President Trump’s tweet puts sanctuary city spotlight back on the Twin Cities

In a tweet shared this April, President Trump said he is “giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only.” The tweet came mere hours after both the Department of Homeland Security and a White House official insisted that that idea had been rejected. When asked about the verity of their statement, the president equivocated. His only political conviction, of course, is to continue casting people seeking refuge at our border as burdens to bear. And yet, amid the sound and fury of all the politicking, cities that call themselves sanctuaries stand to be impacted the most. But what exactly it means to be a “sanctuary city” remains unclear. Continue Reading

2014’s lesson: Take action. Lives depend on it.

December has been a terrible month for human rights—from the U.S. Senate’s report confirming the use of torture, to the slaughter of Pakastani school children, to two grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Overall, 2014 has been an extremely troubling year. Some human rights abuses garnered a lot of attention; many did not, taking place under the radar of the media and public conversation. Let’s consider a few examples, and let them serve as a call to action. Continue Reading

VIDEO: “Dear unborn black son, don’t jaywalk, don’t eat sandwiches…”

Minneapolis Southwest High School student Laye Kwamina reads his poem “Letter To My Unborn Black Child” at the Human Rights Day Rally on December 6, 2014. His poem, laden with references to violence against blacks such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, held the crowd spellbound. In it, he contrasted the stark realities of life for blacks in America with the unending love parents have for their children. He read, “Dear unborn black child, Don’t jaywalk. Don’t eat sandwiches. Continue Reading

Human rights: Common threat, common theme

When Ursula LeGuin and Pope Francis echo each other’s concern for basic human rights being relegated to mere commodities it is time to take heed. As these intellectual giants remind us, human beings have a certain and inalienable right to access to food and access to information and ideas. The right to food and literature transcend the unfettered pursuit of wealth and the power that it affords. Pope Francis spoke at the International Food and Agriculture conference meeting in Rome.(http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49396#.VHjGY8aC14M). Ursula LeGuin shared her thoughts from the prestigious platform of the 2014 National Book Awards. (http://www.nationalbook.org/amerletters_2014_uleguin.html#.VHjFjcaC14M) Continue Reading

Pope Francis speaks out on the right to food access

Over the past couple of years I’ve tried to focus on the seminal issue of the human right to access to food, an issue so complex, political and gnarled that I’ve given up the quest to plumb the depths – until Pope Francis brought it up. Truth to tell, the Pontiff didn’t conjure it up out of the rarified atmosphere of the Vatican – the challenge to unravel the issue has fostered countless efforts, stymied many and challenged human rights activists for a couple of centuries. Continue Reading

Killings in Ethiopia outrage Minnesota’s Oromo community

Members of Minnesota’s Oromo community plan to rally Friday in St. Paul and are calling for a hunger strike to mourn the deaths of student demonstrators gunned down last week by Ethiopian security forces in Addis Ababa.Oromo students and others in Ethiopia have been protesting since April 26 a plan to develop the capital Addis Ababa, saying the proposal will displace farmers in the city outskirts, erase significant landmarks and dismantle the rich culture and identity of the ethnic Oromo people. Because the Oromia region surrounds Addis Ababa, an expansion of the city will mean a further blow to the region and its people, who have been marginalized for decades, they say.Addis Ababa city officials argue the plan will develop and improve the city — one of the fastest growing cities in Africa — and its surrounding suburbs.Thousands of people, mostly university students, took their anger and frustration to the streets of Addis Ababa to express their disapproval of the plan unveiled in April. The ongoing demonstration erupted in violence May 1, the day U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Ethiopia as part of a tour of Africa.There are conflicting reports about casualties, with government officials saying the death toll has grown to 11 and witnesses counting nearly 50 dead.Community Sketchbook focuses on the economic and social challenges facing communities, especially low-income communities and communities of color, and how people are trying to address them. It is made possible by sponsorship support from The Minneapolis Foundation. Continue Reading