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Archive for November, 2013

Little Africa campaign launched in St. Paul, Minnesota

By Justyna Smela Wolski, TC Daily Planet
November 16, 2013

Cultural dance by India Jamal

Snelling Café hosted the presentation of the Little Africa campaign on November 14, a marketing and branding campaign that is part of the World Cultural Heritage District along University Avenue in St. Paul. The campaign is a project of African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) of Minnesota. The celebration focused on values of entrepreneurship and was a “marketing and branding campaign to bring visibility the more than $1.4 billion African Immigrant economy of Minnesota.” According to Gene Gelgelu, the Executive Director of AEDS, the project includes 28 businesses which created “at least 100 jobs” producing a big “impact on immigrant communities”. The mission of AEDS is to “build wealth within African communities. AEDS provide business training, small business-coaching, access to loans and financial literacy”, said Teshite Wako, CFO of Neighborhood Development Center. The goal is also to be “visible and get recognized” as “our voices count, and also our resources count.”

Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina M. Wright was an honored guest and spoke at the event. Expressing her satisfaction in being part of the “diversity of African culture,” Justice Wright said: “It is wonderful to celebrate to your civic engagement and all of the values that go along with it. (…) These values include patriotism, both pride in America and pride in our countries of origin. The value of civic engagement and participation (…) the value of capitalism, that is truly the American way, and I see it so embraced, I smell it in the food that is so wonderfully prepared for us to consume and I see in the commitment to moving our communities forwards, working hard.” Thankfulness for the U.S. economic system was also highlighted afterward by the entrepreneurs Afeworki Bein, owner of Snelling Café, and Teshome Belayeneh, owner of Rebecca’s Bakery.

Little Africa’s celebration included numerous partners and their representatives: Hassan Hussein, Oromo Community of Minnesota; Lemlen Kebede, Ethiopian Community of Minnesota; Michael Fondungullah, Cameroonian Community; Ghas Mends, Sierra Leone Community in Minnesota; and Dr. Kenny Odusote, Minnesota Institute for Nigerian Development. Some of the speakers compared the situation of African diaspora to other communities. This was the case of Fondungullah who expressed his conviction in relocating African businesses along the Corridor to gain visibility “as the Hmongs” have done.

Paige Joostens, a student at Concordia University, another partner of Little Africa, presented the “Survey on College Students and Ethnic Markets.” The research, based on the purchase power of college students and their consumption of ethnic food, showed that, in case of delivery, “ease of ordering, punctuality, transparency of cost, quality of food and temperature” were all above average and there were no complaints about the services provided. She also suggested improvements in meeting college student’s needs, such as their potential desite to study in the restaurants.

Little Africa also presented the launch of their Free Library, to which Justice Wright provided DVDs from the Minnesotan Judicial branch, “Going to court in Minnesota” in English and African languages, and a guide about the same topic, although only in English. Little Africa was a total African experience of pride, call to action and culture, completed by African snacks from Snelling Café and a dance show by India Jamal.

This is one of a number of articles produced by student interns at the TC Daily Planet.

Related story:

Little Africa cultural district launched in St. Paul (Eric Blom, TC Daily Planet, 2012)

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.

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Little Africa Launched with Community Leaders and Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina Wright

“Lift up as you Climb” – says Justice Wilhelmina Wright to community leaders….

Little Africa – a marketing and branding campaign, that grew out of the World Cultural Heritage District in St. Paul was launched in St. Paul on November 14, 2013.

“There is tremendous economic and cultural energy in the African immigrant community reflected in its $1.4 billion buying power in Minnesota”, said Gene Gelgelu, Executive Director of African Economic Development Solutions and founding chair of the Little Africa Development Group. “This evening you will experience that vibrant energy,” he added.

“The core area of Little Africa St. Paul is the area by the intersection of Snelling and University Avenue in St. Paul. Little Africa-St. Paul will connect this core to African immigrant assets in other areas of St. Paul and in a way that will connect mainstream consumers and people to the business and cultural assets of the African immigrant community,” said Gelgelu. “We are working with partners to establish Little Africa-Minneapolis and Little Africa-Brooklyn Boulevard.”

The program began with a lively cultural dance by India Jamal – an African immigrant dancer who shared three different traditional dances from Africa throughout the program. The program also featured photographs of the African immigrant community taken by Roseville Area High School student, Cristina Corrie.

The Little Africa Development Group leaders shared insights into their communities and supported the vision of Little Africa. Hassan Hussein, Executive Director of the Oromo Community of Minnesota shared insights about the large Oromo community of Minnesota. “We estimate that there are over 30,000 Oromo people living in Minnesota,” Hussein said. “It is a very diverse community and has much to offer Minnesota. We support the vision of Little Africa” he added.

Lemlem Kebede, President of the Ethiopian Community in Minnesota also supported the vision of Little Africa in her remarks. “The Ethiopian community celebrates many festivals including its annual picnic at Fort Snelling State Park. We welcome you all to join us in those celebrations,” said Kebede.

Michael Fondungullah, Vice Chair of the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce and founding member of the Cameroonian Community of Minnesota has a long history of involvement in working to create a pan-African economic presence in Minnesota. “My vision is to see this area bustling with businesses owned by African immigrant communities. We could even host – ‘Africa Day’- on this section of Snelling Avenue,” he added.

Ghas Mends, board member from the Sierra Leone Community of Minnesota said, “We are an umbrella group of the diverse Sierra Leone community of Minnesota. We love Minnesota and our community members have many talents that could help build the state.”

Dr. Kehinde Odusote, President of the West African Collaborative and Social Secretary of the Minnesota Institute for Nigerian Development (MIND) shared information on the Nigerian community in Minnesota. “MIND is the umbrella body for all diverse Nigerian ethnic groups in Minnesota. As an organization, we promote our cultural and economic capacity as we foster unity though social, educational and economic development. Our vision is to provide a platform that allows Nigerians to become productive citizens through cultural sensitive values. We are excited about the possibilities of Little Africa initiative,” she said.

Dr. Bruce Corrie, co-founder of the World Cultural Heritage District and professor of economics at Concordia University, introduced Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina Wright.

Justice Wright gave a powerful and eloquent presentation to the packed Snelling Café as she celebrated both the African immigrant communities as well as core American values. She articulated what community members agreed was a core value of Little Africa, “Lift up as we Climb” Justice Wright told the community. She said she was particularly happy to be at the launch of the Little Africa Free Library as literacy is so important for community vitality. She presented information on the courts in multiple languages, to be placed in the Little Africa Free Library.

In the question and answer session moderated by Dr. Odusote, community members both supported the vision of Little Africa as well as inquired about plans to engage with African immigrant groups in different parts of the city. Business owners inquired about resources to help them develop their business plans and new business initiatives.

Lisa Tabor, owner of Culture Brokers and co-founder of the World Cultural Heritage District, presented the vision of the Little Africa Free Library that adds to the many little free libraries across Minnesota’s neighborhoods. “Community members can borrow books free and lend some of their own for others to read. In the Little Africa Free Library at Snelling Café you will find books by famous African authors. Come and share these books and enjoy this beautiful Snelling Café,” she added.

Paige Joostens, a business major at Concordia University, reported results of the research on the college student market for ethnic food that was released to the public at the event. ”Our research indicates that there is an opportunity for both college students and ethnic restaurants to gain,” said Joostens. Business owners and supporters will be invited to a meeting in January to discuss these findings. The research was funded through a grant from Minnesota Campus Compact. The students will also engage in a marketing effort to bring college customers to ethnic restaurants and delivery vendors, including those restaurants in Little Africa.

Two entrepreneurs shared their story at the event. Afeworki Bein, owner of Snelling Café shared his support for Little Africa and his story of how he started from a small coffee shop to a full service restaurant in an expanded space. Participants at the launch feasted on an African buffet cooked by Afeworki and his staff.

Teshome Belayeneh, owner of Rebecca’s Bakery, celebrated the support he received in America as a new immigrant. He shared with the audience two cakes that were the signature products of his wife. The cakes were thoroughly enjoyed by the people present.

Leaders also celebrated similar concepts in the area – Little Mekong and the Rondo Cultural and Historic District on University Avenue.

“I was impressed with the positive energy in the room,” said President Tom Ries of Concordia University. “It is so special to be part of this dynamic community,” he added.

The event concluded with a call to action by Hassan Hussein who invited all present to work together to build the vision of Little Africa. Next steps include articulating strategies to bring the community together around this vision.

The event was taped for cable by the Saint Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) and will be shared on area cable channels in Minnesota.

Little Africa contact persons: Gene Gelgelu 651-646-9411 and Dr. Bruce Corrie 612-321-8263

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Little Africa of Minnesota Launch Party @Snelling Cafe in St. Paul November 14th, 2013

African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) would like to thank everyone for supporting and attending the launch of Little Africa Business & Cultural District of Minnesota at Snelling Cafe in St. Paul on November 14th, 2013. We would like to extend a special thank you to our sponsors, Snelling Cafe (located at 638 Snelling Avenue North, St. Paul, MN 55104) and Rebecca’s Bakery (located at 2111 E Franklin Avenue #2, Minneapolis, MN 55404). Below are some pictures we captured at the event.

Feel free to share. Stay tuned to AEDS for future updates and developments on Little Africa Business & Cultural District of Minnesota.

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Financial Fitness Boot Camp New Year Resolution on THURSDAY DECEMBER 5th 1pm to 6:30pm

AEDS and University of Minnesota Extension challenge you to be financially fit. Attend the Financial Fitness Boot Camp New Year Resolution on THURSDAY DECEMBER  5th from 1pm to 6:30pm at: 1821 University ave Suite S-127 St. Paul, MN 55104.

AEDS Financial Fitness Challenge will help you gain the power to:

  • Build & Manage Spending and Saving Plans
  • Identify Personal Value
  • Understand the Myths and Facts about Credit
  • And a variety of workout sessions


CLICK HERE TO REGISTER ONLINE or call 651-646-9411.

Financial Fitness Boot Camp New Year Resolution

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