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Posted inHEALTH

Mary Davis uses medical cannabis to help manage chronic pain. But Section 8 rules strictly prohibit her from using the medication in her Minnetonka apartment. Now she vapes in her car—and fears becoming another Black woman criminalized for marijuana.

Mary Davis, who suffers from fibromyalgia and other health issues, has been using medical cannabis for four years to treat chronic pain. She can store the medication in her federally subsidized Section 8 townhome but can’t use it inside. She’s forced to vape it outside under scrutiny from neighbors and the constant fear of being arrested by the police.

Posted inNews

As the Feeding Our Future investigation expands, readers asked us why the government allowed people to allegedly steal tens of millions of dollars in food aid. Here’s what we found.

Could just anyone claim to feed children and get millions of dollars in federal funds? Who was responsible for monitoring food sites under federal Child Nutrition Programs? Did the Minnesota Department of Education follow federal oversight guidelines? We asked state and federal officials about how the food aid programs were supposed to work–and what may have gone wrong.

Posted inCLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Minneapolis City Council members decided Thursday to reconsider the controversial development of a site in the East Phillips neighborhood.

Environmental activists and many locals want the Roof Depot site to be developed into an urban farm with affordable housing. Last fall, the City Council approved the city’s plan to turn the site into a water utility yard—potentially increasing traffic and pollution in a diverse neighborhood that already experiences environmental health problems.

Posted inPOLICING & JUSTICE

Two men have been arrested and charged in the February burglary of Masjid Al-Ilhsan. But mosque leaders are concerned it won’t be the last time they face criminal activity, despite new security measures.

Masjid Al-Ilhsan mosque leaders hired nighttime security and warned congregants to remain vigilant. But they plan to update security equipment after two men broke into the St. Paul mosque and stole a safe, a van, and other items.

Posted inEDUCATION

Strikeblog! All the latest news on the Minneapolis teacher strike: rallies, negotiations, and another day without classes

Minneapolis Public Schools outlines strike’s effects on the school calendar; adult basic education teachers make the case for higher pay; school board chair Kim Ellison shares her approach to negotiations; an economist analyzes Minneapolis teacher pay; educational support professionals speak out on the Northside; and an outdoor rally at the Capitol ends in “Purple Rain.”

Posted inDEMOCRACY & POLITICS

Latina lawmakers and political candidates raise concerns about their place in state politics as redistricting poses new challenges

Maria Isa Pérez-Hedges is making a run for the Minnesota House as Latina lawmakers in the Senate face new roadblocks due to redistricting. DFL Caucus Leader Senator Melisa López Franzen chose not to run for reelection after redistricting placed her in the same district as fellow DFL Senator Ron Latz, a long-time incumbent with history in the area. The changes lead some lawmakers to wonder about the future of Latino representation in the Senate.

Posted inCLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Nigerian immigrant Wale Falade thinks Minnesota is ready to see more work by architects of color. His own firm, FIHAN, just won the bid to redesign Minneapolis’ North Commons Park.

The north Minneapolis park is set to undergo a $21 million renovation with features such as a community center, an aquatic center, athletic fields, an ice skating rink, and an amphitheater.
Sahan Journal spoke to Wale Falade, the Nigerian-born architect leading the project, about listening to community needs, founding a Black-led design firm, and building his own kitchen cabinets.

Posted inDEMOCRACY & POLITICS

FBI election crimes investigator interviewed Somali American elders in Minneapolis.

Five residents of a south Minneapolis apartment building describe early-February encounters with an FBI agent. Together, they say they faced questions about their voting methods in the 2020 City Council election in Ward 6. Several say they were shown images of their IDs or photos of neighbors and a Minneapolis politician. The elders say the FBI encounters left them scared and reluctant to vote in the future.

Posted inCLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Tee McClenty fights for climate justice for all as the new executive director of MN350.

Low-income communities of color are most likely to be harmed by pollution and climate change, says Tee McClenty, new executive director of the Minneapolis nonprofit. As a woman of color who’s passionate about racial
and climate justice, she’s committed to making the fight to address climate change and for cleaner air and water more inclusive.

Posted inEDUCATION

Classroom duties are piling up. Mental health needs are skyrocketing. But pay hasn’t budged. Why Minneapolis and St. Paul educational assistants are ready to strike.

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul teachers unions have identified raising educational support professional pay as a major demand as they prepare to strike. Classroom aides in both cities say they’re working harder than ever, but still struggle to pay their bills. “My job description is, ‘We can ask you to do anything we want,’” says one of her grueling work day.

Posted inPOLICING & JUSTICE

Former Minneapolis police officers convicted on all charges in the killing of George Floyd.

A jury found Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao guilty of violating George Floyd’s civil rights. The three former Minneapolis police officers participated in Floyd’s arrest, while Derek Chauvin, the senior officer on site, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. The jury also convicted Thao and Kueng of failing to intervene with Chauvin, who was found guilty in April on state charges of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s killing.

Posted inCOMMUNITY VOICES

Anne Leland Clark: Payday loan debts have financially hobbled thousands of Minnesotans. Lawmakers and other elected officials must advocate for reform in lending practices, including interest rate caps.

Commentary: At first, a payday loan may seem innocuous and helpful, a way to relieve the immediate pressure of piled-up bills. But soon their high interest rates ensnare the low-income people they target. Such predatory practices have their roots in racist economic and residential policies. The head of Exodus Lending, a St. Paul nonprofit, pleads for “a change in the system.”

Posted inINSIDE SAHAN JOURNAL

Editor’s note: Why Sahan Journal is reporting on alleged fraud in the federal meals program.

I started Sahan Journal to provide committed coverage to immigrants and people of color in Minnesota. But it’s not all good news. Sometimes that means reporting on allegations that some people would rather keep out of the public view. We owe our readers the truth. And we need to be honest with ourselves about potential wrongdoing.

Posted inBUSINESS & WORK

Amalia Moreno-Damgaard quit her job in banking to become a chef and entrepreneur. All she had to do was go back to school, invent a new career, and never stop taking risks.

Making It in Minnesota: Amalia Moreno-Damgaard is an author, chef, and local TV personality. In 2021, the Latino Chamber of Commerce in Minnesota honored her as entrepreneur of the year. And while she studied in culinary school, Moreno-Damgaard also credits the lessons she learned about food and small business from her grandmother, who ran a variety store that served Indigenous customers in Guatemala.

Posted inBUSINESS & WORK

Kamal Mohamed wants to serve new, Ethiopian-inspired food at his dining spot, StepChld. He also wants to throw out the old, tyrannical ways of running a restaurant.

The northeast Minneapolis restaurant reflects founder Kamal Mohamed’s guiding principles. There is no “I” in StepChld, whose dishes reflect the creativity of the whole staff, not just one chef. And its food and atmosphere aim to feed the soul. Kamal describes the cuisine as “music you can eat.”

Posted inEDUCATION

Minneapolis and St. Paul educators plan to strike March 8 if no agreements are reached before then. What you need to know.

Educators could strike March 8 in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. Citing the last two stressful years, teachers and education support professionals in both cities are seeking better pay and expanded staffing, more mental health support, and smaller class sizes. Amid the turmoil, the fate of many teachers of color is uncertain. The school districts say they simply can’t afford what the educators want.

Posted inPOLICING & JUSTICE

Kim Potter, former officer who killed Daunte Wright, receives two-year prison sentence. Wright’s parents decry light sentence: ‘A white woman’s tears trump justice.’

Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter was sentenced Friday to two years in prison in the killing of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop last year. Wright’s parents expressed anger at the outcome: “Kim Potter murdered my son and … today the justice system murdered him all over again,” Katie Wright said.

Posted inDEMOCRACY & POLITICS

Senior aide to Minneapolis mayor leaves City Hall amid food fraud allegations.

Mayor Jacob Frey’s office announced Abdi Salah’s departure following a call from Sahan Journal about the top staffer’s connection to the Feeding Our Future investigation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office says that Abdi used child nutrition funds to purchase a south Minneapolis apartment building. Abdi has not been charged in the investigation.

Posted inCOMMUNITY VOICES

Veena Iyer: The death of the Patel family on the frigid U.S.–Canada border demands a response. We must create a more humane immigration system.

What led an Indian family of four to try to enter the United States in such a risky way? Was it the long wait to join relatives? A visa system that offered no options? Our narrow standards for seeking asylum? We’ll never know, because the Patels lost their lives trying to walk from Canada into Minnesota. For their sake, we must do better.

Posted inCHANGING MINNESOTA

As a girl in Wisconsin, ThaoMee Xiong’s immigrant father worked the halls of her school – as its janitor. Decades later, she works the halls of power in Minnesota for the Coalition of Asian American Leaders.

Xiong saw the importance of hard work, the sting of prejudice and the impact of the legal system on her community as she was growing up. After years as a leader in politics, the nonprofit world and the law, she has been named St. Paul-based CAAL’s new director.

Posted inBUSINESS & WORK

As a child in Cameroon, Samuel Ngwa picked coffee beans on his family’s small farm. He never expected he’d start a coffee import business of his own—in Minnesota.

Making it in Minnesota: After obtaining a master’s degree in the U.S., Samuel Ngwa returned to the family trade. “It dawned on me that all this time when my father was kicking my butt to pick beans, people all over the world were drinking coffee,” Ngwa says. Under the label Safari Pride, he has imported, roasted, and sold coffee from Africa’s “bean belt” for more than 25 years. But the time feels right to grow the business, he says.

Posted inDEMOCRACY & POLITICS

Former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels explores Congressional run against Representative Ilhan Omar.

Don Samuels confirms to Sahan Journal that he is “meeting with people” to discuss a possible run for the 5th Congressional District. And he says he may consider either a DFL primary challenge or running under a different party affiliation. Samuels emerged last year as a political supporter of the Minneapolis Police Department, and fought a ballot measure to overhaul the city’s public safety structure.

Posted inCLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

People of color are more likely to live in multifamily housing with high heating bills. Modernizing Minnesota’s building codes to improve energy efficiency would save them money—and help the environment.

How can Minnesota help people of color who live in big apartment buildings save money—and benefit the environment at the same time? Citing a new study, housing and energy advocates are pushing the Legislature to pass higher energy efficiency standards to reduce heating bills and greenhouse gas emissions.

Posted inBUSINESS & WORK

Making It in Minnesota: Arnold Kubei went bankrupt trying to launch a Twin Cities gas station. Less than 10 years later, the immigrant entrepreneur from Cameroon expects to collect more than $5 million providing social services and housing.

Arnold Kubei says he “lost everything,” after investing all his savings and maxing out his credit cards in a business that went bust. Today, he provides housing services and assisted living facilities through a pair of companies headquartered in Woodbury: Metro Care Human Services and Home Sweet Home of Minnesota. The lesson from his story, Kubei told Sahan Journal, “is to not give up, to not be discouraged. I failed. I went bankrupt. But I stayed consistent to my vision.”

Posted inEDUCATION

Half of all Minnesota community college students struggle to pay for housing. And now, a pandemic rental-assistance program is ending. Students of color and college administrators say they need solutions.

Minnesota community colleges and their students are looking for housing support as federal COVID rental aid expires. When homelessness looms, students say, classes and studying suffer. “We have a serious concern; we are very worried,” says one college administrator.

Posted inPOLICING & JUSTICE

Amir Locke killing leads Black elected officials to condemn failed Minneapolis police reform

State Representative Esther Agbaje learned about the killing of 22-year-old Amir Locke after Minneapolis police raided her downtown apartment building. City Council member Robin Wonsley Worlobah had been pushing for public safety changes in committee meetings. The killing of Amir Locke during a no-knock raid demonstrated to both the city’s inability to change policing and preserve life.

Posted inCOMMUNITY VOICES

Minnesota Black Law Students Association: Amir Locke’s killing must lead to real change in police practices and discipline.

In an open letter, the students write, “The Black Law Students Association demands action. We refuse to support a system that disproportionately targets black bodies and executes them without reservation. Fire the men and women who decided a 7 a.m. no-knock warrant was appropriate. Release the details of the warrant in full. We built this country; we deserve better than living in fear.”

Posted inPOLICING & JUSTICE

Amir Locke lay under a blanket and held a handgun before Minneapolis police shot and killed him, as seen in a newly released bodycam video.

The bodycam footage shows a Minneapolis police SWAT team entering the apartment without knocking and shouting “police search warrant” before the shooting. The search warrant stemmed from a St. Paul homicide investigation, though Locke was not named in the warrant. Mayor Jacob Frey and interim Minneapolis police chief Amelia Huffman answered questions about the latest police killing in a press conference that followed the release of the bodycam video.

Posted inCHANGING MINNESOTA

This week, Minnesotan KaYing Yang joins President Joe Biden’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans. One searing experience she’ll bring to the job: Watching her Hmong parents work against daunting obstacles to build a new life in America.

A seasoned immigrants’ advocate, KaYing Yang sees her new role in the Biden administration as her best opportunity yet to highlight the contributions and needs of her Southeast Asian community. Yang, who arrived in the U.S. at age 7 as a Hmong refugee, has plenty of personal and professional experience to draw from. And she said she won’t be afraid to challenge those in power to do better.

Posted inBUSINESS & WORK

Why hasn’t anyone been charged in the Feeding Our Future investigation? And what’s a search warrant, anyway? We asked a defense attorney to explain what’s happened so far in the alleged food fraud case—and what happens next.

St. Paul defense attorney A.L. Brown explains what a federal search warrant actually does and how it may lead to a grand jury and criminal charges. “It’s best not to try to read into the search warrants,” Brown tells Sahan Journal. “It says what it says. That’s the government’s view.”

Posted inCOMMUNITY VOICES

Hamse Warfa: Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development has made big strides toward expanding opportunities to  Minnesotans of all backgrounds. Here’s how the agency did it.

This month, Hamse Warfa announced he’s leaving Minnesota state government for a role in the Biden administration. He believes Minnesotans and people of color have benefitted from innovations in the way the state Department of Employment and Economic Development reaches out to job-seekers.

Posted inBUSINESS & WORK

Making It in Minnesota: Filipino customers will drive for hours to find food from home. Herman and Faith Rott opened a new grocery store in Mounds View to give it to them. 

Where in Minnesota can you find Filipino favorites like malunggay, puto cheese, pan de sal, and prepared meats like chorizo de Cebu? Until recently, the answer was almost nowhere. That’s why Herman and Faith Rott opened Filipino Village Grocery Store–in the middle of a pandemic. The couple talked to Sahan Journal about how they’re making their business a success.

Posted inBUSINESS & WORK

Men tied to alleged Feeding Our Future fraud donated to reelection campaign of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, records show.

A federal search warrant unsealed last week claims Feeding Our Future, a Minnesota nonprofit, stole money intended to feed disadvantaged children and adults. Owners and partners of Safari Restaurant allegedly took millions. Six of those men made large donations to the reelection campaign of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey–including an individual whom the mayor appointed to a committee for public safety.

Posted inCLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Even on a morning as fiercely frigid as this one, there they were, flying down snowy Twin Cities streets with condensation puffing from their wrapped-up faces–winter bicyclists. Among those hardy riders are an increasing number of riders of color.

It’s affordable. It’s great exercise. It’s easy on the environment. And best of all, it’s exhilarating. Minnesotans of color share their love of winter biking as well as tips on how to get started and where to find advice and camaraderie.

Posted inBUSINESS & WORK

Feds investigate nonprofit incorporated by Minneapolis City Council Member Jamal Osman in alleged Feeding Our Future food fraud.

Federal search warrants connect a nonprofit called Stigma-Free International to Feeding Our Future. Jamal Osman said he was involved with Stigma-Free until June 2020, and then cut ties with the nonprofit. Investigators allege Stigma-Free participated in a wide-ranging fraud beginning in January 2021, stealing millions of dollars from programs intended to feed low-income children.

Posted inNews

Confused about the alleged fraud at Feeding Our Future? The shell companies, the Las Vegas junket, the $500,000 apartment in Kenya? Here’s everything you need to know about the FBI raid and investigation so far.

Feeding Our Future allegedly funneled federal money through dozens of shell companies that appear to have been established on the fly. “To date, the conspirators have stolen millions of dollars in federal funds,” the FBI said in the search warrant affidavit. “The scheme is ongoing.”

Posted inHelping Out

As hundreds of Afghan refugees flow into Minnesota, volunteers and aid agencies are stepping up to help. You can too.

Local aid groups have set a mid-February deadline to resettle 750 Afghans in Minnesota. Participate in a donation drive. Shop on an Amazon wishlist. Anyone can help. Housing is the most urgent need, but aid coordinators are well aware that needs go beyond material things. “We know a house is nothing if you don’t have dignity, if you don’t have joy, if you don’t have a sense of comfort and safety,” says one aid wrangler.

Posted inHEALTH

As a new senior executive at HealthPartners, Pahoua Yang Hoffman wants to make health care more accessible to Minnesota’s immigrants—starting with her mother.

Hoffman is leaving her senior role at the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, where she directed community-giving programs. In her new role at HealthPartners, the giant Minnesota health provider and insurer, Hoffman will address community health, equity, and access to culturally competent care.

Posted inCLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

After having a daughter, Remona Htoo couldn’t find children’s books in the Karen language. So she wrote one herself.

Remona Htoo’s book, “My Little Legs,” is one of the few Karen-language books published in the U.S. Htoo and her 22-month-old daughter, Emma, enjoy sledding, backpacking, and camping out. They’ve visited wilderness areas in the metro and the North Shore; so far, the toddler has notched 10 national parks.

Posted inEDUCATION

Teach in person? COVID causes chaos. Teach remotely? Kids suffer. Minnesota’s teachers of color say that Omicron presents schools with bad options and impossible choices.

As the Omicron variant surges, so do teachers’ stress levels. Staffing shortages and low student attendance are forcing some districts into remote learning. As schools enter their third pandemic year, Minnesota teachers of color talked to Sahan Journal about the challenges of teaching–and how their students are coping.