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

Cedar Riverside tenants complain about broken elevators, parking woes and disrespect

A group of residents at the Cedar Riverside Towers in Minneapolis’ West Bank neighborhood claim their cars have been ticketed and towed without a reason, have gone long periods of time without a working elevator and are treated with disrespect by Sherman Associates, the company that owns the property. These claims, say representatives and workers from the company are without merit and instead, countered that many making the complaints don’t actually live there.On a recent Friday, more than fifty women stood outside of building A on the Riverside Towers campus holding signs saying, ‘Housing is a Basic Right,’ and ‘We Want Respect.’ Around 2pm, right after Friday prayers finished they began chanting calls for change in both English and Somali as cars passed by with honks and cheers of support.Their complaints were broken elevators (one tenant said the elevator in her building had been broken for nearly three weeks), disrespect on the part of management and…parking. Nearly every woman I spoke with at this Friday protest complained about the lack of parking, the extra fees they pay for their space and the number of times they had been towed. One woman said that while unloading groceries, she came back to find her car gone.A letter dated January 6thwritten by Mohamud Noor from the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota laid out the group’s complaints: discrimination based on race and religion, tenants vehicles being towed out of assigned spots, laundry machines not functioning properly, no parking for visitors, and tenants being charged for repairs.At the end of the letter, Noor asked to have a meeting with management to resolve these issues. Noor said he was contacted by residents who had these concerns and wants to, “bridge the communication gap” between residents and the property management company.“When people don’t talk to one another, you end up having problems,” said Noor when I asked about how residents came to this point of protesting in the street.Valerie Doleman, director of marketing & communications from Sherman Associates, the company that owns Riverside Towers, sees the situation quite differently. Continue Reading

Governor’s Appointment Draws Praise and Applause from Local Somali Community

It’s not everyday that a Governor’s appointment gets special attention, reception or special interest from local and international media. But then again, it’s not everyday that the governor appoints a minimum wage worker to oversee an agency that has such direct impact on the lives of thousands of people everyday. Ibrahim Mohamed, a cart driver for Air Serv is now part of the Metropolitan Airports Commission. His appointment drew more than fifty people, including Governor Dayton, members of the Metropolitan Airports Commission and community leaders on a chilly Tuesday evening at the Brian Coyle Center in the Cedar Riverside Neighborhood.  He is the first Somali-American to hold that post and was appointed by Governor Dayton in Febraury. Continue Reading

Cedar-Riverside fire — what happened, interviews, how you can help

UPDATED 1/4/2014 | The New Year’s Day Cedar-Riverside fire took at least one life, left more than a dozen people injured and homeless, and destroyed a grocery store that was a community gathering place. What are people thinking and talking about on the day after? Lolla Mohammed Nur’s column this week asks if the national media coverage of the Cedar apartment fire is connected to increased scrutiny of Somali Americans. Fartun Ahmed, who lives in Hopkins but considers herself a Cedar-Riverside community member: “I think people are just really sad. They don’t know what to do and how to help. Everybody wants to help and do something but they just don’t know what to do. Continue Reading

OUR STORIES | Burhan Mohumed: ‘Losing our sense of security’

Burhan Mohumed is a Somali American Cedar Riverside resident, and works as an advocate at the Brian Coyle Center. He also helps lead the Brotherhood Program for young Somali males. Here are Mohumed’s thoughts about the Cedar Riverside fire that destroyed a halal market and apartment complex, and left 14 injured.When and how did you find out about the fire? “I was dead asleep and woke up around noon. One of my friends called me saying, ‘Hey did you know one of the halal stores burned down?’ And I was like what? Continue Reading

OUR STORIES | Fartun Ahmed: ‘People are just really sad’

Fartun Ahmed is a Somali American who lives in Hopkins, and identifies as a Cedar Riverside community member. She went to witness the aftermath of the Cedar Riverside fire that destroyed a halal market and apartment complex, and left 14 injured. Here are her thoughts about what happened.Do you live or work in Cedar Riverside? No but I was a student at the Islamic school way before it became Dar al Hijrah mosque. I saw somebody post something on Facebook at 8:40am, and i first thought the fire happened in the [Riverside Plaza] towers.Were you shocked?It was pretty shocking the moment we found out. Continue Reading

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