Rights forum attacks racial income gap

Nearly 200 community members gathered at the Neighborhoods Organizing for Change office for a forum on workers’ rights in Minneapolis and throughout the state, including a need for earned sick and safe time, fair scheduling, a living wage, and ending wage theft on Saturday, February 28. “When I was working at McDonald’s, I had a baby and had to go back to work ten days later or lose my job–even though I had a C-section,” said Octancia Adams, an organizer with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “They wouldn’t give me paid time off. We need earned sick and safe time for all workers.”Rosa Garcia Perez, a cook at McDonald’s organizing with Centro de Trabajadores Unido en la Lucha (CTUL), spoke about the difficulties of raising a family in a low-wage job. “I have to work the overnight shift by myself–and sometimes I don’t even have time to go to the bathroom or drink water,” said Rosa. “I’m currently four months pregnant, so I need to do both of those things a lot. Continue Reading

Youth Performance Company’s Artistic Director Jacie Knight: “Freedom Riders” a reminder there’s more work to do for equality

Freedom Riders is an original musical production created for the Youth Performance Company by Jacie Knight, Matt Koskenmaki and Kahlil Queen (music and lyrics).  In the summer of 1961, a group of students boarded buses to challenge segregation. Next to Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Emmett Till (don’t miss Penumbra’s production The Ballad of Emmett Till), the March on Washington and all the events in Birmingham, Alabama, the Freedom Riders created a force that spanned the divisions of race. These young people fought for one common goal: equality.    Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Hmong culture: A questioning of values

We are entering into a cultural reformation in our community, where our values today don’t quite align with our culture. For quite some time now, our values and our culture have clashed, which has created social upheaval and alienation in the Hmong community. “What does it mean to be Hmong?” seems to be the the question that every Hmong American goes through; it’s a rite of passage for those growing up in two seemingly opposing cultures. With the majority of the Hmong population now made up of youth, this questioning of the Hmong culture is inevitable. Why are things the way they are? Why has it always been done this way? Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Ryan Williams-Virden – A Salute to the Community

There were so many beautiful people at the Hoodies Up MN march, so much beautiful energy, and it was truly inspiring. I am honored to have been present.To be honest I didn’t expect to feel like this. I was one of those people who thought protests and demonstrations had run their course. I felt like they offered a space for people to vent but were actually counterproductive because people left with no concrete plan to actually affect the balance of power.After the Hoodies Up MN rally, I feel differently.I realized why demonstrations are a crucial part of community building. Thousands of people, who knew each other to various degrees, saw how many people feel like them. Continue Reading

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 | Tim Springer: A Life on Purpose

Tim Springer, a Minneapolis community leader from East Phillips, Powderhorn, and Central for the past 23 years, is running for Minneapolis City Council in Ward 9.  He is known for his leadership of the Midtown Greenway Coalition, where he played a major role in making the Greenway Minnesota’s busiest bikeway and a platform for urban revitalized and community connection. Tim’s accomplishments have not happened by accident.  He has led a life pursuing his values.  His perspectives and experience extend beyond the Greenway.  As Ninth Ward resident Janis Lane-Ewart says, “Tim has the rare combination of impassioned advocacy for challenging ideals like equality and sustainability, while at the same time bringing people together and actually getting something done.”Most of you know Tim as the Executive Director of the Midtown Greenway Coalition, but some of you may not know that he co-founded the Coalition, starting as a volunteer in 1992.  As Executive Director since 1995, he led the Coalition to advocate for creation of the Greenway, now a national model for greenway and urban renewal. During his tenure, Tim tirelessly advocated for safe neighborhoods, friendly trail design and implementation, attractive land use and green space planning, neighborhood art, community partnerships, and neighborhood involvement. The Greenway helped Minneapolis to be named the number-one bicycling city in the nation by Bicycling Magazine in 2010.  Tim has worked with all levels of government including neighborhoods, and city, county, state, and federal officials. Continue Reading