Abraham Bah poses for a photo at the Brooklyn Park Library on January 7, 2022. Credit: Ben Hovland | Sahan Journal

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Sahan Journal spoke with two of the immigrant candidates running for an open seat on the Brooklyn Park City Council to learn more about the issues currently facing the city’s residents. 

Abraham Brima Bah is the board chairman for the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota, which provides a range of services for immigrants, Liberian and otherwise. 

Three immigrant candidates are running for an open seat on the Brooklyn Park City Council in a special election February 8: Brima Bah, Xiongpao “Xp” Lee, and Benjamin Osemenam, who did not return Sahan Journal’s interview request. A fourth candidate, LaDawn Severin, a real estate agent, is also running. The winning candidate will serve the remainder of Lisa Jacobson’s term, which ends in 2024. Jacobson left her seat on the Council vacant when Brooklyn Park residents elected her as mayor in a close race in November

Brima Bah’s responses have been edited below for length and clarity. Read about Lee here.

Abraham Brima Bah: Board Chairman for the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota

I’ve been living in Brooklyn Park now for almost 20 years. It means a lot to me. I have children who grew up in this community, I have a home in this community, I have friends and family in this community. I want it to be a special place for everybody to live in. Brooklyn Park is a multicultural area where you can come and be free.

My first priority is to help the police and the community work together to minimize crime in Brooklyn Park. My second priority is to look at reimagining public safety to see how it can suit the cross-culture of people that live in Brooklyn Park. Thirdly, Brooklyn Park has programs but immigrant communities are not aware of them, and they don’t know how to navigate these services. For example, there are music programs at City Hall, they have basketball, hockey, and other programs. One of the ways we can get our youth off the streets is to engage them in those various programs and involve the parents.

Every city needs law enforcement, but the law enforcement has to be trusted. My plan is to guide the community to talk to the police so that we can start gaining trust amongst ourselves. The community should see the police as a friend that they can work together with on issues.

Small business support is very important. Most of our immigrant communities have small businesses. As things in Brooklyn Park change, we’ll have to look at empowering small businesses to be able to sustain themselves and employ people who live in the city of Brooklyn Park.

We know housing is a big issue for our community. Most of the Liberians are low-income earners so affordable housing is a big thing. How can we get not only Liberians but immigrants generally into affordable housing facilities? That will be one of my focuses.

While hosting food distribution events in our Organization of Liberians in Minnesota facility, at one time we had one person who would distribute food to 500 needy people. It’s a really tough time. The pandemic has made more people lose their jobs. Some people who have jobs cannot go to work because of the pandemic. That is causing serious problems in our community. We’ve been working with families to see how we can help them. When it comes to food distribution, it’s not only Liberians that are coming there, I see other immigrant communities coming. That means people are having a really hard time in this pandemic. If the resources are available and the city has it, they should look at how they can help communities.

Hibah Ansari is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.