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Archive for 2016

Little Africa Arts Series

African Women Entrepreneurs & Artist Networking 

Storytelling and poetry from African female perspectives on the topics of entrepreneurship, success, and leadership within our communities. The event will include a number of local artists & a panel of business owners/leaders. Facilitated by AEDS Arts Organizer Lula Saleh. 

Date: March 8th, 2016

Time: 6-8pm

Location: Flamingo Restaurant 490 N Syndicate St, St Paul, MN 55104



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First Little Africa arts series fuels dialogue; showcases variety of African artists and performers


Little Africa launched its first in a series of arts events Wednesday January 20th at Snelling Café. The Where are my roots? Open Mic and dialogue attracted a crowd of around 50-60 people. The purpose of the event—- and the Little Africa arts series, is to utilize creative placemaking tools to raise awareness of the cultural and artistic footprint of African communities within the Twin Cities, specifically those in Little Africa.

Organized and curated by African Economic Development Solutions’ (AEDS) Arts Organizer and poet/singer-songwriter/artist Lula Saleh, the Where are my roots? Open mic explored themes of identity and place. Serving as the event’s emcee, Saleh introduced the event with words describing her nostalgia for home and breaking stereotypes with her multifaceted identities as a multiethnic African Minnesotan and black woman. Saleh was also the first performer of the open mic, reading from an essay she wrote which unpacked the complexities surround place and identity. After her performance Saleh opened up the floor with questions from the audience; after each open mic performance attendees had the opportunity to engage with the performing open mic artists.

“The purpose of these events is to enhance the economic vitality of African and black-owned businesses in the Little Africa business district.” said Saleh about the series. “Especially with being small businesses, you can’t succeed without a cultural footprint. So that’s the purpose of these bimonthly arts events; its to bring more attention to this community of African immigrant businesses and entrepreneurs, to support and celebrate them, while having much-needed conversations through the arts about culture, identity and race in the black and African Midway-St. Paul community.” she said.

During Wednesday’s event, established artists like Abdi Phenomenal and Ifrah Mansour participated during the open mic along side emerging artists who recited poems and speeches. State Representative Rena Moran was also in attendance, and spoke briefly about the importance of “telling our stories” and encouraged folks to increase their involvement with political processes outside of voting day. Tracey Kinney from the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation also spoke during the event to discuss Little Africa’s and Riverfronts collaboration to improve the exterior facades of Little Africa businesses. Kinney also took the time to gather feedback from the audience on what could be done to improve the neighborhood’s vitality and visibility.

“I think the night went really well!” Said Saleh about the open mic, “ It was our first official kickoff for the Little Africa arts and dialogue series, and it took place at Snelling Cafe, an Eritrean-owned coffee shop and restaurant in the heart of Little Africa. In terms of having a full house, a full lineup, a diversity of voices, of cultural and ethnic identities present and even in artistic mediums that were presented, it was amazing. It was a family-friendly event so we had diversity in age range; our audience members were from children to people who I would identify as elders in our communities.”

The Little Africa Arts series is comprised of seven community arts and dialogue events taking place every other month during 2016. The series will be held within different Little Africa businesses and restaurants in St. Paul’s Hamline-Midway neighborhood. The next Little Africa Arts series will take place on March 8th. The series is made possible in part due to funding provided by Twin Cities’ Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

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

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Little Africa and On The Green Line gather community’s insights

green line re-cap pic


Monday January 11th Little Africa and the On the Green Line Marketing Collaborative hosted a community listening and outreach session at Sabrina’s Café in St. Paul. The purpose of the session was to collect information on how residents, business owners, and other key community stakeholders use the On The Green Line Marketing resources.

Since the launch of the Green Line, the collaborative has organized a number of initiatives to provide marketing resources (directories, websites, bus-stop ads, etc) for local businesses and residents. The collaborative teamed up with the Midway Chamber of Commerce to explore ways to improve those efforts by organizing a series of community outreach sessions. The outreach sessions are taking place during the month of January at different St. Paul and Minneapolis locations along or near the Green Line.

In addition to residents and community members, Little Africa’s outreach session drew folks from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Metro Transit, and State Senator Foung Hawj.

Sabrina’s Café owner Karima Omer, who recently re-opened her quaint coffee shop after being closed for nearly a month for re-modeling, provided participants with food and traditional Ethiopian coffee throughout the meeting. During the outreach sessions participants discussed current neighborhood and district brand presences, identified other community partners and collaborative efforts, and brainstormed potential marketing strategies that could benefit the community.

Things like re-launching a coupon book with deals from local businesses and creating an app to help people better locate small businesses and community happenings along the green line were some of many suggestions made.

“Making it easier to find things to do is a great idea.” Said Fatima Omar, who works as College Navigator for the International Institute of Minnesota, a St.Paul based non-profit.

“I really enjoyed the discussion. I’m glad I found out about this!” Omar said she saw the event posted on Facebook and was curious to learn more.

The information gathered during the outreach sessions will be complied by the On the Green Line Collaborative.To participate in this initiative, take the below survey or attend an upcoming On the Green Line outreach session:


  • Downtown Minneapolis
    Tues, Jan 19, 12pm-1pm
    The Open Book
    1011 S Washington Ave
    Minneapolis, MN 55415


  • Historic Rondo
    Weds Jan 20, 12pm-1pm
    Kings Crossing
    500 Dale St N
    St Paul, MN 55103


  • Stadium Village
    Weds Jan 20, 2:30pm-3:30pm
    Bar Luchador
    825 SE Washington Ave
    Minneapolis, MN 55414


  • Lowertown
    Thurs Jan 21, 12pm-1pm
    Black Dog Cafe
    308 E. Prince StSt Paul, MN 55101


  • Frogtown & Little Mekong
    Tues Jan 26, 6:30pm-8pm
    St. Paul City School – 643 Virginia St
    St Paul, MN 55103
    (part of Frogtown Neighbohood Mtg)


Do you use the Green Line for work or play? We’re also conducting a survey of rider habits and district marketing preferences. Take the survey and you’ll be eligible to win one of ten gift certificates to a Green Line restaurant!

The survey will close Friday January 29th, 2016 at 5:00pm.

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African Economic Development Solutions, Finalist for 2016 Knight Cities Challenge



In her now famous TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said “…when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”

African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) plans to do just that.

Tuesday, January 12 the Knight Foundation announced that AEDS’ proposed project “More Than a Single Continent: an intellectual tour of Little Africa through food, music, and discussion.” is a finalist for the Knight Cities Challenge. Of the 158 finalists chosen out of 4,500 applications from 26 different cities across the nation, AEDS is one of 10 finalist based in St. Paul.

The second year of a three-year run, the Knight Cities Challenge will select winners from among the finalist which comprise of nonprofits, government organizations, design experts and urban planning groups. The Knight Foundation will distribute 5 million dollars to the winning projects that best answer ways to make their cities successful. Winners will be announced by the foundation in the Spring of 2016.

AEDS’ proposed project “More Than a Single Continent” seeks to showcase the diversity of local African communities by hosting a series of events and discussions centered on food and music as the entry point to facilitate meaningful community dialogue, to educate, and to provide multidimensional visibility for the many African immigrant communities that call St. Paul home.

The ultimate goal of this project will be to mainstream a more inclusive and complex narrative of what it means to be African, but also to broaden what it means to be a resident of St. Paul. Through these discussions and events AEDS hopes to bridge the gaps that disengage folks, to establish a space where diverse peoples, especially communities of color, see themselves as a vital part of St. Paul’s long-term fabric.

This is the second time AEDS has been a finalist for a Knight Foundation award. In 2015 AEDS was a finalist for the Knight Green Line Challenge award which AEDS eventually won for a separate Little Africa project. Little Africa, a virtual and place based branding effort launched by AEDS in 2013, is rooted in St. Paul’s historic Hamline Midway area.

Since its launch, Little Africa has partnered with numerous community organizations to collaborate on dynamic community centered projects and events. One of the most visually recognizable of those collaborations can be viewed along Snelling Avenue where several murals decorate small businesses, thanks to a collaboration with Midway Murals.

Through Little Africa, AEDS hopes to implement creative placemaking strategies to foster meaningful community engagement, to inspire and create a space where St. Paul’s diverse populations of African heritage communities can thrive.

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