Public Allies volunteer to help raise youth voices

Public Alies participants in ideation session

On March 30, 2019 the Minnesota Youth Council hosted the first of its kind, Youth in Educational Leadership Summit at Patrick Henry High School. The Minnesota Youth Council is a group of youth and adults working together to empower and mobilize young people across the state to use the power of their voices to address issues affecting youth. The event featured many young speakers. Janaan Ahmed spoke about advocacy and leadership and Maddy Fernands spoke about climate justice. Edie Weinstein, a young author, spoke about her book and connecting with people with dementia. More than 200 students, parents, mentors, and teachers participated in the event.

A team of Public Allies volunteered at the event.  They did everything from provide childcare to take photos while not participating in workshops. “As a Public Ally, the experience at YELS was refreshing.” said second year Public Allies fellow You Lee. “Many times, youth voices are pushed aside to make space for adults or professionals in the room. So, it was cool to see youth-led presentations and overall coordination of the conference. I can see that the conference was a good experience for youth as they continue their work in the future.” 

Public Allies is a national movement committed to advancing social justice and equity by engaging and activating the leadership capacities of our young people. Since 1992, Public Allies has helped thousands of underrepresented young leaders serve our country, get on successful pathways to higher education and careers, and bring communities together to work for the common good. Public Allies seeks to find and cultivate young community leaders and connect them to the issues and causes that ignite their passion to create last change. Allies are placed with a nonprofit organization where they help address critical community needs such as youth development, education, workforce development, environmental issues, arts programming and community health.

Sisterhood Boutique celebrates diversity with style

Models at the Sisterhood Boutique fashion show

On March 5, 2019 Sisterhood Boutique celebrated its fifth anniversary with a fashion show. The boutique was started by Somali and east African girls as safe space to learn skills like financial literacy, leadership and sewing by running their own business selling secondhand clothes.

“We do a lot of things and the fashion show is a way to show the community what we’ve been doing. We’ve had over 200 people go through the process,” said store manager Amal Muse.

The fashion show is part birthday party, part fundraiser and features models of all shapes and sizes wearing looks designed by students from the University of St. Catherine’s Advanced Construction Class to reflect the diversity found in the West Bank neighborhood where the boutique is located.

“We have women wearing traditional hijabs and burkas; there’s everything. It really runs the gamut of what you would see walking around in a very fashionable Minneapolis,” said Julie Graves, Director of Career & Future Readiness.

For some of the girls involved with store, the show is a chance to strike a pose, while for others, it’s one more example that the Sisterhood Boutique lives up to its name.

“It’s very family-like. You feel like you are part of a sister family. I don’t have sisters, so I gained sisters,” Ali said.

Pillsbury House Theatre amplifies the stories of older adults

Public memoir reading at Pillsbury House + Theatre

In 2018, Pillsbury House Theatre received a grant to run Centerstage, a series of free memoir writing classes for residents of local Augustana Care buildings. Teaching Artist Jen Scott taught three separate 8-week courses, culminating in a reception at Pillsbury House Theatre in which participants and professional actors read their stories out loud. It was a joyful occasion punctuated with laughter, a few tears, and even music; one of the participants played the harp as she told her story!

This year, Pillsbury House Theatre is doing it again, this time hosting three free eight-week classes for adults 55 and up in their building on Chicago Avenue. The first class, Intro to Memoir, taught by Jen Scott, is wrapping up this month. The second class, Advanced Memoir, will be taught by Dr. Louis Porter starting in June, with a third class to follow later in the summer.

Centerstage is not just about teaching people how to write in the form of memoir. More than that, it’s about empowering people with the knowledge that everyone has a story to be told, and that telling those stories both grounds us in ourselves and connects us to one another.

Plays on the political divide, by and for women at Pillsbury House Theatre

Performance at Pillsbury House + Theatre

Every year since the spring of 2017, Pillsbury House Theatre has produced a series of new 10-minute plays called The Great Divide. Featuring five brand-new 10-minute plays by local playwrights, The Great Divide is a response to the deeply partisan political climate that has become our new normal.

For this year’s installment, titled She Persists: The Great Divide III, Pillsbury House Theatre focused on women’s stories, commissioning plays from local playwrights Cristina Florencia Castro, Casey Llewellyn, Oya Mae Duchess-Davis, Philana Omorotionmwan and Aamera Siddiqui. In addition to the playwrighting cohort, She Persists also featured an all-woman production team and cast, starring Ashawnti Sakina Ford, Audrey Park, Nora Montañez & Sara Richardson.

“These are really politically driven shows, and a few of them deal with the future,” said actress Nora Montañez. “These women, these playwrights took in the theme, and then they went with it, and it’s absolutely gorgeous how different each of these plays are, and how it affects the audience seeing what currently is happening and what could possibly happen in the future.”

Written and performed by and for women, She Persists was a powerful, intersectional look at the place where womanhood and politics collide. To learn about Pillsbury House Theatre’s current season, visit http://pillsburyhouseandtheatre.org/mainstage/

New star emerges at Chicago Avenue Project performance

Chicago Avenue Project performance

Each spring, kids and their adult acting mentors star in plays written just for them by adult playwrights, and each winter, kids and their adult playwriting mentors write plays to be performed by adult actors. The most recent CAP show, Fortune Favors the Bold, was performed by kids and their adult acting mentors on April 22nd and 23rd. Among other stories, the plays included a robot uprising, a wolf directing a nature documentary, and a couple of cartoon characters having an existential crisis!

One of the CAP stars, 8-year-old Deparis, made his acting debut in Fortune Favors the Bold. He played a DJ named Mr. Peep who was on his way to the biggest show of his career, along with his trusty sidekick, Donkey. “I’ve been watching CAP since I was three years old,” he said. “I always wanted to do CAP, and now I have the opportunity, which I’m very excited about… I love CAP because I finally get to let out all my energy and I get to make things that just express me.”

Since 1996, the Chicago Avenue Project (CAP) has brought local youth together with the Twin Cities’ best adult playwrights, actors, and directors to create and produce original theatre that is heartwarming, hilarious, and infused with the brilliance of young minds.

To learn more about the Chicago Avenue Project, visit http://pillsburyhouseandtheatre.org/chicago-avenue-project/.

A special space for women at the Cedar Riverside ‘Women’s Night Out’

East African cultural event at Brian Coyle Center

Brian Coyle Center’s Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Program hosted their 13th annual ‘Cedar Riverside Women’s Night Out’ on March 23rd. It was another beautiful event celebrating the women and multiculturalism of the Cedar Riverside community. As always, the event provided dinner, entertainment, resources and more for women as they network and learn about opportunities in the Twin Cities.

This year, guest speakers included world-renowned Somali sister Pop/R& B music duo FAARROW and Dr. Farhiya Farah from Saint Mary’s University. We even had a surprise guest speaker—Minnesota’s First Lady Gwen Walz! Following dinner, community members had a chance to proudly show off their traditional clothing. Without a doubt, the most popular part of the night was when the women gathered in a circle to dance buraanbur. It was an energizing expression of cultural pride and unity amongst a diverse gathering of women.

Thanks to our dedicated planning partners and sponsors: Augsburg University, The Cedar Cultural Center, Mixed Blood Theatre Company, The University of Minnesota, City of Minneapolis Government, Sisterhood Boutique, Urban Hub: Interfaith Partners in Cedar-Riverside, West Bank Community Development Corporation, & Minneapolis Police Department

The authentic voice of the Northside

North News reporter

Minneapolis’s Northside is a community with a rich history and a bright future. But a full and nuanced account of this neighborhood is seldom told. Instead, perceptions of North Minneapolis and its people are often reduced to a single, negative narrative: one of crime, poverty, blight, and disparity. That storyline feeds a self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as policy makers, law enforcement, and community members subscribe to that narrative, little can be done to change it.

This is where community media can make a tremendous difference. By empowering people to tell their own story, community newspapers and other hyper-local media reveal the truth of a place to the wider public — and, crucially, to the community itself.

That’s the role of North News. Relaunched in 2016 by Pillsbury United Communities,  North News is a grassroots print and digital news source that works to deepen empathy and appreciation for North Minneapolis. Each monthly issue delivers original reporting and insightful stories about people and events shaping our neighborhoods, all told from a Northside perspective.

North News editors and journalists work to capture voices that get left out of the dominant media narratives. In 2018, the paper published stories about mistreatment within the housing system, life after prison, and environmental injustice on the Northside. In the paper’s groundbreaking Trauma Trooper series, journalists captured the trauma-related realities facing youth in North Minneapolis — a vital step in persuading the community and city professionals to respond.

At the same time North News opens minds, it also opens doors. The content is made possible by young writers and reporters in North High School’s daily journalism classes. 58 students have participated since the paper’s relaunch in 2016 — brainstorming ideas, choosing angles for their stories, and identifying their own experts. In the process, they grow their job skills and ambitions and become visible leaders in their community.

In the two years since its relaunch, North News has become the neighborhood’s indispensable voice, with a print circulation of 10,000 papers and online stories and Facebook posts that typically reach thousands of readers each month.

We recognize a key social issue facing Minneapolis is the lack of empathy and understanding of one another’s experiences. By painting a full and vivid picture of a dynamic community — its triumphs as well as its struggles — North News nurtures a foundation for real, inclusive change. We’re helping people tell the story they see and live, not the same old one they’ve always been told.

“I’ve learned first hand how journalists can connect to their communities and the value of the work they do. North News gives us the power and the responsibility to represent our neighborhood.” — Daija, North High alumna and former North News Intern

BY THE NUMBERS

10,000 monthly print circulation

400 public bulk drop sites and home subscriptions

58 student journalists engaged since the paper’s relaunch in 2016

Growing food and security on our own turf

Workers at Freight Farm

Minnesota’s economy was founded on food. Yet today 1 in 8 children in our state struggle with hunger. 1 in 6 Minnesotans don’t know where their next meal will come from. What’s behind this disconnection? While food is plentiful in our state, gaps in income and access mean it’s not getting where it’s needed most — especially in low-income areas and communities of color.

Ensuring families are well fed has been at the heart of Pillsbury United’s work for over a century. Through food recovery and redistribution efforts at our community cafes and food shelves, we’re making a big impact: turning every dollar donated to our food shelves into $7 of purchasing power for families we serve.

But pressure on the system continues to grow. “We’re seeing a 30% increase in clients every year between our two food shelves,” says Ethan Neal, Food Systems Manager for Pillsbury United Communities. “As other centers close, people are migrating to our food shelves. As a result, we have more clients and less money.”

Meeting surging demand means growing our food donations — and finding creative ways to expand supply. Urban agriculture is an ingenious answer. Pillsbury United has spearheaded farm and community garden projects at 10 locations across our sites in the Twin Cities. These farms produce fresh fruits and vegetables for our food shelves and meal programs city-wide, including a hydroponic growing operation that yields healthy greens 365 days a year.

It’s an investment in nutritious food as well as self-sufficiency. “By 2020, we want 40% of the food served at our community cafes to be grown by us right here in the neighborhood,” says Neal. These farms grow human capability as well, providing hands-on education and internship opportunities for young people who want to build a smarter food system. We’re even partnering with the University of Minnesota researchers to build a model for other organizations to follow.

Our vision: to build a closed-loop system that ensures everyone in our communities is well fed with healthy, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food that is locally and sustainably grown. Next, we’re drawing up plans for a Community Supported Agriculture program that delivers homegrown produce to our neighbors at the peak of freshness. That’s how you grow a healthier community from the inside out.

“Getting fresh food, eating good food – it’s going to give them happiness, bring them joy.” — Ghartey, community member and former Waite House volunteer

BY THE NUMBERS

1.2 acres of vertical indoor growing space

4 varieties of healthy greens plus herbs and edible flowers growing at all times

40% of food served in our community cafes will be Pillsbury United Communities grown by 2020

Celebrating multiculturalism in Cedar Riverside

Multicultural dinner at Brian Coyle Center

For over 20 years, the Cedar Riverside Multicultural Dinner hosted by our Brian Coyle Center has stood as a joyful reminder that differences should be celebrated; that even if we look, talk, or worship differently—we are all part of one greater community. This is a unique opportunity for all those connected to the Cedar Riverside community to enjoy international cuisine from local restaurants, watch live performances, and most importantly connect with each other.

“The purpose,” says Brian Coyle Center Director, Amano Dube, “is to bring all the multicultural community groups—residents, business owners, institutions, elected officials, and other service providers—who are living, learning, and working in the Cedar Riverside community to come together and share a delicious meal, stories, and overall just to get to know each other. It is truly a place where everyone belongs.”

This year, about 400 people enjoyed performances by Nigerian-born guitarist, singer and songwriter Carolyne Naomi, dances by the Oromo Student Union (U of M), and spoken word artists. This event is planned in partnership with Mixed Blood Theatre, Augsburg University, University of Minnesota, Urban HUB, the City of Minneapolis, and the Cedar Cultural Center, and is made possible thanks to over 15 sponsors.

Waite House Harvest Dinner connects and celebrates

Thanksgiving celebration at Waite House

Waite House Community Center in the Phillips Community of South Minneapolis is one of the most diverse communities in the state and arguably, the country. Our annual Harvest Dinners are a way to celebrate all the various cultures that are alive in that community, as well as a vibrant opportunity to just simply bring people together. It all begins with connection. By connecting, we can begin to change the things that we want to be changed.

This year on November 15th, we saw about 400 community members, partners, neighbors, and friends attend our event. Guests enjoyed performances by Ecuadorian dance group Away Runakuna, the Michael Norcross Drum Group, and Chinelos San Pablo Apóstol de Axochiapan, Morelos (Mexico). We also hosted kids activities, a pretty popular photo booth, backpack giveaway, and a delectable menu from our in-house Executive Chef Jose featuring buffalo and vegetable tamales, llapingachos (potato cakes), veggies from the Waite House and Mashkiikii Gigitan gardens as well as fall squash desserts. Overall, it was an evening of great food, amazing performers, fun activities, and most importantly—community.

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