AEDS Blog: News, Updates, Upcoming Events & Much More

Archive for June, 2016

Latest Little Africa Tour showcases where we’re going and how far we’ve come

Jacob and Freweini share the story of Greta McClain's mural, Braided. Two local African artists, Sara Endalew and Hanna Gashaw, apprenticed on this project.

Jacob and Freweini share the story of Greta McClain’s mural, Braided. Two local African artists, Sara Endalew and Hanna Gashaw, apprenticed on this project.

Art, food, coffee, and conversation were some of the things shared on our Friday, June 17th Little Africa Tour for the final stakeholders celebration of the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative (CCFC). The celebration marked the close of the CCFC after 9 years of investing in organizations that support cultural districts along the Green Line; their goal was to protect and uplift communities during Green Line construction and implementation. The CCFC supported the effort of cultural nodes such as Little Africa. Our tour showcased all the ways Little Africa has grown in the past decade.

As part of the day-long final celebration, stakeholders had the option of touring one of the cultural districts in which they’d invested: the Innovation District (Prospect Park Station), Creative Enterprise Zone (Raymond Ave Station), Hamline Station, or Little Africa (Snelling Ave Station). We were so happy that Little Africa was a popular choice!

The tour kicked off at the Southern Theater, where 27 CCFC “tourists” were presented with goody bags filled with snacks and tea from Little Africa businesses. Gene Gelgelu, AEDS Executive Director, and Lula Saleh, AEDS arts organizer, guided the group onto the Green Line LRT where they departed for Snelling Ave. Station. At Snelling Ave, guests were introduced to 3 Little Africa tour guides: Lori Greene, Mosaic on a Stick founder and muralist; Genet Abate, musician, and Ayano Jiru, writer.

From left to right, tour guides Lula Saleh (AEDS Arts Organizer), Genet Abate (local musician), and Lori Greene (muralist and founder of Mosaic on a Stick). Not pictured is Ayano Jiru (local writer) who also helped guide the tour.

From left to right, tour guides Lula Saleh (AEDS Arts Organizer), Genet Abate (local musician), and Lori Greene (muralist and founder of Mosaic on a Stick). Not pictured is Ayano Jiru (local writer) who also helped guide the tour.

Our first stop was Star Food, a coop-style grocery, deli, enjera manufacturer, and barber shop. Guests toured the store aisles as Ayano Jiru talked about the different products available. Lula described the cultural importance of enjera, a spongy, sour pancake traditionally made from a grain called teff and commonly eaten with East African meals.

Stepping outside and just around the corner, guests were wowed by Berbere, a mosaic mural designed and installed by Lori Greene. Lori talked about the mural and the importance of women in African cultures. Ayano pointed out items on the mural which were of particular importance to the Oromo, one of the cultures of Ethiopia.

Lori Greene, Mosaic on a Stick founder and muralist, discusses her mosaic mural entitled Berbere

Lori Greene, Mosaic on a Stick founder and muralist, discusses her mosaic mural entitled Berbere

The next stops along the tour were Dahabshiil Market and Addis Market. Dahabshiil (the name means “Goldsmith” in Somali) carries a variety of Somali foods and spices: 90% of clientele are Somali. Addis (the name means “new” in Amharic) carries more Ethiopian-oriented products. Elsa, the owner, passed around a big basket of qolo, a traditional East African snack of roasted barley and mixed with peanuts or chickpeas. Genet Abate then described some of the items available in the store including tuaf, a cultural candle made of long cotton rope mixed in wax. Tuaf is used for special occasions, such as holidays or Ethiopian Orthodox church ceremonies.

Walking just outside these markets brought guests to Braided, a Little Africa mural designed by artist Greta McLain for the Midway Mural Project. Freweini Sium, owner of the neighboring Sunshine Beauty Salon, spoke about the importance of hair and braiding to East African culture. While creating the mural, McLain mentored 2 African artists, Sara Endalew and Hanna Gashaw: both women were extremely excited about being a part of this project, and said it helped build their skills and confidence as artists.

Turning the corner, guides led the group into Fasika Restaurant where guests were greeted with the smells and tastes of Ethiopian cuisine. Genet explained that “Fasika” means “Easter celebration” in Amharic, a celebration which always includes lots of food, fun, and family. The buffet included enjera and a variety of Ethiopian wats, or stews. While silverware was provided, Gene lifted up his hand and encouraged guests to eat as Ethiopians do—with a “natural fork.”

Guests enjoy an Ethiopian buffet provided by Fasika Restaurant

Guests enjoy an Ethiopian buffet provided by Fasika Restaurant

After good food and conversation, guests were led to Sabrina Coffee for a traditional East African coffee ceremony. More delicious snacks—qolo, popcorn, sambusas, and homemade bread—were passed around as Karima Omer, owner of Sabrina Coffee, prepared coffee in the traditional jebena, or clay pot. Once it was brewed, Karima poured it into siini, small traditional cups, and offered it to guests. Lula Saleh read her poem, Coffee, which compared the typically fast-paced, work-centered American coffee culture to the slow, community-based coffee culture of East Africa. As Lula spoke—”we would wait what seemed like forever, but the time would pass as we’d enjoy each others company and the warmth of the smells and the smoke,”—we felt ourselves transported. For African immigrants, the experience of a traditional coffee ceremony can be an emotional one: “It almost makes me cry,” Karima relayed, “remembering all the friends and family back home.”

Karima, owner of Sabrina Coffee, treats guests to a traditional East African coffee ceremony

Karima, owner of Sabrina Coffee, treats guests to a traditional East African coffee ceremony

As guests were finishing their food and coffee, Tracy Kinney of the St. Paul Riverfront Corporation presented on the Facade Improvement project, an arts-based movement for making cultural districts like Little Africa more visible, strengthening a sense of place, and increasing economic opportunity. Facade Improvement plans include adding awnings with mosaics and cultural designs to buildings to make them more visually appealing and cohesive, placing maps of Little Africa businesses at different street-side locations, and adding green spaces. “These businesses and this community aren’t new,” Tracy emphasized. “It’s more about bringing everyone together.”

Lastly, guests shared their appreciation for the guides and our gracious business hosts. Some questioned how the Snelling-Midway stadium and redevelopment will affect Little Africa, but others credited the CCFC with building strong partnerships that have prepared communities to respond to such changes. Amelia Brown, founder of Emergency Arts, spoke to these alliances as one of the best things the CCFC did for the community: “I always believed in the power of [Little Africa] to support the vision of what they wanted for themselves. Little Africa is more cohesive now. There’s more coalescence between resources and opportunities…I think [the CCFC] helped us to see that emergencies are opportunities. Disruptions are opportunities.” While we can’t predict what the future will hold for Little Africa, we’re stronger, better prepared, and more hopeful because of our community partners.

 

 

littleafricatour2016 33littleafricatour2016 31 littleafricatour2016 29 littleafricatour2016 28 littleafricatour2016 27 littleafricatour2016 26 littleafricatour2016 25 littleafricatour2016 24 littleafricatour2016 23 littleafricatour2016 22 littleafricatour2016 20 littleafricatour2016 19 (1) littleafricatour2016 18 littleafricatour2016 17 littleafricatour2016 16 littleafricatour2016 15 littleafricatour2016 14 littleafricatour2016 13 littleafricatour2016 12 littleafricatour2016 11 littleafricatour2016 10 littleafricatour2016 9 littleafricatour2016 8 littleafricatour2016 7 littleafricatour2016 6 littleafricatour2016 5 littleafricatour2016 4 littleafricatour2016 3 (1) littleafricatour2016 2 (1) littleafricatour2016 1 (2)

Posted in: Company News, Little Africa of Minnesota, Press

Leave a Comment (0) →

AEDS, Little Africa welcome the A-Line

photo courtesy of Kathy Graul of Metro Transit

Have you seen a fancy new bus running along Snelling Ave? That’s the A-Line! The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) A-Line started running between the Rosedale Transit Center and 46th Street Station at 10:00 am on Saturday, June 11th. The opening ceremony brought community connections, along with a hope for increased visibility and economic opportunity for Little Africa business owners.

AEDS staff set up an info table to engage visitors in conversations about AEDS and Little Africa

AEDS staff set up an info table to engage visitors in conversations about AEDS and Little Africa

Launch party festivities took place near Snelling and University Ave on Saturday morning and afternoon. Acoustic music, dancing, face-painting, and lively conversation attracted local residents and passersby. About a dozen organizations, including small businesses and nonprofits, set up tables to engage with visitors and talk with them about their work in the neighborhood. Our staff had our own table to represent AEDS and Little Africa. We introduced ourselves to visitors, invited them to our upcoming Little Africa Fest on August 13th, and presented a map of local African immigrant businesses so people who had never heard of Little Africa before could visualize it. We also made new connections with community members and had some great conversations!

Samson Zeleke, owner of Samson Custom Upholstery on Snelling Ave., participated in the first bus ride

Samson Zeleke, owner of Samson Custom Upholstery on Snelling Ave., was honored to be one of the first A-Line riders.

Little Africa business owners were among the several dozen community members invited to ride the first A-Line bus. Samson Zeleke, who opened his upholstery business on Snelling Ave. five years ago, shared his support of the new bus service: “I think it’s very good for immigrants and businesses. Most immigrants, when they first come [to America], don’t drive. A lot of people get frustrated with driving,” Samson relayed. He looked forward to the A-Line making his business more accessible to customers, especially immigrants.

The A-Line is a new type of rapid bus transit for the Twin Cities, and will cut the length of time it takes to travel between Rosedale and 46th Street Station by 25%. Instead of paying onboard, travelers will buy a ticket or use a Go-To Card at the station before getting on the bus. Service will run every 10 minutes throughout most of the day and include fewer stops.

The A-Line will connect with the METRO Blue Line at 46th Street Station and the METRO Green Line at Snelling & University Station and other destinations including Hamline University, Macalester College, Highland Village, Rosedale Transit Center, HarMar Mall, Minnehaha Park, and the Midway area. Visit http://www.metrotransit.org/a-line-project-faqs for more info.

Posted in: Company News, Little Africa of Minnesota, Press

Leave a Comment (0) →

Congratulations Class of 2016!

AEDS graduates it’s first Entrepreneurship and Business Development class

Congrats to the graduates!

Congrats to the graduates!

On the evening of June 2, 2016, African Economic Development Solutions and St. Paul Housing Agency staff, 7 graduates, and 14 proud family members gathered to celebrate a landmark event: the graduation of AEDS’s first class of Entrepreneurship and Business Development Training Program students. While AEDS has been partnering with the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) to train aspiring entrepreneurs since 2008, this marks the first year AEDS has conducted a business training program with it’s own curriculum. Hassen Hussein, Director of Business Development at AEDS, designed the 12-week program and delivered the course. Several sessions were also taught by Idris Mohamed, founder of Minnehaha Adult Daycare Service Center, an adult daycare serving Somali immigrants and refugees. Not only does this new program allow AEDS to be more self-sufficient in helping entrepreneurs design and develop, but it also fills a gap. Many business development programs teach how to create business plans, Hussein notes, but they leave out the character traits essential to successful entrepreneurship. The AEDS curriculum teaches business basics like plans and bookkeeping, but is rooted in life skills- the passion and patience every entrepreneur needs to overcome the challenges of starting and maintaining a business.

Barbara, a graduate and aspiring designer, speaks about what she learned in the program

Barbara, a graduate and aspiring designer, speaks about what she learned in the program

The evening began with graduates and staff introducing themselves, their experiences in the class, and what they’ve learned. “Thank you’s” were abundant, and it became clear that the 12-week program had been a life-changing event for both AEDS staff and students. Graduates summarized their business plans- from transportation service to graphic design- and how the course helped them to achieve their goals, while AEDS staff revealed how inspired they’ve been by the hard work and dedication of the students.

Lucius attended each of the classes with his mother, Nicola, and became a business student himself. He graduated with his mother, and had the honor of cutting the cake.

Lucius attended each of the classes with his mother, Nicola, and became a business student himself. He graduated with his mother, and had the honor of cutting the cake.

One student, Nicola Giusti, spoke emotionally about how AEDS’s program had opened doors for her: while she’d had aspirations of creating an education publication with a social justice bent for quite some time and knew she could benefit from business development training, needing to take care of her two young sons had prevented her from enrolling in courses. AEDS not only allowed her boys to accompany her to classes, but welcomed them and encouraged them to engage. One of her sons, Lucius, graduated the course with her. Lucius’s current entrepreneurial goals capitalize on friendship: he plans to make a business out of friendship bracelets, and to later expand to friendship dolls.

At the end of the ceremony, AEDS and St. Paul Housing Agency staff presented the graduates with certificates and staff, graduates, and families mingled over delicious mocha-frosted layer cake from Rebecca’s Bakery. AEDS staff and partners spoke to a perhaps overlooked benefit of this program: quality networking. This course allowed entrepreneurs to get to know other entrepreneurs, and formed meaningful professional relationships which participants were encouraged to tap into in the future.

Congratulations to the graduates! And our sincere thanks to Elizabeth Pacunas and Alicia Huckleby of the St. Paul Public Housing Agency for attending the celebration and supporting our efforts in becoming a more self-sufficient community organization.

Hassen Hussein shares his experience developing and teaching the course

Hassen Hussein shares his experience developing and teaching the course

St. Paul Public Housing Agency's Alicia Huckleby shares her support of the program

St. Paul Public Housing Agency’s Alicia Huckleby shares her support of the program

Idris Mohamed, founder of Minnehaha Adult Daycare Service Center which serves Somali immigrants and refugees, shares his experience and appreciation working with the students and AEDS staff

Idris Mohamed, founder of Minnehaha Adult Daycare Service Center which serves Somali immigrants and refugees, shares his experience and appreciation working with the students and AEDS staff

Posted in: Company News, Little Africa of Minnesota, Press

Leave a Comment (0) →