Reflections of New Minnesotans: The Ebola outbreak and its implications, for Liberia and Minnesota

In this episode, Wynfred Russell joins Julia to talk about the current Ebola outbreak. Russell is a public health advocate, and the executive director of African Career, Education & Resource, Inc., in Brooklyn Park. Russell explains the outbreak, and delves into its implications for the Liberian diaspora, including Liberians in Minnesota. [Audio below] Continue Reading

Desperate times and transitions of global dimensions

This trip to Ethiopia is coming to an end in a few days from now. In the moment I feel some sadness about that need to say goodbye, but it’s also about the state of things here, Africa as a whole and how that reflects the state of the world. I know that I have a certain perspective influenced by the environmental, peace and human rights movements I have actively been a part for most of my life…no apology for that really. From my perspective, and I am not alone on this, there is a catastrophe unfolding now that has not peaked yet. It is like watching an accident in slow motion with silent screams that cannot interrupt our slide into chaos. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Immigration reform: Shared humanity matters more than differences

Although I have not suffered the agony of navigating my way through this country’s broken immigration system, I have experienced the trauma that it causes by keeping people from the ones they love. It is something I think about as I follow the Fast for Families happening in Washington, D.C., and events across the country in support of commonsense immigration reform.I am an African-American. Born outside of Minneapolis to immigrant parents from Eritrea, I was well aware of the challenges of the immigrant experience, but it wasn’t until I told my parents about my work on SEIU’s immigration reform campaign that they related to me the details of my mother’s experience living as an undocumented worker for the first few years of my life.My mother entered the United States after fleeing Saudi Arabia; she was granted a visa to visit my father, who had arrived the year before as a refugee after working at a camp in Sudan. My parents were engaged in Eritrea but separated by the effects of war.By the time my sister and I were born, our mother’s visa had expired and she was facing deportation. In our culture, it’s nearly sinful to separate young children from their mother, so my parents were struggling with this choice: to keep their children from their mother and raise them in the country they sacrificed so much to reach, or to raise them away from their father in their war-torn homeland.My father–the very stubborn, but also incredibly smart man that he is–insisted that our family would not be separated. Continue Reading

“Little Oromia” celebrates all week long in Minneapolis

Every year on the Fourth of July, Minneapolis’ Riverside Park turns into party central for the Twin Cities Oromo community. They’ve gathered there for about 18 years, said Hassen Hussein, executive director of the Oromo Community of Minnesota. The St. Paul-based nonprofit provides social services to ease the transition of Oromo refugees from the Horn of Africa, and also works to educate the Twin Cities about the Oromo culture.Because you can’t reserve space at Riverside Park, Hussein and a group of volunteers start setting up tents, grills, and sports equipment at 4 a.m. The party goes on till 10 p.m. “How many people come depends on the weather,” said Hussein. He estimates that there are more than 30,000 Oromo in the Twin Cities, which some say makes it the largest Oromo population outside of Africa, earning the nickname “Little Oromia.” Continue Reading

Ubuntu “straight talk” for Africans and African Americans aims to tackle Twin Cities racism

The energy and sense of community were palpable during an open, “straight talk” session at South High School for African and African American community members last week. Titled “Ubuntu! Storytelling Across the Boundaries of Nation, Culture and Ethnicity,” the panel discussion and community dialog covered much ground.Some of the topics discussed include: racism, migration histories, complex identities, in-group racial tensions, and the struggles of the black diaspora in the Twin Cities and beyond. The purpose of the discussion was to create a space for people of African descent to find creative ways to work together across ethnic, cultural, and national difference. The audience enjoyed food catered from local African restaurants while the panelists tackled complex subjects through storytelling. The diverse panelists represented different generations: Flamingo restaurant owner and women’s advocate Shegitu Kebede, Malanna Fields, artist and policy advocate Andrea Jenkins, local journalist and editor Lolla Mohammed Nur and community elder Dr. Mahmoud El-Kati. The panel and audience were made up of diverse members of the African, African American, and other communities.The Straight Talk session was organized by Zenzele Isoke, University of Minnesota professor of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies (GWSS), and the Black Feminist Praxis Project Team. Continue Reading

OUR STORIES | Barbara Pierre-Louis: “Ubuntu” and storytelling preserve untold histories

Barbara Pierre-Louis attended the “Ubuntu! Storytelling Across the Boundaries of Nation, Culture and Ethnicity,” a community conversation about migration, nation, identity, and race at South High School. The event was organized by Zenzele Isoke, a professor of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, and the Black Feminist Praxis Project Team.Dr. Pierre-Louis, a professor at Metropolitan State University, reflected on the importance of storytelling to her as a Haitian American in Minnesota. Storytelling is a way of preserving the stories and wisdom of her ancestors and black revolutionaries, such as Toussaint L’ouverture, the leader of the Haitian Revolution, she said. She also talked about the importance of libation, a ritual pouring of water as an offering to a spirit, as a way of celebrating those who have passed. Reporting for this article supported in part by Bush Foundation. Continue Reading

What did Kenyan Minnesotans think of the election in Kenya?

Kenya’s presidential election has garnered much international media attention in the past few weeks, and Kenyans in the diaspora have been an integral part of the conversation. Whether through the Twitter hashtag “#KenyaDecides,” or through Facebook and Youtube, Kenyans worldwide have ensured their voices are heard, including Minnesota’s considerable Kenyan community. Three Kenyan diasporans living in Minnesota shared their views on video with the Twin Cities Daily Planet to briefly discuss their thoughts on the Kenyan election. They are:Julia Nekessa Opoti is a Twin Cities resident and journalist.Charlene Bogonko is a University of Minnesota student and Twin Cities resident.Bundi Ikaio is an international student at the University of Minnesota from Kenya.Our respondents each have different backgrounds, different relationships to Kenya, and various views on the election and international media coverage of the country’s election process.Uhuru Kenyatta, who is currently facing charges by the International Criminal Court, won the election by a narrow margin, according to the official announcement. The 2013 election is significant because it is the first presidential election since the 2007 vote. Continue Reading