Entries tagged with “African American”.


We made it pretty clear that one of the things we were most excited about in moving to Minneapolis was the large African/International population based here.  With over 70,000 Somali refugees there are plenty of opportunities to talk and learn about Africa.

We have tried really hard to connect with and engage this population.  One way we did this was by connecting with a group that is teaching English to primarily Somali adult women.  This has been a great way for us to learn about the culture while providing a valuable service.  It has also given us, especially Christy, the opportunity to build friendships.

This resulted in us being invited, with some friends, to a student’s son’s wedding.  She is actually Oromo, which is a distinctive Muslim culture within Ethiopia.  On a side note, many of the local Oromo people have learned to speak and understand Somali. In part because they are often lumped together – even though traditionally there is an underlying conflict between the two people groups. So back to the story.

We were told to arrive at a banquet hall around noon for the wedding lunch which would go from 12-2.  Knowing the culture we showed up at 12:30 and were still the first people there.  We waited around for awhile and finally one of her son’s came to open the hall and he said we could come back at 6pm.  We questioned that and then he said between 2 and 3.  Long story short we ended up coming back to the banquet hall around 2:30.  There were many women around finishing up the food preparation.  They said, “She is coming, she is coming.”  So we waited…

We tried to be patient and the banquet hall was filling up.  We had almost given up (we did have other commitments) and were told that she was almost here, “maybe even in the parking lot.”  A few minutes later we decided to leave and almost missed her.  She came and was very excited to see us which was great – but she wanted us to sit and stay and eat.

Her English is very limited so we thanked her and tried to explain that we needed to leave soon. She kept insisting on us eating, but we didn’t want to be singled out to eat before everyone else.  We finally had to leave at 3:45 and were able to say goodbye, but everyone kept insisting on eating!  I finally realized that this was a HUGE deal for them and said we would go into the back room and eat. We had some great food. Injera, rice, chicken, and other special sauces. Yummy.

This was a great cross cultural learning experience.  I think we all wished we could have spent the whole day and actually gotten to enjoy the wedding and take part in that experience.  But it is so great to be able to have this experience within our city.  We drove 10 minutes and got to experience a part of Africa.

While we were waiting we discovered the Holy Land grocery store. There is a small one at the Global Market, but this was much larger and included random things like lamb heart, goat’s feet, beef tongue, and much more!

Another quick story that makes me happy and reminds us of our great life happened at work the other day.  You might recall that many of the students at the school  I work at are East African (Somali, Oromo, and Ethiopian). We also have a significant African-American population.

Last week was the last day of after-school classes, so for the last 15 or so minutes I took my group of kids outside to have some fun.  They mainly played basketball but there was also a girl’s soccer group outside playing soccer.  While standing around watching the kids I felt like I was back in Africa.  All of the kids (and other adults) were black, some wearing flowing multi-colored burqa’s or hijabs.  It was a great feeling.

Another really random story! I was taking a group of students that I work with to work a banquet for the volunteer department of the school district.  Again most of them were East African and inner-city students.  We got on the bus and started driving when the kids asked for the driver to turn the radio on.  They should have known better since the driver was wearing a cowboy hat.  He turned on country music!  The kids didn’t like it at all!  They kept yelling at him to turn it off and he would give them the thumbs up and turn it up! It was really funny to me since I grew up on a lot of country.

So there you go, a few stories about the great life we lead here in Minneapolis.

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Yes that is what we are entering as we watch Obama become the first African-American president. Attending an MLK Day Rally yesterday it was quite apparent that for many in the black community this is a huge leap forward.

In some respects MLK’s dream has come true, but there is still plenty of work to be done. Below is a prayer from St Francis of Assisi and the text of MLK’s speech to reflect on as we celebrate our new prez.

Prayer of St Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, union;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

And (I highlighted some key parts in bold)

I Have a Dream

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.[I would say that 2009 is not the end but a new beginning.] Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

You can view audio and video of the speech as well.

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The headline may be a little misleading, but now that you are here lets look at the facts. If you pull out statistics for only Black American’s they have a AIDS prevalence rate that would rank 16th in the world. This according to the Black AIDS Institute and reported in New York Times.

That is a little scary – WE ARE THE RICHEST NATION IN THE WORLD – how can something like this still be going on in the US? We are providing all kinds of resources around the world and are seeing HIV/AIDS dropping – then why is it still so high here? This study was released at the same time that the CDC released a report that the US has been underestimating the prevalence of HIV/AIDS by about 40%. How do you underestimate by almost half? That’s a good question!

Phill Wilson, Executive Director of the Black AIDS Institute, would say that some of the problem is within the black community/culture. Summed up in one word: Stigma.

So why do I still say, “AIDS in America today is a Black disease?” The truth is, while awareness – and lip service – about this disease may be rising, too many of us still don’t know our HIV status, aren’t in appropriate care and treatment, and aren’t taking concrete steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones from becoming infected. When it comes to this disease, we’ve got to walk the talk.

The facts remain startling. Over 50% of HIV-positive African Americans do not know they are HIV positive. For those who do get tested, it is often too late: Too late for treatment to be fully effective, too late to stop the progression from HIV to AIDS and too late to prevent significantly more AIDS-related deaths in our communities.

And there is a cruel irony here: Many of our people are dying just as HIV treatment reaches new heights. Today’s medications mean HIV can be successfully treated over the long term with just 1 or 2 pills a day. This is amazing progress compared to just a decade ago, when treatment was difficult to take and involved lots of pills. But because we’re not getting tested for HIV early and often, many of our brothers and sisters are missing out on these advances.

Behind all of this is the ongoing challenge of HIV stigma. Too many people are still too scared to take the test for fear of how others may react to a positive diagnosis. And too many people are discouraged by damaging misinformation and myths in our community about HIV. But times have changed. Today, the stigma Black America really needs to be concerned about is the shame of not getting tested, and thereby not doing what it takes to end the AIDS epidemic in our communities. It is time for each one of us to take responsibility for the health – and the future – of our community.

The Institute is taking action in a campaign called “Test One Million” which hopes to:

  • Reduce HIV rates in Black America,
  • Dramatically increase the number of Black people who know their HIV status,
  • Build an army of Black testing and treatment advocates,
  • Increase the number of Black people seeking early treatment and care, and
  • Decrease HIV stigma in Black communities.

The problem is multi-faceted and so will the ability to fix it. The Institute rails against the Bush Administration for providing development aid targeting HIV/AIDS to countries that have a lower prevelance rate than the black community. I think part of this stems from the fact that money has been invested in those countries for awhile now and have done marvelous good. In the same NY Times article a UN report is quoted as saying that the overall mortality rates from HIV/AIDS has decreased since its peak in the early 1980’s.

I think the black community has the right to be upset about this issue. In my opinion it is more of a systematic racism but it is also a big cultural issue. I don’t believe they should rely solely on government aid – this is America – we need to do some work too. But as the culture is being transformed through superstars like Oprah and even Obama (both were tested for HIV publicly) we as a citizenry and government need to make sure the resources are there to support the change. One of the main reasons anti-retrovirals, the drugs that can slow HIV/AIDS down, are available internationally at an affordable rate is because many are subsidized. Actually there are some of the drugs that are being sold internationally on the market as generics due to emergency clauses in patent laws – which will never be seen in the US.

Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation have been very active in the process of helping combat the issue of HIV/AIDS around the world and was actually a big reason for subsidies and getting the drugs sent at discount prices. On August 5, he announced that his foundation will now include doing work in the United States around this issue. He didn’t provide many specifics to his plan but simply said:

“For Americans, this should be a wake-up call,” Clinton said, addressing the International AIDS Conference here. “Even as we fight the epidemic globally, we must focus at home. And I intend to do so with my foundation.”

If you are still reading and not completely overwhelmed you can tell this is a very complex issue and one that you and I probably can’t do much about. We can continue to be aware of the problem and the issue. At some point we will need to step up and say we want the government to take action and help rid the country of this virus.

What do you think? Do you see a better/easier solution?

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