Latino community leaders discuss work and organizing

Worker’s rights and immigration reform, the role of organizers in the community, and building connections among organizations were all part of the discussion at the January 22 Organizer Roundtable. Organizers from the Latino community gathered  at St. Paul’s Rondo Library for the Latinos in Action roundtable hosted by the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability. Joan Vanhala, Coalition Organizer with the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, said “I believe there is some very dynamic organizing work and political work being done in the Latino community that needs to be highlighted more. And, also, … I found today the Latino community itself wants to come together and think big picture about their future and work together to make it happen.”Gloria Castillo, a panelist and community organizer with La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, added “I think these conversations need to keep happening, keep discussing how we can work together for a better community. 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 | Bethune Soccer wins on the field and in the community

On Tuesday night, October 15, the Bethune Park soccer team won the 2013 Minneapolis Parks citywide 13u tournament championship.  Bethune defeated Kenwood in the tournament finals 3-2 with a come-from-behind overtime victory. The tournament win caps a year of victories both on the soccer field and in their community.Most of the Bethune soccer players live at City View apartments, north Minneapolis’ largest predominantly Latino housing complex.For over a year the City View soccer players have been working hard to get La Montaña razed. La Montaña was a 30 foot tall pile of construction debris, nearly as high as the three story tall City View apartments next door. The construction rubble was left over from when the Heritage Park housing was built several years ago.   Hidden behind the weeds was a hangout where  men partied, slept and drank.  The hangout was littered with beer cans,  liquor bottles, bedding, toilet paper, underwear and used hypodermic needlesStarting in the spring of 2012, residents of City View apartments worked with Councilmember Don Samuels to get La Montaña taken down.City View Soccer Players Share Findings with Councilmember SamuelsThe City View soccer players  were leaders in the drive to raze La Montaña, meeting with councilmember Samuels in his office and on the soccer field, giving him tours of  the site, documenting problems, and keeping the councilmember up to date on developments. City View Soccer Team Stands Next to The Steam Shovel That Ate La MontañaLast fall, residents of City View apartments cheered as they watched a steam shovel, a bulldozer and other construction equipment ripping into La Montaña.  It took two weeks for La Montaña to be leveled.Councilmember Samuels Drops First Ball for New Soccer Field Where La Montaña Once StoodThis spring, grass seed was laid down on the field which replaced La Montaña.  This summer, Minneapolis Parks donated two soccer goals and set them up where La Montaña once towered.  And on August 5, over 70 residents of City View apartments cheered as councilmember Don Samuels dropped the ceremonial first ball onto their brand new soccer fieldBethune Soccer Players arrive at University of Minnesota UROC Community Open House Two days after their tournament victory, City View soccer players came to the University of Minnesota UROC open house, and told their northside neighbors and U of M faculty about their hard work and their successes.  The soccer players are already talking about what else needs to get fixed in their neighborhood, and inspiring others to join with them.Bethune Soccer Players show U of M Provost Karen Hanson Pictures of La Montaña and players inside the steam shovel diggerBethune Soccer Players Guess Where CURA Ambassador Jeff Corn was Born (Answer:  England)  Continue Reading

MN VOICES | Rosa Tock finds “sense that working together, we can achieve things” in Minnesota

For Rosa Tock, a first-generation immigrant from Guatemala, the sense of possibility is what impresses her most about Minnesota.  “In Minnesota, I have that sense of possibility that things can be done,” Tock said, “There is always the sense that working together, we can achieve things. That sense of possibility is one thing that really makes me feel at home.”Tock first came to Minnesota on a Fulbright Scholarship to finish her Master’s Degree in Public Policy at the University of Minnesota. As part of the program, Tock was required to go back to Guatemala for at least two years after graduating.However, her husband was still in Minnesota, so she eventually made her way back, drawn to the possibilities that the state offered. Tock started out as a human rights investigator with the City of Saint Paul, looking at incidents of potential discrimination. Continue Reading

Mujeres en Acción y Poder

Things have been busy at the Corcoran Neighborhood group as programs for Latinos continue to grow. Community organizer Silvia Pérez Sánchez started the women’s leadership group Mujeres en Acción y Poder at Corcoran after having organized beauty training classes for Latina women in the neighborhood for years. A few months ago I met Pérez Sánchez while doing an interview for our New Normal series, and she invited me to give the Mujeres a workshop on digital story telling. Over the course of the sessions the women in the group each shared a personal story and then worked with me to create an audio slideshow.The resulting stories illustrate issues that Latina women living in Corcoran and Powderhorn deal with every day—stories about caring for sick family members, the challenges of being a parent while working, religion, learning English and neighborhood organizing.  Click on the titles below to meet the Mujeres en Acción y Poder. El Corcoran Neighborhood Group ha estado ocupado ya que los programs por los Latinos siguen creciendo. Organizadora de la comunidad, Silvia Pérez Sánchez armó el grupo de liderazgo, Mujeres en Acción y Poder, después de haber organizado un grupo de entrenamiento de belleza para los latinos en el barrio por años. Continue Reading

The New Normal on the ground in South Minneapolis: Q&A with Silivia Pérez Sánchez

Silvia Pérez Sánchez is fond of saying that since God has given her the gift of organizing, she’d better do something with it. And that she has. Pérez Sánchez has been gaining momentum in her efforts to organize Latina women in Powderhorn Park and Corcoran neighborhoods in Minneapolis. A resident of Powderhorn Park and a community organizer at Corcoran Neighborhood Organization, she’s developed a community garden, turned out Latinos for neighborhood events, and trained women in her Latina women’s group, Mujeres en Acción y Poder (Women in Action and Power). Here she talks about safety, youth involvement, beautification and other challenges facing the two neighborhoods.

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Immigrants, refugees still linked to home countries

How do immigrant lives remain linked to their home countries? When are these ties problematic? How do the links differ from generation to generation and from one immigrant group to another? Immigrant leaders and immigration scholars at the University of Minnesota addressed these questions February 1 at the University of Minnesota. The conference, titled Linked Lives: When are Immigrant and Refugee Engagements Problemetized? Continue Reading

Governor No: Line item vetos and unallotment / Cop pleads guilty / Beware the borer / more

Governor No No new taxes. No special session. No compromise. That’s essentially the message that Governor Pawlenty delivered with $400 million in line item vetoes and a threat that he will balance the budget by unallotment if the legislature does not agree to his terms. Rachel Stassen Berger’s PiPress blog describes who gets hit by the biggest line item veto:In signing the Health and Human Services bill the Legislature sent him, he slashed $381 million in funding for General Assistance Medical Care, a health insurance program for adult Minnesotans who don’t have health insurance but may not be eligible or may not yet be approved for other subsidized health care programs. Health insurance through GAMC is only available to folks who make $650 a month, about $7,800 a year, or less. Many covered under GAMC are homeless. Continue Reading

Unemployment up to 8.9 percent / T-Paw starts the veto engine / World and national headlines

Unemployment up again The unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent in April, as the economy shed another 539,000 jobs. Looking for the bright side – that’s the smallest number of jobs cut since October. But it’s pretty hard to see much of a bright side in the highest unemployment rate in more than 25 years. The Department of Labor also notes:About 2.1 million persons (not seasonally adjusted) were marginally attached to the labor force in April, 675,000 more than a year earlier. These individuals wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. Continue Reading