals on the board who are complacent when it comes to action on behalf of the people we represent.”

“I think we have a good board of individuals,” Collins proudly pointed out. “I would expect the people to hold us accountable and understandably be somewhat concerned.”

Whether in the Twin Cities or Rochester, the Council should do more “to empower the people and educate them on public policy,” McCoy continued. “By that alone, they will [be able] to take action on their own, where they may not need us there as much or need our support. To me, that is the best thing we can do in our positions and power that we have as a state entity.”

Collins concluded, “We are very serious about addressing concerns [in Rochester].”

In the interest of full disclosure, Lucky Rosenbloom contributes a monthly column to the MSR. He is in no other way associated with the newspaper.

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