St. Patrick’s Day disturbances create concerns

“Banish bias, but keep downtown livable,” blared the Star Tribuneeditorial of Monday, March 23, 2015, warning about unacceptable public behavior threatening urban revival while avoiding the frustrations of exclusion felt by African Americans.Since 2006, I have written over 100 columns and blog entries about the need for plans to deal with this, which have gone unheeded (they are listed in our “Solution Paper #47”). The Star Tribune is belatedly reinforcing what this column and newspaper have reported (see column of January 14, 2015: “Promises, Promises, Promises…with no follow through”). We need to signal to young African Americans that the broader community is listening to their expressions of frustration, concern and anger.The solution is not to continue touting prosperity for one segment of the population while carrying out calculated bias against another segment hindering their prosperity. Backlash will dramatically drop if paths to prosperity are open through education and jobs.The St. Patrick Day flash-mob “fun entertainment” disruption (over 300 young people enjoyed fighting with each other for over two-and-a-half hours on the streets of downtown Minneapolis) also caused injuries, including the shooting of two individuals, one in front of Target Field, the other one on West Broadway. Continue Reading

Years Later, Terrell Mayes Jr.’s Murder Still Unsolved

It’s been three years, two months, and twenty-three days since Terrell Mayes was killed by a stray bullet.  Sixty thousand dollars in award money has been added to that time, but we are still waiting for enough information that leads us to his killer.  About a week and a half ago, Terrell’s mother posted in North Talk that nothing has been happening regarding this tragedy.  I gave my word that I would write up a post.  I’m late on publishing it, but there are personal reasons why this is a difficult post to write.A little over a year ago–January 10th, 2014 to be exact–I received news that my ex-wife’s youngest son passed away unexpectedly. Continue Reading

FBI director on police violence

I kept waiting for someone to call out the FBI director James Comey’s recent so-called candid speech on race. Surprisingly too few people did, but he clearly should be called out because he didn’t have an honest conversation about race. However, he reminded us that this is more likely to stay the way it is.An honest conversation would have included telling cops to stop brutalizing and murdering U.S. citizens, not justifying their savage behavior. While people like the socially unaware Don Lemon of CNN applauded FBI director James Comey’s speech saying he was courageous. The truth is that the director actually codified and gave justification to police violence aimed at Black folks, while at the same time blaming Black folks for their own victimization by law enforcement.To be fair, he acknowledged that it is the unjust system that has put Black folks in the position they are in. Continue Reading

U rightly shifts stance on alerts

The University of Minnesota announced Wednesday morning that it will modify its crime alert policy after more than a year of scrutiny for how the messages can perpetuate racism and stereotyping, particularly harming young black men.Under the change, Vice President for University Services Pam Wheelock and the police chief will evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether there’s enough information to include a suspect description when a crime alert is sent.This change is just one of many steps the University must take to make all its students feel comfortable on campus. But effective reform takes time, so we are pleased to see the University finally take this action.The Minnesota Daily’s newsroom uses a similar policy to the University’s new one when reporting on crime. As evident in the Daily’s pages and those of other major newspapers, suspect descriptions are almost always too vague to be helpful.Sufficiently broad policies allowing for case-by-case decisions can be effective, but they require great care.In a crime alert sent Monday, the University listed a suspect as having spoken “with an accent” without any indication as to what that manner of speaking may have been. This exemplifies a detail that does more harm than good in keeping the community safe — the opposite effect the alerts should have.As the University continues with its new, improved policy, we urge officials to err on the side of not using suspect descriptions unless they could clearly benefit to campus safety. [For original article click here:] Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Minneapolis police officer Abdulkadir meets with Somali Families at 2909 Bloomington Ave. S. in Minneapolis

On June 12,  50 family members living at 2909 Bloomington Ave S. met with Minneapolis police officer Mukhtar  Abdulkadir to find solutions to crime and safety problems that have been plaguing their neighborhood and their building.The people living at 2909 Bloomington Ave. S. are predominantly Somali, and many residents speak limited English.  In the past the  language barrier has often meant that some residents have not contacted the police to report crime problems, and when they do they often feel the police do not understand them and are slow to respond adequately.Meeting with officer  Abdulkadir was the first time many of the residents have talked in their native language about their crime and safety problems with a police officer.  They explained  in detail to officer  Abdulkadir what was happening in their neighborhood and in their building.  Their biggest complaints were about intruders who on a daily basis get  into their building and:*Sleep in the front lobby and stairwells overnight*Sneak  into the underground garage and break into cars*Sell  drugs in the building*Urinate in the hallway*Kick in windows in the middle of the night*Smoke in the stairways*Sneak downstairs*Knock on people’s doors in the middle of the nightResidents also said that prostitutes regularly walk  the sidewalk outside their building, and even get into the building and ply their trade downstairs and in the stairways.Families also talked about concerns they had for the safety of  their children. Scores of children live at 2909 Bloomington, and every day dozens play in the  open space out back.  Their play often spills out into the alley.  Parents said that many drivers speed through the alleys at 30 mph+, and suggested that their children would be safer with a fence separating the play area from the alley traffic.  After hearing the lengthy and passionate descriptions of the intrusions and problems, Abdulkadir  offered some  advice.  He said that the problem with the intruders was so huge and endemic, he thought that security inside the building was necessary to get them out.  He also said that working security cameras were a must.Abdulkadir  also said he was ready to continue working with them to successfully deal with their crime problems.Officer Abdulkadir encourages soccer players, thanks soccer coachOfficer Abdulkadir  also told the families about how he became a Minneapolis police officer, and encouraged the youth to consider a career in law enforcement.  He praised  youth involvement in the East Phillips soccer team, and thanked the soccer coach for his efforts.While frustrated by the crime problems in their neighborhood and building, the families felt heartened after their meeting with Abdulkadir, and appreciated having a police officer they knew who could speak their own language.  They looked forward to working with officer Abdulkadir  and the Minneapolis police department to solve their problems and help make the Phillips neighborhood safer for everyone.The families also hope to meet with councilmember Alondra Cano Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Carry permit holder fends off crowbar wielding intruder

Construction worker Craig Paulson was thinking about where to go for lunch as he worked on renovations inside a bank-owned residence in a quiet, tree-lined and well-manicured neighborhood in Uptown on one of the last days in November.His appetite and lunchtime thoughts quickly faded, however, when Paulson, working alone in a back room inside the residence on the 3300 block of Girard Avenue, turned around and found himself faced with a “large” man wielding Paulson’s own three foot crowbar just steps from where he was working.The lifelong construction worker and father of three kids of whom he has sole custody, said that the weather was pleasant that Tuesday morning and that’s why he’d left the door of the residence open and unlocked as he worked. “It’s a nice part of town,” Paulson followed, describing the startling and unexpected encounter with the intruder.Paulson said his crowbar alongside other construction tools had been lying on the floor just inside the front door of the residence where he had been working that morning, and he said that he suspects that the intruder picked up the crowbar when he entered the residence “and carried it throughout the house” until he found Paulson in the back room.Faced with the crowbar wielding intruder who then took a step toward Paulson, a large man himself at over 6 feet tall and 240 pounds, he said he could only imagine what the intentions may be of the intruder whose height “towered over” him, and whom Paulson described as having dilated pupils and acting “like he didn’t know what he was doing.”Instinctively, Paulson – who has a permit-to-carry a firearm and describes himself as a “lifestyle” carrier who has a gun on him “every moment” that he’s awake – reached for and drew his concealed firearm and pointed it at the crowbar wielding intruder.According to Paulson, the suspect then turned and fled dropping the crowbar on the way out of the house. Paulson watched the suspect flee to a parked passenger car about a half a block away where he got into the driver’s side of the vehicle, but Paulson said couldn’t tell if he got into the driver’s seat or the back seat of the vehicle as it sped away.Paulson dialed 911 and reported the incident to police who arrived a short time later and filled out a report calling the incident a “burglary of dwelling,” according to the police report. Paulson said the police told him that it’s “not uncommon” for suspects to enter homes through open doors in the spring and fall looking for items that they can quickly steal while the occupants may be in another part of the house or in the back yard.Despite the fact that police recorded the incident as a burglary, Paulson said he feels like he avoided a “potentially bad situation” that day that could have turned into something much worse. Paulson claims that the responding officer even said they “love the CCW guys.”The Minneapolis Police Department was contacted for this story and was asked whether there has been a pattern of similar incidents in that area or elsewhere in Minneapolis, and they were also asked for information about the frequency of reported incidents of defensive use of firearms by carry permit holders in Minneapolis. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Hmong North Minneapolis Soccer Players Cheer Coach Blong Yang Victory

 Farview Soccer Shout-Out:  “Yeah Blong Yang!!”North Minneapolis Hmong soccer players have some special reasons to cheer  the election of Blong Yang as Minneapolis’ first Hmong councilmember:  not only is he their new alderman, he is also the founding league coach for their  Farview Park soccer team.As the van picked up  Farview soccer players Saturday for indoor soccer, they were asked what they thought of Blong Yang’s election.“I think Blong Yang will be a good councilmember, because he was a good coach,” says Ab Vue.Je Yang gives his thumbs up to Blong as councilmember “Because he is a Yang like me.”“Blong will have some new ideas,”, says Yeng Vang, “and he speaks Hmong, so he can talk with my parents.”Tou Wang Lee is proud that “Blong is the first Hmong elected in Minneapolis.”Coach Blong Yang with 2006 Farview Park 14u soccer teamIn 2006, Blong Yang coached the Farview Park 14u soccer team. This team literally came out of nowhere:  18 months before, all but one of the players were living in a Thai refugee camp.  The players were small and scrawny, and the players from the other teams towered over them:  But with Blong’s drive and guidance,  they won their first game 6-1, and went on to an undefeated regular season and league championship in the Minneapolis Parks Soccer League.  Coach Blong talks strategy with his soccer playersBlong coached Farview teams for three more years, and each year his team won the league championship. As their coach, Blong heard about the many problems his refugee players had in  their schools:  getting hit, lack of bilingual teachers, overcrowded classes.  And he also heard about criminal attacks suffered by the refugee families:  doors busted down while the families were inside, a robber pointing a gun at children  in their house and threatening to blow their heads off, assaults on the street,  thefts and car break-ins. Two  Farview soccer players were hit with stray bullets – both survived. Blong also knew that these refugee families spoke very limited English and would face challenges getting their voices heard.  Blong Helps refugee families explain to Minneapolis Public Schools officials that a 45 student classroom is too bigHe came to meetings and supported families when they said their 40+ student classes were overcrowded and needed to be cut. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | An open letter to the faith community: A call to action

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:40We are a nation divided.Nothing illustrates that more than the cascading protests, rallies, and ardent cries for justice in the aftermath of the “not guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Those outcries and the concurrent spirit of indifference on the part of many privileged Americans tell us all we need to know about how far we still have to go before we see each other the way God would expect.Indeed, the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, painfully reminds African Americans as a community that in spite of possessing the unsurpassable worth granted by Christ, black life is without value to the broader society.While many of us expected to hear words of comfort, hope, and a renewed call for love and justice in our respective houses of worship, instead most of us encountered a resounding immoral silence. Although this silence has been most pronounced and identifiable recently, it is not new. It has been a hallmark of our hasty acceptance of a supposedly post-racial nation, and has contributed to the suffering of the most vulnerable, and “the least of these” within our society.Poor people in general suffer from limited opportunity and access to basic necessities. However, poor boys and men of color – especially African Americans – not only suffer in ways that degrade their humanity, but they are systematically excluded from equitable participation within our society, are denied access to equal opportunity, and are blamed for conditions that have been constructed to disadvantage them.These young men are often feared, viewed with suspicion, criminalized, harassed, and treated with contempt. Continue Reading