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Volume 1, Issue 1

Voice of African Immigrant Communities & Communities of Color

Q&A with Ilhan Omar

October 2016

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By DYLAN HINTON Managing Editor

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fter winning the DFL primary in Minneapolis House district 60B this fall, Ilhan Omar is poised to become the first Somali-American legislator in American history. She is currently the director of policy at Women Organizing Women, and holds degrees in business administration, political science, and international studies. Mutaja got a chance to catch up with her about her political ambitions and her thoughts on Minnesota politics. See ILHAN OMAR, page 4

Miss Liberia............................................................ 2

Voter registration in Minnesota................................ 3

Executive Director of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota, Mamadee Sesay, and Education Organizer for African Immigrant Services Fata Acquoi facilitate the Town Hall forum.

An attendee expresses her concern over the nuances of the recently passed ‘revenge porn’ laws. Photos courtesy Dylan Hinton.

Liberian community holds town hall forum

M

embers of the Liberian community in Minnesota convened at Brooklyn Park’s City Hall last week to continue a conversation on misogyny and the spread of nude pictures and videos. The forum, held Oct. 13 at 6 p.m., was led by a community task force that has been working to engage the community in a dialogue after several cases of unapproved spreading of nude pictures and videos of Liberian girls and women reached an alarming point. “People have been seeing it happen over the last few years and nothing has been done about it,” Fata Acquoi, community organizer with African Immigrant Services (AIS), said. “One of the girls came forward in late September – after being victimized – and she wanted the community to do something – to stand up and say ‘this is wrong and this is not how we treat women.’” Revenge porn is the act of publishing explicit material portraying someone who has not granted their consent for the material to be shared, and became a crime in Minnesota on Aug. 1, 2016. Revenge porn can be especially traumatic for victims of the crime, as materials can continue to spread for a long period of time over multiple technological platforms. “A lot of time, when there’s a revenge porn case, [the photo or video] keep getting passed on,” Mark

Q&A with Genet Abate............................................ 5

Bruely, Brooklyn Park Deputy Chief, said. “People repost it on Facebook, or they send it in a text message … and it keeps getting passed on. It’s almost like the victims keep getting re-victimized.” Acquoi, along with many other key leaders within the Liberian community, organized two smaller discussion events before the community town hall forum. Attendees quickly moved beyond the particulars of the criminal cases that started the dialogue and onto what they determined the community needed most: a public condemnation of revenge porn and consistent community education. “There needs to be community education on these issues,” Acquoi said. “How do we educate, intervene, and prevent these things from happening again in the community?”

One immigrant parent’s concern with the school system................................................................... 6

Notice to Brooklyn Center Water customers........... 8

The night was divided into several parts, including updates on the status of cases, words from lawyers and law enforcement professionals, and plans for action. Importantly, the forum also provided space for general discussions and personal commentaries. “We need to step up and act as leaders when any member of our community is emotionally assaulted in this See TOWN HALL, page 3

Koisey J. Hiama has been crowned Miss Liberia Minnesota See MISS LIBERIA, page 2

ALSO FEATURED IN MUTAJA Mutaja mission statement....................................... 2 Liberian Task Force: Our anti-nude campaign......... 3 Community church in Brooklyn Park draws African disapora................................................................. 3 Q&A with Ilhan Omar.............................................. 4 Specific shade of gray............................................ 7 Abandoning apathy: Who do you vote for?............. 7 Adult immunizations............................................... 8


African Immigrant Services

2

Mutaja: Voices of African Immigrant Communities & Communities of Color Mutaja is a free community newspaper, distributed in both print and online formats. It focuses on highlighting marginalized voices, to paint the most holistic picture of thriving, diverse, and exceptional African immigrant communities and communities of color. Often, stories about immigrants and people of color do not make it into the mainstream media – and they are even less frequently told by members of the community itself. Mutaja is a new project run out of African Immigrant Services (AIS). AIS envisions just, inclusive and thriving communities where opportunities to succeed and prosper are shared equitably among all people. AIS inspires civic engagement and works to address racial disparities and systemic barriers affecting immigrant communities and communities of color. Mutaja will always strive to find contributors who are as diverse as our readership. We welcome submissions and ideas that align with our mission and goals from any individual that wishes to contribute regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, or sexual identity. For our inaugural issue, we decided to focus on civic engagement. In these pages you will find everything from community resources, to features on immigrant women in their communities, to concerns from recently immigrated parents and members of the African diaspora. We hope these pages contain something for everyone in our diverse readership. Sponsor Mutaja Let us help you reach a rapidly growing community! • Introduce your business to loyal consumer groups • Reach more than 20,000 people monthly • Advertise at more than 2,000 distribution locations • Pay low sponsorship rates for high impact ads • All sponsorships are tax deductible! • Reach a limitless community online Call now: 952-738-1915 Email us at: dhinton@aisusa.org

Miss Liberia

M U T A J A

S T A F F

Editor-in-Chief

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he Miss Liberia Minnesota Scholarship Pageant selected Koisey J. Hiama to be Miss Liberia of Minnesota on Oct. 29, 2016. More information about Hiama, the other 5 incredible contestants, and the pageant can be found at missliberiamn. com.

Abdullah Kiatamba Managing Editor

Koisey Jartu Hiama is the oldest of three children, and is currently a junior at the University of Minnesota pursuing a B.A. in psychology. She strives to bring about more awareness to mental health issues in the African and African-American communities.

Dylan Hinton Contributing Writers

In addition, Koisey is a fashion model, and says, “I want to also use my platform as Miss Liberia Minnesota to make a difference in the fashion world by helping to change the definition of the standard of beauty.”

Aron Woldeslassie Fadumo Hassan

She would like to open up her own agency and help create as many opportunities for women of all races and sizes to be equally represented in the fashion industry. 

Abdullah Kiatamba Marketing & Distribution Dylan Hinton Designer All photos courtesy Decontee Kofa .

MUTAJA October 2016, VOLUME 1, ISSUE 1

Sara Parkman

© Copyright 2016. AIS. All rights reserved.


News

Voting in Minnesota 1. Check if you are registered to vote!

• Applications can be downloaded and printed from the Minnesota state voter portal website or picked up at your local county government center.

• You can check your registration status online at bit.ly/1nI4Wn7 • You will need to re-register to vote if any of the follow are true: You have moved to a new address since you last registered, you have changed your name since last being registered, or you have not voted at least once in the last four years.

• Completed forms must be turned into a county government center or the Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State. • Details on what information is needed for applications can be found at bit.ly/2dJkkpj

2. Decide if you will pre-register online, by mail, or in-person. If you want to pre-register, you must do so by 21 days before the regularly scheduled primary or general election.

3. Register to vote on election day: If you missed the pre-registration deadline and possess the proper identification, you may choose to register to vote at your polling place on election day.

• Online registration: In order to fill out the online voter registration, you must: • Meet all eligibility requirements to vote in Minnesota.

• Determine where you need to register and vote using bit.ly/19si6T3

• Be able to provide an email address.

• Provide any one of these proofs of residence: Valid Minnesota driver’s license, learner’s permit, or receipt for either, valid Minnesota identification card or receipt for one, tribal ID, voter voucher, employee voucher, Late Notice of Registration, previous registration in the same precinct, Minnesota post-secondary student photo ID.

• Be able to provide one of the following identification numbers: Minnesota driver’s license, Minnesota ID card, or the last four digits of your Social Security Number. • To register online, access this link in your web browser: bit. ly/2dXuYqE • In-person or mail registration: Applications must be completed and returned to the county or state elections office. All voter registration applications in hard copy must contain original signatures and cannot be faxed or emailed.

• You may provide several other alternate proof of residence documents in conjunction with other approved documents. For the full list visit bit. ly/2dLiTl4 

3 TOWN HALL, from page 1

manner,” Phebe Koha-Jallah, president of a Liberian women group, said. “We are glad leaders of the community came together and took real tangible actions to launch a campaign and begin the work required to prevent future occurrences.” Koha-Jallah, another attendee, said she was impressed with the speed and urgency with which leaders and concerned community members responded to calls to convene at AIS for the very first meeting of the campaign. Some of those attending the town hall forum were present for the initial discussions, but many of the almost 100 people in the audience were entering the conversation for the first time. Some were prominent leaders in the Liberian community, and others were simply concerned citizens. Many saw the initiative as a welcome template to confront and address similar crisis in the community. “Our community desperately seeks a leadership approach that solves real problems,” Imam Mohamed Dukuly, executive director of Masjid Al-Ansar Islamic Community Center, said. “This is an important moment that allows our community to send the clearest message yet: that this shameful and despicable behavior of demeaning women doesn’t represent anything remotely resembling our culture.” Prosecution for revenge porn is limited to the instigator of the crime, meaning that those who simply aid in the spread of the explicit material cannot be charged.

However, the new revenge porn law passed in August does offer victims the opportunity to bring the original disseminator of the photos of videos to court. “I’m really excited to see what the outcome of this [event] is,” Hawa Fofana, a volunteer facilitator at the event, said. “I’ve noticed this issue a lot in our community, but I don’t really know what the legal ramifications for this crime are … I don’t know what this means for our community and our culture moving forward.” In addition to discussing the legal ramifications of revenge porn cases, the Sexual Violence Center was also in attendance to discuss resources and opportunities for healing for victims. Moving forward, the Liberian Community Task Force will focus on healing for both the individuals affected by revenge porn and the broader community “There is now a new criminal law, so anyone who does disseminate this type of media … could potentially be prosecuted or punished under the state law,” criminal defense lawyer John Arechigo said. “The crime itself starts off as gross misdemeanor … and there are other factors that could elevate the charge to a felony in severe situations.” Acquoi said revenge porn is emerging as an important issue in the community, emphasizing that, “education is the only way to move forward.” More than 40 participants signed pledge cards to join the campaign and contribute time and resources to fight this emerging issue in the Liberian community. 

Liberian Task Force: Our anti-nude campaign Tracking the impact of the campaign:

8. Created a task force to sustain this work

2. 42 people took pledges to join campaign

1. Brought the issue from the shadows to the attention of the community

Short-term campaign goals:

3. Participants agreed to:

2. Brought stakeholders together and built a united community voice/consensus against this shameful and despicable practice 3. Convened three consultative leadership meetings to determine actions 4. Agreed on a framework of strategies and solutions; we are finally doing something about a serious problem 5. Sent the clearest and loudest message of who we are (our culture, our values, our respect for women, and our respect for privacy) 6. For the first time, we have now created a community platform of support and help for victims; initiated emotional community systems support for victims 7. Created a working relationship with law enforcement on this issue

1. Bring public and community awareness to this issue

• Establish a community task force • Provide support for victims

• Launch a community based campaign against revenge porn

• Expand community education and engagement

• Send a powerful message about Who We Are • Generate and expand community support 2. Provide resources and support to victims • Emotional support and psycho-social intervention for victims • Provide critical resources for victims to pursue other resolutions 3. Establish a community task force to provide ongoing and long-term solutions Town hall outcomes: 1. About 100 people showed up to the town hall

Campaign activity timelines: •

First consultative meeting – September 29,2016

Second consultative meeting – October 3, 2016

Third consultative meeting – October 6,2016

First town hall meeting – October 13, 2016

Fourth consultative meeting – October 20, 2016

Note: Initial convened and hosted by African Immigrant Services (AIS), the campaign now enjoys the support and participation of more than 30 community groups and leaders. 

Community church in Brooklyn Park draws African diaspora

Sunday

Ebenezer Community Church, under the ministry of Liberian immigrants Francis and Christine Tabla, continues a fall season of diverse and exuberant worship. The new church, dedicated in May 2016, is the largest building project undertaken by a predominantly Liberian immigrant congregation in the United States.

Tuesday

The congregation began as a Bible study group of eight and has now grown to more than 500 members. There are members from Liberia, Jamaica, Kenya, and America at the church.

• 6 p.m. – Prayer Meeting & Bible Studies

This is the church’s official mission statement, “The mission of Ebenezer is to serve God in our community by celebrating His goodness through joyful worship, leading unbelievers to personal faith in Christ, and become baptized members of the church fellowship, nuturing them to become faithful disciples, equipping them to become intentional witnesses through evangelism and missions.”

MUTAJA October 2016, VOLUME 1, ISSUE 1

• 10-10:45 a.m. – Sunday School • 11 a.m. – Worship • 6 p.m. – Hour of Intervention Service Thursday Friday • 5 p.m. – Praise & Worship Team Practice • 6:30 p.m. – Prayer Warrior’s Meeting Saturday • 4:30-7 p.m. – Choir Practice

© Copyright 2016. AIS. All rights reserved.


Features

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Ilhan winning the primary.

Q&A with Ilhan Omar By DYLAN HINTON Managing Editor

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M: Why should the African immigrant community in Minnesota get involved in politics?

Mutaja: How did you come to live in Minnesota?

IO: It is important that we look at this country as our own. This is one of the greatest democracies that anyone can experience. It’s a fragile democracy and it needs all of us to participate to help make it strong. It is [Minnesota’s immigrants’] right and I urge them to exercise their vote. Remember, most of us are coming from countries where we don’t have the ability to voice our values through our vote. This is one of those opportunities where it isn’t really about voting for a particular candidate, but it’s about voting for the things that you care about: [it’s about] voting for your principles and values. The only way you get your voice heard is through the ballot box.

fter winning the DFL primary in Minneapolis House district 60B this fall, Ilhan Omar is poised to become the first Somali-American legislator in American history. She is currently the director of policy at Women Organizing Women, and holds degrees in business administration, political science, and international studies. Mutaja got a chance to catch up with her about her political ambitions and her thoughts on Minnesota politics.

Photo courtesy Nitika Gupta.

community that can help support young people in their educational endeavors.

Ilhan Omar: We moved here in the mid-1990s, because Minnesota was No. 1 in education and my siblings and dad wanted us to take advantage of that opportunity. There was also economic security and we knew some people here. M: How did you get into politics? IO: My grandfather was the driving force in my interest in politics. He was born during colonial times and was very interested in participating in the democratic process. When I was little he talked to us about the fight for independence in Somalia and we talked a lot about world politics. When we came here he was really excited to participate in a democratic process that would be open to everyone, not just the elites or people of a certain class. I took him to my first caucus as his cultural and language translator, and being involved at that level with community members – to have a conversation about our platform and resolutions and really impacting the political process in a very neighborhood, grassroots level – was really exciting for him. That was incredibly inspiring for me, and so I really stayed with [politics].

Politically, when policy makers are making a decision on a particular policy, they are often thinking about the voters in their district and in their state. One way to make sure that we are in the minds and hearts of the people making decisions on our behalf is to vote; that is the only way we count. Our vote is our power. That is the easiest way for people to constantly think about us when we are not at the table at that moment. 

M: Do you remember your first time voting? IO: The first time I voted was on the municipal level, for our former mayor R.T. Rybek, in 2005. By then I had already participated in many elections … I translated and helped take people to the polls as well as canvassed and door knocked. M: What is the most important issue facing Minnesota’s immigrant communities? IO: I think economic stability and economic viability is our top issue in the African community. We are mostly entrepreneurs, so small business, entrepreneurship, and making sure that resources to open up new businesses and maintain new businesses are [available] is a top issue. Education would be the second top issue – a lot of us come to the U.S. for the educational opportunities and the opportunity to better ourselves that way. So, when you look at preparedness of young pre-schoolers in education, they’re ranked the top for people of color, because a lot of immigrants, especially African, are very eager to have their kids be prepared and excel in educational fields. M: Minnesota has one of the largest racial achievement gaps in the country: How do you think our schools can become more inclusive and equitable? IO: One of the things that I advocate for is wrap-around services: [That means] making sure that we are allocating resources to have more social workers and [social] services and school counselors. I believe that the success of our children – especially kids who are coming from countries that are currently in conflict or are being raised by parents who are recent immigrants fleeing a country of conflict – [depends on] making sure that they have the proper resources to help their kids excel. So I want to make sure our schools are not only focusing on the day-to-day activities of educating a child but that they have a holistic view of what it takes for a child to succeed. We say it takes a village to raise a child. We need to make sure we have the proper resources for the family and

MUTAJA October 2016, VOLUME 1, ISSUE 1

Ilhan with her family. Photo courtesy Nicholas French Portraiture.

© Copyright 2016. AIS. All rights reserved.


Features

5

Q&A with Genet Abate By a Staff Writer

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enet Abate, originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is a local Ethiopian singer. She received her education in Addis Ababa and currently works full time for a local bank. She performs at numerous Ethiopian establishments around the Twin Cities, and updates on shows are posted to her Facebook page (bit.ly/2eSc02A). Mutaja: What brought you to Minnesota?

Genet Abate: I was not planning to come here, because getting a visa is very difficult, but my older brother entered both of us in a visa lottery. Every year the United States lets people fill out applications and draws people from all around world. When he filled out the application for himself he also filled one out for me … and I got it and he didn’t! M: Were you a musician before you came to Minnesota? GA: I went to music school after high school and in the second year of school I won the visa lottery. Since my brother entered me in the lottery, I was not thinking about leaving, I was thinking about my music. I went to Yared Music School in Addis Adaba, and that was the only music school there was at that point. At the time I was playing violin, which I’m not doing anymore.

GA: In 2008, I went to Washington, D.C. on vacation and met my high school friends and they were working in the clubs there as musicians and they asked me, “Why did you stop singing?” I told them there weren’t many Ethiopian musicians in Minnesota and they said that would give me more opportunities. That’s when I started again – if you play music, and you stop for 10 years, it will all come back to you, it doesn’t go anywhere. M: How did you break into the local music scene? GA: It actually works a little differently in [the Ethiopian] community than the other music communities here. I reached out to a keyboard player, Teshager Yilma, – for what I was singing I only needed myself and one keyboard player – when he had a show at a restaurant. I sang a few songs for him and we made an act together! Now I just play whenever I can at [Ethiopian] places around Minneapolis and St. Paul. It’s a passion for me. When I’m on the stage, it’s not just for the people watching; I am happy and I am enjoying what I’m doing. I think when you enjoy what you’re doing, the people watching enjoy it more too. 

M: How long were you in Minnesota before you started making music? GA: When I got here I didn’t even think about music. When I came to Minnesota, my artistic side was not really there. Most other Ethiopians are in Washington, D.C., so there is lots of music going on there, but not in Minnesota. So when I came here it was because I had relatives here who sponsored me. I was working many jobs so I could afford to move out and send money back to my relatives at home, too. At that point, I was just looking for a job, and it wasn’t until 2008 I thought about singing again. M: When did you return to music?

MUTAJA October 2016, VOLUME 1, ISSUE 1

All photos courtesy Genet Abate

© Copyright 2016. AIS. All rights reserved.


Opinion

6

One immigrant parent’s concern with the school system By FADUMO HASSAN Contributing Writer

A

new culture and a new education system can drive many immigrant parents crazy; how do you make sure your child succeeds in life and can be a part of the American dream? Many immigrants have succeeded and accomplished the task of educating themselves and getting jobs with good salaries. Still, the immigrant struggle remains relevant in every aspect of our lives, and seriously affects the children of immigrant families.

“Unfamiliar history classes, language arts, social studies, and even school culture are often impossible for immigrant children to relate to – and I believe this is where the issues and struggles start.” Unfortunately, I see young men and women in our community who have access to free education here in the U.S. who still choose to waste their time. They have lost faith in the education system, and if you ask them, they will tell you that their teachers don’t have high expectations for them either, so graduating high school or going to college feels like a waste of time. Unfamiliar history classes, language arts, social studies, and even school culture are often impossible for immigrant children to relate to – and I believe this is where the issues and struggles start. In their classrooms, these children are told they should remember things like coloring Christmas trees around the holidays, making a gingerbread house, drinking apple cider, or painting Easter eggs; cultural observances which they know nothing about. Perhaps it all sounds so normal to those who have known this side of American culture their whole lives, but for immigrants and children of immigrants, much of it is entirely strange and new. My grandmother used to tell me in my childhood, “If you want to get to know people check the fingers on your hands – they are all different but still need each other” (may Allah grant her Jannah). This means people are like the fingers in our hands; they are different but each finger has a purpose and cannot work alone unless it has the support from the other fingers. As much as teachers try to reach out to every student, this culture or education gap is something they have trouble understanding, which is also why many immigrant families and their children are struggling to understand so much about the American school system.

a lot. I also knew how to advocate for my son well enough to tell the school that he was not the problem; they were the problem. His teachers could only see a kid who moved in class too much – they didn’t believe an immigrant boy could be bored in class because he was too bright. He was even a candidate for a special needs program. I didn’t understand much about the program at the time, but I knew there had to be other ways to solve this issue. I asked them to test him in a higher grade and said if he passed the second grade test, then he shouldn’t be moved to a special needs class, he should be moved to the third grade. I was right, and he ended up skipping a grade. That was the last phone call I ever received from school until he graduated from high school.

“Although I solved my son’s school problems and challenged the school to challenge him instead of trying to put him in a program that didn’t fit him, I always think about the other families that might be going through or went through the same issues.” Although I solved my son’s school problems and challenged the school to challenge him instead of trying to put him in a program that didn’t fit him, I always think about the other families that might be going through or went through the same issues. I often think that maybe those kids that end up on the wrong side of the road only needed to be challenged or understood by their teachers and schools. 

Thinking about immigrant kids and the education system reminded me of my own struggles when my son was in elementary school. My little boy told me many stories throughout his schooling, and I was always ready to call or email the school so I could advocate for him. Although I was fortunate enough to have the advantages to do so, there were times when I felt helpless. I even cried in front of many teachers and principals. This was not because I didn’t understand the concept of a lower grade – I was worried teachers didn’t have the patience to work with my child. I also received phone calls on a daily basis about his behavior. The first words out of the school’s mouth were “come pick him up.” He would be in the principal’s office for “bad behavior” and his teachers complained that he would not sit still or walk in line properly.

“Thinking about immigrant kids and the education system reminded me my own struggles when my son was in elementary school. My little boy told me many stories throughout his schooling, and I was always ready to call or email the school so I could advocate for him. Although I was fortunate enough to have the advantages to do so, there were times when I felt helpless.” I arrived from Kenya, Africa in January 2001. When my son’s school started calling, I was still trying to adjust to life without my family and friends in a country where time is very crucial and money is very tight. I worked in an assembly line job at the time, and my supervisors were not the nicest people. It was not acceptable for me to say, “I have to go pick up my son who didn’t sit still in his classroom or walk in line in the hallway.” Being an immigrant means you don’t have much time to spare when you work in a factory. In addition to that, leaving a job frequently means not enough money and not enough hours to pay the bills. I had the advantage of coming from a well-educated family and a high school diploma from Kenya, Africa, and I worked with my son at home

Mutaja opinion disclaimer Mutaja’s opinion section is designed to provide a forum for Mutaja’s staff, readership, and Minnesota’s broader communities. The opinions expressed in articles, editorials, and columns do not necessarily represent the views of Mutaja’s staff or African Immigrant Services. The author is solely responsible for any opinions expressed in Mutaja’s opinion section. Advertising will not be accepted in the opinion section. Community resources and other announcements will be run in the proper sections, and only as space allows. Submissions for letters to the editor are welcome. Please submit a letter to dhinton@aisusa.org by the second week of the month in order to be considered for publication. Submissions should be in a Microsoft Word document. Mutaja reserves the right to edit all submissions for AP style and grammar. All publications will be at the discretion of the editor.

MUTAJA October 2016, VOLUME 1, ISSUE 1

© Copyright 2016. AIS. All rights reserved.


Opinion

7

Specific shade of gray By ARON WOLDESLASSIE Contributing Writer

AW

C

ommon questions have a tendency to seem small. They flit in and out of the consensus of small talk; they’re vague, open-ended, easy to think of, and, depending on the answer, either simple or complex. So when I’m asked the common question, “What are you?” which is aptly understood as, “What is your ethnicity?” I have a few directions I could go in.

To make things clear: I’m Eritrean. That’s true, it’s always been true. It is my birthright and a key feature to my identity, and no amount of pontificating will ever change that. It is what it is – which is essentially true for all ethnicities – but depending on how I answer the question things can become simple or grand. I could get into specifics and explain that I’m a first generation Eritrean, which means that my parents are both immigrants from a small nation in Eastern Africa called Eritrea. And that, yes, I’m sure you haven’t heard of Eritrea, the nation is almost as old as I am, so who could know about it (other than the millions of people who live in and around East Africa)? I could go out of my way to explain that the real way my name is pronounced is much different than the way most people call me. I could even give a brief history of the Eritrean tribes’ linguistic variations as it relates to Arabian trade routes.

“This is a hat trick first generation citizens and immigrants have that most don’t; I can decide for others how I might be seen.” Or, I could save the time and just say I’m a black guy from Portland, Oregon. That’s also true. It is also impossible to contest, but a great deal less honest. I’ve answered both ways to different people many times in my life. Sometimes I’ll go the long route with people I hope to know a little bit better. I’ll tell them about Eritrea, where I come from, etc. Other times I’ll give something brief about Portland, Minnesota, and immigrant parents. People generally get the gist from there. And, most commonly, I’ll let people make assumptions about me – only ever correcting folks if they think something abhorrently wrong or have the ability to call me a liar of omission. My identity isn’t vague; it is what it is, and that will never change. What is vague is other people’s perception of my identity. This is a hat

“My identity isn’t vague; it is what it is, and that will never change. What is vague is other people’s perception of my identity.” trick first generation citizens and immigrants have that most don’t; I can decide for others how I might be seen. Sitting on the verge of perceived assimilation is a lot like being an extremely fine shade of gray. With just a smidge of truth my identity, and the identities of millions, can be seen as a very specific scenario among generalizations. However, a nudge in the other direction and I can hide behind the notable identity of being black, something that is and isn’t my own. If you’ve rolled your eyes by now, I’m sorry. Really, I am. I’ve had this conversation with all kinds of people and it never ends with a specific resolution. More often than not people hear this and huff something along the lines of “You’re black,” “You’re an American,” “You’re an African-American,” and even “You’re pretentious.” I get that identity and political correctness aren’t fun things to talk about, but you’ve got to admit there’s something sexy about American existentialism. It’s the dumpster fire of philosophy: great to look at, but indicative of something very wrong. As I’ve gotten older the shade of gray I live in has become more volatile for me. With black men being killed by the police and Africans drowning as they attempt to flee to Europe, people are looking for opinions or reactions from me. They’re waiting for some response that reflects my identity, whether it be the vague thing I let them believe or the specific notion I worked on describing. It makes one think about the responsibility of speaking with or for a certain voice. That maybe my situation might be too specific to speak for others and that maybe that’s true for everyone. Or perhaps the answer to the all-too-common question of “What are you?” should be the response I now give when people ask if I’m outraged about anything in the news: “At this point I really don’t know how to feel any more about it. Sorry.” 

Abandoning apathy: Who do you vote for? By DYLAN HINTON Managing Editor

I

’ll admit it: I have often taken my right to vote for granted. My earliest introduction to government and civic responsibilities was in mandatory social studies classes, where my teachers were more focused on drilling the three branches of government into my head than making me excited to get out and vote. Even when I began studying political science in college I struggled with the same questions it seems most of my generation is asking: Does my vote even matter? Will anything change? The reasons behind my on-again-off-again political apathy are as numerous as they are diverse, but one conversation with a peer convinced me that my right to vote is not only imperative to my own wellbeing, but also a responsibility I must bear with tremendous care. During the 2012 presidential election, I asked a friend who he was planning to vote for – he responded that he wasn’t planning to vote at all. When I asked him why, he answered, “It doesn’t matter who is elected, nothing is going to change.” He was right. He was a white, straight, college educated, upper-middle class man. No matter who was elected, Democrat or Republican, it was unlikely that much of his life would significantly change. No matter what direction the election went, his right to marry would not be questioned, his ability to support himself financially would not diminish, and his bodily safety and autonomy would not be threatened.

“Think of your vote as an incredible, wonderful opportunity – not just a personal right guaranteed by your government and lauded by your civics teachers. Your right to vote is, first and foremost, an awesome responsibility. Do not take that responsibility for granted.” So I asked him to vote for me, and all women. I asked him to vote for our right to decide what happens with our bodies. I asked him to vote so that we could get equal pay for equal work. I asked him to vote for a candidate who would advocate for paid maternity leave. I asked him to walk into the voting booth carrying a diverse country on his back and to cast his ballot in a way that would uplift the masses and take into account the lives of those he had nothing in common with. I asked him to bear an incredible responsibility. In many ways, I asked him to take a tremendous empathetic leap of faith.

MUTAJA October 2016, VOLUME 1, ISSUE 1

“As a white, privileged woman, I too need to consider others when I vote – something I have not always done. I need to look at the state of this nation through the eyes of those who are less fortunate than me, more vulnerable than me, and to seriously interrogate the platforms of political candidates” After that conversation I realized that everything I had asked of him was something I needed to ask of myself as well. As a white, privileged woman, I too need to consider others when I vote – something I have not always done. I need to look at the state of this nation through the eyes of those who are less fortunate than me, more vulnerable than me, and to seriously interrogate the platforms of political candidates, to ask: Does your position matter to those who are oppressed? Will anything change for the most at-risk populations in this nation? I would encourage all of us to do the same this election cycle: think of your vote as an incredible, wonderful opportunity – not just a personal right guaranteed by your government and lauded by your civics teachers. Your right to vote is, first and foremost, an awesome responsibility. Do not take that responsibility for granted. 

© Copyright 2016. AIS. All rights reserved.


From the community

Notice to Brooklyn Center Water customers

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T

HE CITY’S WATER TREATMENT PLANT IS UP AND RUNNING…

The construction of the City’s new water treatment plant was completed and running as of January 2016. The water treatment plant was constructed to remove iron and manganese from the City’s public drinking water supply by filtering the water through sand gravity filters and can produce 7 million gallons of clean, safe drinking water per day.

The water treatment plant was constructed to remove iron and manganese from the City’s public drinking water supply by filtering the water through sand gravity filters and can produce seven million gallons of clean, safe drinking water per day. WHY DID THE CITY BUILD A WATER TREATMENT PLANT? In 2012, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) issued a health advisory for a health risk pertaining to the naturally occurring manganese in drinking water supplies. Manganese occurs naturally and can be found in rock, soil, air, food and in drinking water across Minnesota. Humans require small amounts of manganese to maintain health. In the past, manganese was considered mostly an aesthetic issue in drinking water where high concentrations could cause staining or taste issues. However, recent research indicates that too much manganese may negatively affect human learning and behavior. While there are no federal or state regulations pertaining to concentrations of manganese in drinking water, the MDH issued maximum guidance values for manganese in drinking water for formula-fed infants and infants that regularly drink tap water (including nursing mothers), and for children and adults – Brooklyn Center exceeded these values. In light of this health risk warning by the MDH, the City Council took action and commissioned a project to construct a new gravity filter water treatment plant. WHAT WE DIDN’T EXPECT… While the City disinfected the water both pre- and post-water treatment plant project in order to meet recommended water quality guidelines set by the MDH, we did not expect some residents to experience aesthetic nuisances such as taste and smell of the drinking water. Understanding this to be an issue for some, the City will continue monitoring the drinking water, adjusting the water system and exploring new ways to improve the quality of the water.

The best thing you can do is pay close attention to your water quality. Check the water at the tap and at the washer for discoloration or other issues. If you notice any issues, please contact public works immediately to evaluate. WHAT YOU CAN DO… Continue to soften your water: The upgraded water treatment plant removes manganese and iron from your water, but does NOT soften it. Please continue to use your home softening system as in the past, possibly reducing the rate due to the absence of iron and manganese. Water filter: Water filters can minimize aesthetic issues in drinking water. There are many styles of filters on the market. If you chose to purchase one, please ensure you follow manufacturer recommendations and properly maintain the filter. Take precautions: The best thing you can do is pay close attention to your water quality. Check the water at the tap and at the washer for discoloration or other issues. If you notice any issues, please contact public works immediately to evaluate. Thank you for your patience: We are hoping that in the coming months, the community’s tolerance and acceptance of the water aesthetics improve, getting used to the new cleaner and safer water chemistry. Thank you! 

Adult immunizations

V

accines are an important part of keeping kids healthy, but did you know that adults need vaccines, too? Even if you were fully vaccinated as a child, your protection from certain diseases wears off. All adults need a yearly influenza vaccine. Get one dose of tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap) vaccine if you did not get it as an adolescent. Then, get tetanus-diphtheria (Td) vaccine every 10 years after that. Adults also need vaccines at certain ages, like human papilloma virus (HPV), measles mumps rubella (MMR), zoster (shingles), and pneumococcal vaccines. You may also need varicella (chickenpox) vaccine if you never had chickenpox and haven’t been vaccinated against it.

Vaccines are an important part of keeping kids healthy but did you know that adults need vaccines, too? Even if you were fully vaccinated as a child, your protection from certain diseases wears off.

You may need additional vaccines if you have long term health conditions, are traveling outside of the United States, or because of other factors that put you at risk of disease. Talk to your health care provider about vaccines you may need.

cause of other factors that put you at risk of disease. Talk to

Pregnant women should get an influenza and whooping cough (Tdap) vaccine. Pregnant women can get very ill from influenza, which can lead to hospitalizations and death. Whooping cough is a very contagious disease that can be deadly for babies. Influenza vaccine can be received any time during pregnancy, and the whooping cough vaccine should be received near the end of pregnancy (third trimester). Getting these vaccines during pregnancy will better protect the baby against these diseases in the first months of their life.

MUTAJA October 2016, VOLUME 1, ISSUE 1

You may need additional vaccines if you have long term health conditions, are traveling outside of the United States, or beyour health care provider about vaccines you may need. Don’t let cost stop you from getting vaccinated. Most health insurance plans now pay for the cost of recommended vaccines. Call the number on the back of your insurance card if you are not sure about your plan. If you don’t have health insurance or if your insurance doesn’t pay for certain vaccines, you can receive free or low-cost shots at certain clinics located throughout Minnesota. Find a participating clinic at bit.ly/2faGAJL. For more information on what vaccines you may need, visit bit.ly/2faFwFE. 

© Copyright 2016. AIS. All rights reserved.

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Mutaja News  

The mission of Mutaja is to provide thorough, accurate, and relevant stories from and about the African diaspora and communities of color in...

Mutaja News  

The mission of Mutaja is to provide thorough, accurate, and relevant stories from and about the African diaspora and communities of color in...

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