COMMUNITY VOICES | Public reaction to Rachel Jeantel: Evidence that race still matters

Last week, while watching the George Zimmerman murder trial, I was struck by the ways in which race, racism, and socio-economic status continue to play a key role in determining who lives and who dies and who has value and who is perceived as having little value in our society. The fact that in this day and age an African American boy could be targeted for “walking while Black” speaks volumes about the undercurrent of hazardous race relations that are ever-present, yet hidden, until an explosive situation occurs that reminds us of its clandestine and shameful existence. If anyone is under the illusion that race is no longer an issue, then one should look no further than Rachel Jeantel, and America’s response to her appearance in the George Zimmerman murder trial. Indeed, Rachel Jeantel is a 19 year old high school student, a friend of Trayvon Martin who happened to be the last person he spoke to before he was killed, and the star witness for the prosecution in this case. As a teenager, thrust into the middle of arguably one of the greatest controversies of this decade, it is not hard to imagine why Rachel Jeantel would be reluctant to come forward as a witness. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Hmongtown Market drug raid: Not an issue of culture

On June 13th, authorities seized hundreds of pounds of cyanide, steroids, opiates and other mislabeled or unlabeled drugs from more than 15 vendors at a Hmong market in St. Paul. While some of the drugs were out in the open, they also found pills, syringes, and other drugs under curtains, inside baggies, and in unmarked containers. For years, the Federal Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI) warned these vendors, but they still continued to sell these illegal drugs. Not only did this investigation make headlines in Minnesota, but the drug raid that happened at the Hmongtown Market this mid-June put into question the issue of the Hmong culture and legality in the United States. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum: Not sexist, not Minnesota Nice either

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in the One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum that was held at Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis. The Forum was designed to carve out a unique space in which candidates for the Minneapolis Mayoral race would be called upon to bring forth specific solutions to address the growing racial disparities in the City. Unlike traditional political forums, the One Minneapolis Forum was organized by youth workers who are routinely forced to confront the harsh realities of poverty, homelessness, and unemployment through the eyes of the young people they serve. In addition to a specific focus on socio-economic disparities, the Forum organizers sought to ensure that racial disparities would for once be front and center in a major mayoral debate, as opposed to a peripheral issue, as is often the case in such forums. For a video replay, see http://www.theuptake.org/2013/06/06/minneapolis-mayoral-candidates-address-race-issues/.The Forum was Not “Business as Usual”The Forum attracted hundreds of young voters, concerned citizens, seasoned freedom fighters, and a large number of residents from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The energy in the overflowing auditorium was electrifying and signaled the desire for an end to a “business as usual” paradigm in political forums and ushered in the possibility of a new form of citizen engagement in political arenas.The organizers of the event decided that the forum would be highly structured in some respects and free-flowing in other respects to allow for audience participation and feedback. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | The invisible Americans

In this seemingly unending political campaign, these words are reverently uttered dozens of times: “the middle class”.  But there is one group that is rarely mentioned by either party, and nev

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