Minnesota African American Museum

Best of Neighborhood News 10/29: Minnesota black museum locale sold, MPLS students visit Harvard

After a seven-year battle, the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder reports that the long-anticipated site for the Minnesota African American Museum has been sold at auction. Beleaguered by legal battles, shoddy contractors, and broken promises from the state government, the MAAM has faced many barriers due to institutionalized racism, according to activist and the project’s President Nekima Levy-Pounds. Continue Reading

Minneapolis Urban League in trouble

Two weeks ago we wrote about the confusion regarding those who say the Minneapolis Urban League (MUL) is now close to death’s door (see our blog entries of April 1 and April 6), just as the St. Paul Urban League died three years ago, and current leadership who say all is well, and will get even better with more government and nonprofit funding. What do we make of the April 13, 2015 Star Tribune headline: “Minneapolis Urban League accused of potential double dipping,” and the April 16, 2015 headline: “Legislative auditor to investigate Minneapolis Urban League.”Even more troubling is that the concern seems to be the double dipping, not the fact that the programs are not working. Had they not double dipped they could have gone on, business as usual.The hard work of the MUL was once identified by Vernon Jordan as one of the most respected affiliate stars in the Urban League movement in meeting the challenges of the 1920s and on through the 80s. The decline began in 1990, right after the last “State of the MUL in 1989” (see Chapter 14 of The Minneapolis Story, “The Role of Minneapolis Black Organizations”). Continue Reading

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

Twins’ new season comes with new Black coach

The Minnesota Twins earlier this week opened its 2015 season with a new manager and its first Black coach since 2012. Butch Davis was hired in January as first base coach.Photo courtesy of the MN TwinsButch DavisDavis worked for 20 seasons in the Baltimore Orioles organization as a minor league coach after eight seasons as a major league baseball player (1983-1994). This is his first major league coaching job.“I’m very easy to get along with,” said Davis during a conference call with reporters, including the MSR, shortly after his hiring.Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said he brought Davis on board for his base-running teaching expertise.When asked, Davis downplayed the fact that he is the team’s only Black on staff. “I’m not adding to the diversity,” he told the MSR. “I like to think I am just one more staff member. I just want to be on the staff to help make the Twins better.”Ryan, however, didn’t shy away from the question when asked later: Having more diversity on the staff “was one of the objectives to make sure that we covered all the areas,” responded the Twins GM. Continue Reading

Leadership forum crafts united urban agenda

They came together for the greater good. A one-day gathering of several hundred at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs was convened by the African American Leadership Forum (AALF) and it brought together some who may have had diverging thoughts but common goals. These goals are to put into plan actions that will empower area African-Americans – many of whom have been marginalized and are not seeing the same economic, educational and political gains as their white neighbors. At a time when Blacks in the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota are woefully lagging behind in areas of jobs, housing, education, health and political leadership, and are encountering the criminal justice system at near epidemic proportions, Jeffrey Hassan, the executive director of AALF, said the issues facing Blacks are at a critical level.African American Leadership Forum executive director Jeffrey Hassan addressing the attendees of the recent Crafting a United Agenda conference.”It’s been critical for 400 years,” said Hassan, underscoring the persistent struggle from slavery to current day for Blacks in America. “But at this time – at this moment – we have everything we need to move forward. So as Kim (Nelson, a speaker at the forum) said, if we don’t get things done now, it’s on us.”In addition to Nelson, a senior vice president at General Mills, forum attendees heard from Congressman Keith Ellison; Minnesota’s only Black state legislators, State Sens. Bobby Joe Champion and Jeff Hayden and State Rep. Rena Moran; Harvest Network founder and CEO, Eric Mahmoud; the Rev. Jerry McAfee and a host of others. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Minneapolis cab drivers perpetrate racism as Star Tribune reporters witness blatant bias

After graduating with honors from Grambling State University this past Spring, Brittany Bentley returned to Minnesota to participate in the Teach for America program. Out of ten choices, Minneapolis was her fifth.  We moved to Minneapolis when my daughter was eighteen months old, but she has always believed she’d feel more welcome in other parts of the world. My daughter has grown to accept her placement here after meeting some of the 5th graders she will be teaching in the fall. Her experience this past weekend brings some realities back to the forefront. The race relations issue in this state exists at every level of the spectrum. Here is an account of what she experienced this past weekend while trying to hail a cab in downtown Minneapolis. “Two Caucasian reporters from the Star tribune come up to me and ask how long I’ve been waiting for a cab. I tell them that I’ve been waiting for over an hour. Continue Reading

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

THE EQUITY LENS | No driver’s license, no employment

In the conversations about unemployment and poverty, “personal responsibility” and “self sufficiency” are loaded words thrown around to suggest that the unemployed and the poor should take control of their life, get a job, and pay their fair share of taxes, rather than “freeloading” off the state.  While I disagree with the language used and assumptions that simplify the plight of the poor, I would have to agree that employment is important and essential to economic empowerment. Ask the poor what they need the most, and the answer is not “more benefits,” but “a job.”Job Growth and OpportunitiesThe Department of Employment and Economic Development Department (DEED) reported that 9,500 jobs were added in December, bringing total job gains in the state to 45,900 in the past year. Of the industrial sectors, the construction industry is up 6,500 jobs from a year ago, a 7.5 percent growth rate that is more than triple the U.S. growth rate of 2.2 percent in that industry.It’s important to note that the construction industry pays particularly well ranging from an hourly wage of $15 to $30, way above the minimum wage. We often see the poor stuck in low paying jobs with little to no chance of career advancement, but an industry like construction allows for promotion, where the hourly wage/ salary can increase, and is a felon-friendly job field. Continue Reading