Summer 2020: youth programs by the numbers

Summer 2020—and our agency’s summer youth programs—have officially wrapped up. As you can expect in light of a post-COVID world, programming these past few months has looked quite different compared to summers past. Yet despite the added challenges of navigating daily life during a global pandemic, our young folks still took the time to learn and develop their personal and professional skillsets, create powerful multimedia content, and step up to support their community.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what our young folks were up to in summer 2020:

  • 19 urban agriculture interns, in partnership with the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Growing Good initiative, learned how to grow and cook their own food from home!
  • 14 food shelf interns helped neighbors meet their essential needs surrounding food access and crucial services by running our food shelves, making and serving hot meals, and delivering food parcels and prescriptions to elders and families
  • 8 Roots for the Home Team interns grew produce and designed a signature salad using culturally relevant and locally grown ingredients. The cancellation of summer baseball meant they couldn’t sell their salads at Twins games, as in past summers—so instead, they partnered with Open Arms to prepare and distribute fresh salads to thousands of individuals living with chronic illness across the Twin Cities Metro.
  • 7 youth researchers examined issues pertaining to mental health and addiction in the Phillips community, deepening their civic engagement and sense of community connection.
  • Plus 73 paid interns hosted at Pillsbury United social enterprises, including:
    • Sisterhood Boutique, our youth-managed fashion consignment store in Cedar Riverside, where young women cultivated their business savvy and leadership skills;
    • KRSM Radio, our radio station in the Phillips community, where youth learned audio production skills (including podcasting and DJing) to share their reflections on the death of George Floyd, COVID-19, and other issues that matter to them.
    • Brian Coyle Best Buy Teen Tech Center, a space for young people in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood to explore their digital creativity.

All in all, we got the opportunity to work with 121 talented and hard-working young people this summer, engaging them in a mix of virtual and in-person programming across our various agency sites and programs.

While these programs provided valuable opportunities for growth and development, what’s also important—if not more important—is that these programs provided safe and supportive spaces for young people to socially connect and express themselves. As we enter into the new school year with the uncertainty of a socially distanced “new normal,” the power of those connections can’t be overstated.

Congrats 2020 FANS Grads!

Amid a global pandemic and an unprecedented wave of protests in Minneapolis, the class of 2020 has had a very unusual senior year. And yet despite these unique hurdles, this year’s FANS seniors have pushed through to high school graduation. We couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishments.

FANS is a college and career mentorship program for high schoolers, specifically working with students of color, recent immigrants, and other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education. Upon completing the program and graduating from high school, students are eligible for a scholarship to help pay for their continuing education. FANS scholarships are funded entirely thanks to donations from our network of supporters, and 100% of contributions go directly to students to help cover books, tuition, and other expenses.

Keep reading below to meet some of our 2020 FANS graduates below and hear what they have to say about their experiences in the program.

Meet: Zubeda, Roosevelt High School Grad

Why is it important for you to go to college?
It is important for me to go to college because I want to help my family and not depend on anyone else—so I want to give it back to my community, and I feel like going to college and getting an education is the only way I can do that. I also want to go to college because all my life I’ve been going to school and I want to continue to get the education that I need that my friends didn’t get in Ethiopia.

Tell us about your experience with FANS.
FANS has help me prepare for college in many ways. I remember when I first started, I wasn’t really sure about college or what college was, but this program has help me figure out why I need to go to college. I’ve seen people who have been in [FANS] go on to college and become successful, and I want to be like them. It has helped me by going on tours, looking at how I can pay for college, talking with college admission counselors, and just basically preparing me for life after high school.

Youth step up to serve community elders in midst of pandemic

Despite the challenging times we find ourselves in, there is always hope to be found in the selflessness and creativity of neighbors going the extra mile. That’s certainly the case in Cedar Riverside. Since the beginning of Ramadan, 20+ youth organized by the Brian Coyle Center have been delivering more than 200 meals every night to elders, those with limited mobility, and folks who are self-isolating and residing in the neighborhood towers. After a long day of fasting, a warm meal—and a connection with a friendly volunteer—is the perfect opportunity to bridge the social distance.

The Cedar Riverside Community Response Team was first envisioned by a local neighborhood association, the Cedar Riverside Community Council. It was a natural partnership opportunity for Brian Coyle Center, which took the lead in engaging and rallying neighborhood youth volunteers to make the deliveries. The meals are provided by Afro Deli restaurant, and Mixed Blood Theatre has generously provided supplies and space for the team.

While the meals have been warmly welcomed by those 200+ individual community members, the experience has also impacted the youth who are making deliveries. One volunteer, Zubeda, said, “I felt happy fasting and giving back to our elders. It just made me happy and I want to come do it again and again. Hopefully you guys will catch me here a lot more.”

Another volunteer, Akbal, spoke to the opportunity for cross-generational connection:

“Something that’s very important for youth is having this moment to connect with our elders. There’s a huge disconnect between the youth and elders and it may be culture or language. This is the perfect time to learn from them and show them that we care.”

We continue to draw inspiration from our youth volunteers who are stepping up each evening to serve their neighbors—to say nothing of all the partners involved in this, without whom this would literally not be possible. In the midst of uncertainty, it is our honor to stand in partnership alongside others who are committed to seeing our community through this. To all our friends and neighbors who are celebrating—Happy Ramadan!

If you or someone you know residing in the Cedar Riverside towers would like to request a meal delivery, please call 401-285-9247. Please note that this delivery program is reserved solely for elders, people with disabilities, and those who are immuno-compromised.

7 ways to stand with our communities during COVID-19

Waite House staff observing social distancing at food distribution site

Wanting to show up for community right now, but not sure how? In addition to a financial contribution to groups that are providing emergency relief services, here are some other ways you can support our communities in these times of social distancing.

1. Make masks for our essential service workers and community members. Our emergency food and childcare teams are working hard on the front lines to provide needed services to Minneapolis families. In less than a month, our food programs have distributed almost 100,000 pounds of food to more than 1,000 families! But, as with others engaging in front-line work, we are always in need of of face masks to ensure the safety of our team. Not only that, but many of the folks coming for services are also facing difficulty accessing masks, something we’d like to assist with! If you have some extra time on your hands and want to hone some craft skills, consider making homemade face masks for our direct service workers and neighbors. Contact Kim with questions and/or to arrange delivery: KimP@pillsburyunited.org, 612-302-3499.

2. Call in to KRSM Radio. Though we are distancing physically, KRSM Radio is working hard to keep content fresh and to keep folks connected over the airwaves. You can call 612-208-3808 and leave a message for KRSM to share with the community. Tell us about how you’ve been finding joy in these strange times; give a recipe to try; sing a song or recite a poem; share great resources available in your neighborhood; or just tell us how you’re holding up. Let your neighbors, friends, and family hear your voice!

3. Clean out your closets for Sisterhood. Feel like doing some spring cleaning while you’re stuck inside? We encourage you to take a look at your clothing closet! Located in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, Sisterhood Boutique is our gently-used clothing store that doubles as a youth social enterprise. They are always looking for clothing, shoes, and accessory donations (again, gently used please!) to add to their merchandise. So though you might not be able to make the physical hand-off until the shelter-in-place order is lifted, you can feel good knocking out this project ahead of time. Your (future) donation helps fuel a program that equips young East African women leaders with tools and skills for school, life, and more.

4. Shop at North Market. We all still have groceries to get and certainly have a lot of options from where to get them. Consider trying out our nonprofit grocery store, North Market, if you haven’t had a chance yet. It’s not only a full-service grocery store, but also a center for wellness services and a community gathering place in Minneapolis’ Camden neighborhood. It is important to note that they are taking several measures to ensure the safety of their shoppers in light of COVID-19 as well. (Plus, did you know that you can get 50% off all fresh produce EVERY Wednesday!?) Your shopping dollars help support this long sought after community food resource.

5. Read and share North News. Quality journalism doesn’t stop in the middle of a pandemic. With some extra time on your hands, grab a cup of coffee and settle in to read our Northside print (& online!) newspaper, North News. A truly community-based media outlet, North News prides itself on telling the whole stories and truths of Minneapolis’ Northside, not just the one-dimensional narratives often showcased in mainstream media. Like what you’re reading? Share it with your friends and family, and consider signing up to get a copy of the paper delivered to your doorstep each month.

6. Complete the census! Everything happening now is a reminder that our communities are in need of more resources. But did you know that those resources are often allocated based on population numbers from the census? Yep, even for recovery efforts in a crisis such as this. Not to mention housing assistance, school meals, SNAP, WIC, and so on. We only get the appropriate amount of resources if we are counted. We only get adequate political representation if we are counted. If you haven’t already, please take 5 minutes and complete the census today. This is a simple action with significant repercussions. Count your household today and encourage those you know and love to get counted as well.

7. Make a monthly gift. A financial gift is one of the best ways you can support our work during these uncertain times—and one of the best ways to support us financially is by becoming a monthly donor. We know that this will be a long-term struggle. Even after the crisis has passed, our communities will be living with the economic impacts for years to come. Help us continue showing up by signing up for a monthly gift. For as little as $5 per month, you can become part of a circle of grassroots supporters who are enabling all of our vital efforts in community.

Now more than ever, we know that no matter where we go from here, we go together. Thank you for showing up for our communities.

Adult program gains access to more opportunities, arts

EPIC participants performing on stage

Our EPIC Program, Employing Partners in Community, has served adults with disabilities for over 30 years. Though one of our longest standing programs, even that doesn’t make it immune to some changes now and then. One such change—and perhaps the biggest—came this past summer of 2019 when the entire program moved from what was formerly Camden Community Center in North Minneapolis to Pillsbury House and Theatre (PHT) in South Minneapolis’ Powderhorn neighborhood.

Though physically uprooting an entire program to another location on the opposite side of the city may have seemed a little daunting, being re-located into a bustling community-based arts center has since proved to be a “really good, really awesome” change for the program according to Cheryl, who has been with the program for over 20 years. Noting better access to bus routes, resources like health fairs, and other things, she said:

“I think we have a lot more access to services for sure. We coordinate with a lot of professional residents – theatre people and Upstream Arts. I think it’s a better variety for our clients to interact with more members of the community. They coordinate with the daycare too…It’s been a good change for them. I think they all enjoy being here. I think that this is a better atmosphere for them because we’re not so isolated…There’s just more resources around here.”

Since having moved to Pillsbury House and Theatre, EPIC participants have already been involved in a variety of classes, including exercise, theatre, dance movement, and other art forms. Kari, Director of PHT’s Chicago Avenue Project (CAP), said, “I think it’s been a great way to involve them in the work that the theatre staff does because it is very much in line with other things that are going on in the building.” She recently directed two performances that EPIC participants acted in just this month. Each play was from the CAP archive and ran for about 10 minutes. While most of the participants played on-stage characters, others helped with more technical behind-the-scenes aspects like running sound and the lights.

Savannah, one of the EPIC crew members who had been rehearsing the play for three months, said she learned “how to trust people” through the experience. When asked if she would want to do it again, she replied “yes” and said the overall experience was a happy one because she had never acted before.

EPIC is still recruiting more participants. For more information, contact Vickie at VickieB@pillsburyunited.org, or call 612-787-3706.

Gifts that Give Back

"Women are Power" sign held up at Sisterhood Boutique

It’s that time of the year where many of us are out hustling and bustling in search of that perfect gift for someone special. While you are planning out your shopping stops, don’t forget to keep our social enterprises in mind. This holiday season, support your community by shopping with a purpose.

Gifts from Full Cycle

For the biker in your life, consider hitting up Full Cycle Bike Shop in South Minneapolis. From bikes to beanies, hoodies to buffs, t-shirts to studded tires—you’ll be sure to find great gear that supports a great cause. So much more than your run-of-the-mill bike shop, Full Cycle supports young people experiencing homelessness through employment and training in the shop, free bikes, emergency food access, and more.

Special Offer: Bring this coupon in to get 25% off all tune-ups and overhauls through December 31, 2019.

For your theatre enthusiast, don’t forget Pillsbury House & Theatre. As a hub for transformational art, it engages communities in important conversations that lead to positive changes. And guess what? Firmly rooted in a belief that theatre and the arts should be accessible to everyone, they use a pick-your-price ticketing system for their shows. So whether you can swing $15 or $5, you and yours can enjoy powerful works of art by local talent, and know your dollars help make their community building work possible.

Photos from Sisterhood Boutique

For your fashion-forward (and perhaps environmentalist?) friend, check out Sisterhood Boutique in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. As a gently used clothing store that was designed by young East African women from the neighborhood about 5 years ago, today it continues to double as a youth employment program. So, not only can you snag some affordable, stylish clothes, but also know that your purchases support a space for young East African women to explore, express, and educate each other and their community. And hey—shopping resale is always kinder to our environment too.

Special offer: Make your dollars go even further! Bring this coupon in before December 21, 2019 to receive 25% off your total purchase.

Photos of North News & Student Journalists

For your news buff buddy, hook them up with an annual subscription to North News, a grassroots community news source that deepens understanding of and appreciation for North Minneapolis through interrogative and community-sourced journalism. And, what makes this media outlet extra special is that it’s produced in part by student journalists who are gaining media-making skills while expanding perceptions of their community. So not only could you get quality, locally curated news delivered to your (or your buddy’s) mailbox each month, but your subscription supports a training program that is preparing the next generation of journalists, reporters, and media-makers and shakers.

Special offer: Through December 31, 2019, get 50% off the annual subscription price with this coupon!

And for that person in your life who always seems to have the best music recommendations, introduce them to 98.9 FM KRSM, a radio station elevating the vibrant conversations of Minneapolis’ southside. With 20+ shows and programming in 6 languages, KRSM creates an on-ramp to media careers for youth and adults. While listening to the station is always free and there is currently no merchandise to purchase, one gifting option is to make a ‘tribute gift’ in honor, memory, or support of someone using their donation form. Your contribution supports a hyper-local platform amplifying the voices, stories, cultures, and conversations that are often misrepresented and erased by traditional media.

Photos of North Market

And, we can’t forget food for the festivities. Consider getting all your grocery needs at North Market, a new kind of grocery store uniting three elements of community health in one place: nutritious food, health care services, and community wellness. North Market hires from the surrounding northside community, pays living wages, and has products from over 20 local vendors on their shelves. Stock your cart with some fine red meats, delicious pies, fresh produce, and more and support local this holiday season. (And with any purchases of $100 or more, you get a $25 gift card in return!)

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Special offer: Get 25% off fresh produce at North Market grocery store through December 31, 2019 with this coupon.

So—whether it’s bike gear, northside news, theatre tickets, or something else, shopping our social enterprises this holiday season is a win-win. You get affordable, quality gifts for the folks you love AND the dollars you spend go directly to supporting valuable opportunities for people in our communities. Truly, gifts that give back. Thanks for keeping us in mind.

Transforming community through art, theatre

Jon-Michael Reese from Pillsbury House Theatres’ ‘Jimmy and Lorraine: a Musing.’ Photo by Rich Ryan

Pictured above: Jon-Michael Reese from Pillsbury House Theatres’ ‘Jimmy and Lorraine: a Musing.’ Photo by Rich Ryan.

Recognizing that art has more to offer than just a means in which to be entertained, Pillsbury House and Theatre continues the early settlement house tradition of using art as a transformative tool for social justice, a way for people to connect and promote cultural understanding. Speaking of their work within the overall mission of Pillsbury United Communities, Faye Price, Co-Artistic Producing Director of the Pillsbury House Theatre and Co-Director of Pillsbury House, says, “I always think that art, and specifically the art that we do, is another path to health and wellness.”

Their current production, Jimmy and Lorraine: a Musing by Talvin Wilks, explores the lives of James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry, prominent artists and civil rights activists of the 50’s-60’s whose words regarding politics, race, and relationships remain timeless. Price, speaking about how the lives and work of these two individuals are still so relevant in light of the inequities our country continues to face, says, “Our hope is that people can watch these characters—and relive in some cases—or learn who they are and what they had to offer us. And their words of hope, their words of anger. Why does this all feel so familiar decades later? Why are we still going through all of this?” And, at the end of it all, when the lights go down and the play concludes, for the playgoers she hopes for some kind of transformation, that “something has been touched to make them question an event, a feeling, a belief, a thought.”

In addition to theatre being a powerful tool to shift mindsets, it also provides a unique way for strangers to connect. Hull House, the first settlement house established in the U.S. by Jane Addams, used theatre as a way for new European immigrants to mingle. With Italians showcasing the work of their best Italian playwrights, the Polish putting on plays produced by their own best artists, and so on and so forth, different groups used this artistic expression to learn more about one another. “That’s what we’re doing,” Price says. “We believe that culture is a way to speak to everyone. Our demographics have changed, but we’re still doing the work and really kind of walking the talk in terms of using the arts to intersect with people. Inside of our theatre, we see women from shelters sitting beside well-to-do lawyers from the suburbs and Somali teenagers sitting next to Caucasian senior citizens. You enter into this space as strangers and you come out of it with a shared experience which I think is a lovely thing. And hopefully you continue the conversation.”

Also staying rooted in settlement house traditions of valuing accessibility of the arts, Pillsbury House Theatre uses a pay-what-you-can ticketing system so that everyone can experience their productions. “We want people to see theatre that are not able to see theatre, that feel like they’re priced out of it,” Price says. Not only that, but this unique hub for creativity and community also threads art throughout their human service programming of Pillsbury House Neighborhood Center. Resident artists teach classes at their daycare as well as are involved with their on-site day training and habilitation program for adults with disabilities. Older adults are engaged in a ‘Visual Memoir’ class. Their Breaking Ice program uses the arts for diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings. Local artists rotate through a structure in their lobby every two months to “remind everybody that this is a place of the arts, how the arts bring people together, and how the arts can encourage healthy and vibrant communities,” Price says.

And hopefully, this was a small reminder of just that—the power art carries to foster connectedness, creativity, and change. If you haven’t had the chance already, we encourage you to see this in action over at Pillsbury House and Theatre. (Jimmy and Lorraine: a Musing is on-stage until October 20th!)

Growing food as medicine

Community member in urban garden

“Food from the earth,” is what Jessica Thurin, Dietician at the Native American Community Clinic (NACC), referred to it as. As members of an indigenous-led network of organizations in South Minneapolis’ Phillips community working towards healthy food access, the 24th Street Urban Farm Coalition, we’re trying out something new this year: going back to the basics. Back to the earth. Back to traditional methods of healing and nourishing by focusing on food as medicine.

NACC, located just two blocks from our Waite House Community Center, provides a range of healthcare and social services to the surrounding, largely Native community. In an area with significant health disparities, recognizing the role food access has to play in determining health outcomes is critical. Many healthcare institutions might talk to their patients about the benefits of healthy eating without really recognizing or addressing the barriers that exist to do exactly that—where to find this food, how to afford it and access it. That’s why our urban agriculture program teamed up with them to begin providing boxes of freshly grown vegetables to their patients. This produce, grown right in their own neighborhood, will be sold to NACC and distributed to their diabetes groups starting this September free-of-charge in an effort to promote healthy eating and lower blood sugar levels.

“You can be taking all these diabetes medications, but if you have a high carbohydrate diet with breads and pastas and not having a lot of non-starchy veggies which is what is from the garden—that can really cause high blood sugars. And so medications can help, but it’s not everything…I think introducing more foods that are right in our backyard can really help prevent some of these chronic diseases and that’s really what we’re after,” Thurin explains.

And NACC isn’t the only place recognizing the power of food in this way. With another one of our gardens, this is our second year of providing CSA packages to the City of Minneapolis’ Lead and Healthy Homes program. Families are referred to their program when elevated lead levels have been detected within their body, after which they are moved to transitional ‘Safe Houses’ while their homes are removed of lead hazards. While in these safe homes, families receive visits from public health nurses as well as deliveries of our food boxes packed full of freshly grown kale, broccoli, collards, and more. The reasoning, Jim Doten, Environmental Services Supervisor for the City’s Health Department, explains, is because “there’s a link between nutrition and susceptibility to lead poisoning.” If someone is deficient in certain nutrients, especially iron, then their body is more likely to absorb lead. So with this program in particular, our farmers are purposely growing more iron-rich foods that are proven to prevent further lead absorption while also lowering existing levels in the body. Alex Vollmar, supervisor of this program, sees the addition of these CSA boxes as a “very holistic approach to responding to elevated blood levels.”

Back to the basics. Remembering how for thousands of years, indigenous communities have used food for nourishment and healing. It’s something that’s often overlooked now, but so necessary to address in order to close health disparities. As members of the 24th Street Urban Farm Coalition, we look forward to continue moving this work forward alongside NACC, Indian Health Board, and other coalition members. Thurin says,

“Food is medicine. I don’t think a lot of people know that. But our ancestors definitely did that. They used food as medicine. They used traditional medicine plants. I really think that’s important to bring that back now.”

Exploring Minnesota’s great outdoors

Youth camping activities

Our youth programs have wrapped up for the summer in what we thought was the most fitting way possible—spending time in the Minnesota outdoors. Knowing that the summer season here is short and filled with all different kinds of opportunities to be outside, we wanted to take advantage of what the natural wonders of this city and state has to offer.

Over the past three weeks, we’ve lead over 80 youth on four different canoeing excursions—two overnight expeditions in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), one overnight trip along the St. Croix River, and one day trip on Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes. Outdoor expeditions can sometimes be costly and strenuous, but in partnering with the group Wilderness Inquiry, we were able to provide the gear, transportation, and trained guides—all for free.

Maireni, 14, said her favorite part was “Looking at the stars and going to the waterfalls.” And for Luz, 15, it was “Being able to be with nature and talk to new people.” The least favorite part of the experience? The responses were almost unanimous: mosquitos.

While multiple hands-on skills are learned on these trips, from paddling to putting up a tent, making a fire to washing dishes outside—soft skills are strengthened too. Like Baldemar, 14, said, “Teamwork is very vital when you go camping.” Teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills become necessary when experiencing the outdoors overnight for several days, not always alongside familiar faces, and without the comfortable amenities of home. And without the distraction of phones or other digital devices, youth find their own ways to have fun, whether it be through outdoor games, some good old-fashioned singing, or just taking life a little slower by chatting and building bonds with one another.

Engaging youth in the great outdoors has been a Pillsbury United tradition since the founding of the first settlement houses, and we plan to continue for years to come. Next time, we might just bring some more bug spray.

North Market selling local produce, supporting local farmers

Local produce on sale at North Market

Since they opened their doors in December of 2017, North Market has been working to address food access issues and health disparities in North Minneapolis by uniting three elements in one place: affordable nutritious food, health care services, and wellness education. Staying true to its roots of being built with and for the community, they’ve been purposeful about supporting local entrepreneurs. Right now, you can find products from over 47 local vendors on their shelves. And what’s new this summer? Hyperlocal produce from North Minneapolis farmers. Yep—zucchini, kale, tomatoes, and more picked within just a few blocks.

By purchasing food from local farmers, North Market is able to fulfill its mission of providing affordable healthy food AND acting as an engine for local economic growth. Vanan Murugesan, Director of Design and Innovation at Pillsbury United Communities, said:

“We want to expose the community to the great food businesses that are growing in North Minneapolis and when people buy stuff from the community, it’s keeping the money in the neighborhood. So, we are just a platform for people to connect. On one side we have the customers and on the other we have the farmers and entrepreneurs, and we provide this platform for them to do business. At the end of the day, someone in the neighborhood can enjoy food that was made within 2 miles of where they live and there is something special about that.

Not only does this mean customers can access produce harvested sometimes as freshly as the same day, but they can simultaneously support a local food system along the way. One of the partners providing vegetables to the store is Growing North Minneapolis, a community-based collaborative that advances environmental, social, and racial justice in North Minneapolis. Patsy Parker, a Community Garden Steward with Growing North, said that “The impact of the sales allows us to start planning for next year. So we can think about, ‘Ok, next year, what kind of seeds do we need? Can we actually buy seeds as opposed to just waiting ‘til the spring and hoping someone can bring them to us?’ Traditionally, North Minneapolis has not had good access to seeds and seedlings. We’re learning what it is that people want and what people need. You know—we need to plant a lot more okra.”

Another source of freshly grown produce is from our Pillsbury United Communities farm at Oak Park Center. Proceeds made from these sales will be reinvested into the larger urban agriculture and food work that we do here at PUC, allowing us to provide more education and technical support to local farmers while having extra funds to help purchase food for our food shelves and community meals—two programs where we’ve seen an increase in need and decrease in philanthropic funding .

All of this to say, it seems to be a win for everyone—customers, farmers, and North Market alike. Customers can spend their dollars on the freshest produce possible from the backyards of North Minneapolis (also a win for the environment). Local growers can increase their economic mobility or continue to fuel urban agriculture work in North Minneapolis from their sales. And North Market can help fill a food access gap by not just providing healthy food to the neighborhood, but being intentional about sourcing from and supporting that neighborhood when possible. Because if we are serious about working to close the disparities in North Minneapolis and Minnesota, then it’s going to require creative, transformative solutions.

Buraanbur builds connections, brings healing

Buraanbur at Brian Coyle Center

Taking care of your health doesn’t necessarily equate to making routine stops at the doctor’s office. Being healthy and feeling well, safe, and secure requires looking at a bigger picture—focusing on how our everyday lives, work, environment, and choices influence our well-being.

For East African women in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, one way of fostering health and healing has been through a form of dance and poetry native to Somalia: buraanbur. From January through June of this year, about 20 women regularly attended buraanbur dance classes at the Brian Coyle Center hosted by the Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Program (IWAP). This opportunity was made possible through a special partnership with The Cedar Cultural Center and The City of Minneapolis Health Department, and was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. The classes served multiple purposes. Not only were they a way for women to improve their physical health by exercising, but they were also an opportunity to break isolation and build relationships—all while being rooted in their culture.

“We come together here twice a week. We socialize; we dance; we sweat; and we laugh. If someone doesn’t come to the session, we ask each other, ‘Where is so and so?’ and check up on them. We care for each other and have become more than just neighbors. We dance together whilst feeling connected to my culture like it was back in my home country,” one participant said.

Miski Abdulle, our Director of Immigrant Services, touched on how they were not just dance sessions, but also ‘healing sessions’ for some participants who are survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence, the population that IWAP primarily works with. This type of cultural healing “heals the soul,” she said. Participants spoke to her about feeling lighter and sleeping and eating better than before. Some said:

“I get to exercise, be active. And this is good for my mental health too because I feel happy here. It’s a place for women to be together. This is just like family to me.”

“I have become good friends with the women here and I feel a sense of community support and togetherness.”

“I have been coming to these buraanbur sessions because it is a fun place to be. I get to see the same faces, people who are my neighbors. I get to laugh with them, exercise, and enjoy my culture.”

A sense of belonging and community. Cultural connectedness and healing. Artistic expression. These are all pieces in our vision for thriving communities. Because we don’t just want our communities to be healthy; we want them to be well. And that requires looking at the bigger picture.

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