COMMUNITY VOICES | The Brian Coyle Center Brotherhood Program: empowering young Somali men to lead and inspire

On the 19th of August 2013, 11 young men who grew up in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of the West Bank in Minneapolis, and who completed high school this year, will have an opportunity to travel to Atlanta, Georgia. This opportunity was realized through the Brotherhood Program at the Cedar Riverside-based Brian Coyle Community Center. The Brotherhood Program emphasizes the need to be inspired, to educate and to be empowered to do better for oneself and community.I am an out-of-school educator and advocate with the Brian Coyle Community Center of Pillsbury United Communities (PUC). I have several roles within the community center: I supervise teens who are employed with our agency during the summer, help tutor in the fall, mentor kids aged 6-18 in our youth program, and I am one of the leads for the Brotherhood Program. In the Cedar-Riverside community, which is home to a large base of African immigrants — mostly Somalis — young men and women are constantly challenged by exaggerated tales of their community being drug infested and violent. Continue Reading

Minneapolis food shelves lay bare

At the end of a long hallway at the Brian Coyle Community Center in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, a small room is lined with shelves and a commercial refrigerator. On the shelves, cans of lima beans sit aside boxes of mac’n’cheese and plastic bags of East Indian spices.Every day when the food shelf closes, the metal shelves are bare. The next morning, workers restock them again from a diminishing supply across the hallway. Food shelves have seen a 14 percent increase in visits during the first half of 2008, according to data from Hunger Solutions Minnesota, a statewide hunger relief agency. Since July, when Becky Burand took over responsibility for the Brian Coyle food shelf, she’s seen monthly increases in demand. Continue Reading

VOICES | A Somali Perspective: Brian Coyle Center Controversy

As America celebrates President-Elect Barack Obama’s historic win, the Somali community in Minnesota is forced to deal with negative press brought about by one of their own. On Election Day, November 4th, stories about Somali volunteers allegedly influencing voters at the polling stations began to appear in the press. Shortly after polls opened at Brian Coyle Center, a precinct inhabited mostly by Somalis, GOP challengers alleged that some voters were instructed to vote for Al Franken by translators. However, two news stories, one by Mshale, and another by the Minnesota Independent reported that witnesses claimed that a translator at the center was instructing people to vote for Coleman. Following these reports, Omar Jamal, a self-described community leader, accused the Somali Action Alliance, a non-partisan grassroots organization, and its volunteers, for pointing voters towards Al Franken. Continue Reading

Somali voters at Brian Coyle Center: Claims, clans, controversies

A mixture of first-time voters, translators, competing community leaders, political issues in Somalia, and clan-based allegiances in the Minnesota Somali community boiled over at the Brian Coyle Center on Election Day.The controversy began November 5, when Omar Jamal held a press conference in which he asserted that translators were telling Somali elderly men and women to vote for Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken. Jamal, a self-proclaimed leader of the Somali community, is executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul. On Election Day, translators had told me that Mohamud Wardere, a staffer in Republican Senator Norm Coleman’s office, was influencing voters. On November 5, KSTP reported “[Jamal] said that at the polling place set up inside the Brian Coyle Community Center in south Minneapolis, Coleman and Franken workers tried to illegally influence a ‘few dozen’ Somali voters.” Continue Reading