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

AEDS Explores Fresh Economic Opportunities During African Immigrant Farming Tour

 

Group picture of tour goers at the Hmong American Farmers Association

The weather may have been rainy, but that didn’t deter a small group of AEDS supporters from seeking out fresh opportunities. Thursday, September 17th AEDS led a small team of local business owners and community leaders on a farming tour. The group met on the sites of the Minnesota Food Association farm in St. Croix and on the Hmong American Farmers Association farm in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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The purpose of the tour was to explore the opportunities available for potential farmers within the diverse African immigrant communities AEDS serves. Representatives from the farms led group discussions surrounding the economic and health benefits of local farming. The farming tour was sponsored in part by AgStar Financial Services and AgriBank.

The tour aligns with AEDS’ mission to generate wealth within marginalized communities and communities of African heritage in Minnesota. AEDS believes that by exploring alternative means of creating access to key resources and by nurturing dynamic community partnerships, together we can bolster financial success within marginalized and African immigrant communities.

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Thank You to Our 2015 Little Africa Fest Sponsors

AEDS and the Little Africa Business and Cultural District of Minnesota would like to thank the Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), U.S Bank, NEXUS Community Partners, and all the local business owners that helped make Little Africa’s contribution to the 2015 Midway Arts Festival happen. Special thanks to the talented artist, musicians, dancers, the AEDS volunteers,our co-sponsors Midway Mural, and the numerous community members who made the festival a success.

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Mural painted along the Pizza Market Shop building for festival

Little Africa artists, performers , and volunteers.

Little Africa artists, performers , and volunteers.

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There’s a New Cultural Business District in Town, And It’s Using Art to Change the Economic Landscape of the Twin Cities

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Little Africa Promotes Sustainable Economic Growth

Scooch over Midtown, the Twin Cities have a new cultural business district in town and it’s called Little Africa. Last August, over 500 people attended the Midway Art Festival in St. Paul’s Hamline-Midway area, a cultural business district known as Little Africa. A reflection of the community’s boom in African owned businesses, the Little Africa Business and Cultural District of Minnesota co-hosted the Midway Art Festival with Midway Murals.

Funded in part with support the African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) received from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), U.S Bank, NEXUS Community Partners, and local business owners, the festival took place on Saturday, August 29th at Hamline Park and included a diverse array of interactive art and poetry activities for families to participate in.

Throughout the festival, a showcase of cultural drumming, singing, and dancing from a number of local artists of diverse African immigrant communities sustained the celebratory energy of the event. One performance by African cultural dancer Indy Jay, even went viral on Facebook. The video had over 15,000 views in just three days.

A highlight of the festival was the culturally inspired murals painted along the exterior of Piazza Market Shop, the African Plaza, and Snelling Cafe. Each mural “station” had food representative of the individual business owner’s African heritage; the food was free of cost to festival goers.

“Our desire is to use art and culture as a catalyst for economic development within the community,” said Gene Gelgelu, Executive Director of AEDS, and one of the main organizers of the Midway Art Festival. Gelgelu stressed the importance of including emerging artist to participate in the creation of the murals, two of which were African artists who AEDS created paid apprenticeships for with Midway Murals.

With between 50 to 60 African owned businesses in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, Little Africa offers the promise of revitalization and economic gain, in a community struggling to rebrand itself as more than the neighborhood you pass on your way to the State Fair.

“We want to create a sustainable impact in the community,” said Gelgelu. He went on to explain why the role of AEDS in co-hosting the Midway Art Festival was critical. Gelgelu believes in the potential for Little Africa to create sustained job growth in the community and in the prospect of attracting tourism, thus furthering the economic growth of the area.

Overall, the festival was a lively display of cultural exchange. Residents of the Hamline-Midway neighborhood brought their families to partake in the festivities. Community leaders further energized attendees with impassioned speeches. Everyone came together to celebrate their shared love of the arts and of the diverse African cultures represented, cementing the neighborhood’s rightful status as one of the Twin Cities cultural business districts.
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AEDS Fall 2014 Entrepreneurial Training Graduation Ceremony

African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) is moving African immigrant communities in Minnesota toward economic opportunity. Since the establishment of AEDS in 2008, we have been able to partner and collaborate with many neighborhood organizations throughout the Twin Cities.  AEDS, in partnership with Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), has been providing a 16 week long entrepreneurial training program. These small business owners have received exceptional support from AEDS including direct services and connections to a variety of small business resources.

The Fall 2014 business plan training graduation ceremony was held on January 16th, 2015. We are excited about AEDS becoming a go to organization for the diverse African immigrant communities who call the Twin Cities home.  AEDS provides business consulting, loan access, financial literacy education, and homeownership education in addition to business plan training for aspiring entrepreneurs.

For more information about AEDS and the programs & services we offer, contact us at info@aeds-mn.org or give us a call at 651-646-9411.

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2015 AEDS Home Stretch Workshop Schedule

AEDS Homeownership Education Topics We Will Cover

What’s your New Year’s resolution? Want to prepare to be a successful homeowner in 2015?

Then sign up for the many upcoming AEDS Home Stretch Workshops that will be held on two Saturdays of every month starting Saturday January 10, 2015 from 9am – 5:30pm at AEDS Conference Room 1821 University Avenue West St Paul, MN 55104 (click here for driving directions).

Prepared buyers are successful homeowners…. You can do it!

All AEDS Home Stretch Workshops will be held from 9am – 5:30 at AEDS Conference Room 1821 University Avenue West St Paul, MN 55104 (click here for driving directions). For more information or questions, please call 651-646-9411. Prepared buyers are successful homeowners…. You can do it! Click here to SIGN UP FOR UPCOMING AEDS HOME STRETCH WORKSHOPS.

Additional information:

  1. There is a $40 FEE per household (cash/check only) due on the DAY OF the workshop. There is NO PAYMENT DUE NOW to complete registration.
  2. Each paying workshop attendee will receive a copy of the 2nd Edition Home Stretch Workshop Manual, published by the Minnesota Home Ownership Center.
  3. In addition to English, we are able to accommodate the following languages: Afaan Oromo & Amharic.
  4. For further information or if you encounter any technical difficulties during the registration process, fell free to give AEDS a call at (651) 646-9411.
  5. ALL WORKSHOPS will be held at AEDS Conference Office 1821 University Avenue West St. Paul, MN 55104.

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2014 Little Africa of Minnesota Fest

Little Africa is a branding and marketing campaign focusing on African immigrant economic assets in three nodal points around primary transit corridors – the Blue Line, Green Line and Bottineau Corridor. Little Africa is an initiative of African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) in partnership with the Little Africa Development Group. The mission of Little Africa is to leverage the rich and diverse business, arts and cultural assets of Minnesota’s growing African immigrant populations to build sustainable wealth within these communities.

Major sponsors of the Little Africa Fest were LISC, Central Corridor Funder’s Collaborative, AEDS and Concordia University. Supporters included the City of Saint Paul, Park and Recs, Hamline Midway Coalition, Mosaic, Friends of Hamline Park, Nexus Community Partners, and Neighborhood Development Center.

More details of the 2014 Little Africa Fest can be found at http://aeds-mn.org/little-africa-fest-2014-draws-people-from-15-cities-and-32-zip-codes.

For more information contact Gene Gelgelu at 651.646.9411 or visit AEDS Little Africa of Minnesota section at http://aeds-mn.org/category/little-africa-of-minnesota.

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Little Africa Book Club Brings College Students, Professors, Business Owners, and Community Members Together

Little Africa Book Club Brings College Students, Professors, Business Owners, and Community Members TogetherThe Little Africa Book Club launched successfully with a diverse group of college students, professors, business owners, and community leaders having a lively interchange on a variety of topics emerging from the book, Americanah, by popular author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. There was also a sample of wine from Gabrielskloof in South Africa that has a long history of winemaking with historical records indicating production in the early 1800’s. Members also enjoyed African food served at Snelling Cafe.

Located at Snelling Café in the Little Africa business and cultural district, the book club is an attempt to celebrate the arts and culture of people of African descent and at the same time promote local economic development. Gene Gelgelu, welcomed and introduced the leaders of the book club – Dr. Debra Beilke of Concordia University and Mr. Hassan Hussein, poet, author, professor and Executive Director of Oromo Community of Minnesota. Dr Beilke made some introductory remarks and opened the forum for conversation. Mr Hussein shared personal reflections on the book. Wide ranges of issues from the author’s portrayal of culture to the immigrant experience were discussed at the meeting.

The next meeting of the Little Africa Book Club is scheduled for mid-January, 2015. For more information contact Gene Gelgelu, Executive Director of African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS), ggelgelu@aeds-mn.org.

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Little Africa Book Club: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Join us for a discussion of Americanah  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Wednesday September 24, 2014 from 6:30 to 8 pm at Snelling Cafe.

Hosted by Dr. Debra Beilke of Concordia University St. Paul, Minnesota and Mr. Hassan Hussein, Poet and Executive Director, Oromo Community of Minnesota, Wednesday September 24, 2014 from 6:30 to 8 pm at Snelling Cafe. Please RSVP by emailing Gene Gelgelu, Executive Director of African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) at ggelgelu@aeds-mn.org. Copies of Americanah will be available at the Little Africa Free Library at Snelling Cafe.

Little Africa promotes African businesses and cultural assets. Snelling Cafe brings you authentic African food and entertainment and is located at 638 Snelling Ave N, St Paul, MN 55104.

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Little Africa Fest 2014 Draws People from 15 Cities and 32 Zip Codes

AEDS Little Africa Fest 2014

African Immigrant attendees with $2.5 million aggregate income.

The Little Africa Fest at Hamline Park on August 23, 2014 was a huge success. Among the many successes were the following:

  1. It brought together a diverse mix of African immigrants as well as neighbors from the Hamline Park area and other parts of the metro area. “This is the first time in Saint Paul we have such an event celebrating African immigrants and bringing diverse groups together,” was a common theme of community leaders such as Dr. Leon Rodriguez (MNSCU), President Tom Ries (Concordia University), Babu Chimata (India Association of MN), Al Paulson (The Circle Newspaper), Edward McDonald (Council on Black Minnesotans) and Ezell Jones.
  2. It brought people from 15 cities and 32 zip codes to the area. Research of festival participants funded by the McKnight Foundation revealed that the Little Africa Fest drew people from 15 cities and 32 zip codes. African immigrants at the fest were from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Somalia, South Africa, Cameroon and the Oromo people.
  3. It introduced non-African customers to the African restaurants. “A lot of non -African customers visited my restaurant at the fest. They told me the enjoyed the cultural performances and now were enjoying sampling African food and wine,” said Snelling Café owner Afeworki Tekle Bein.
  4. It helped business owners develop new product offerings. “Based on popular demand at the Little Africa Fest I am going to serve traditional African coffee every Sunday,” said Adiam Ghebretensa co-owner of Sunshine Café. “One person wanted to buy a bottle of the African wine that was offered as part of the wine tasting experience. I am going to stock some of African wines for my customers, “ said Afeworki of Snelling Café .
  5. It helped illustrate the vision of Little Africa. The mission of Little Africa is to leverage the rich and diverse business, arts and cultural assets of Minnesota’s growing African immigrant populations to build sustainable wealth within these communities. Kathy Mouacheupao and Adrianne Abariotes of LISC celebrated the successes of Little Africa as an important part of the cultural attractions along the Green Line. LISC was one of the major sponsors of the fest. The community thanked Kathy for her work in developing a map of the cultural attractions along the Green Line. “Now the community can see what we have been talking about for many years,” said Gene Gelgelu.
  6. It inspired people to think about opening new businesses in the area. “I want to expand my furniture upholstery business,” said Samson or Samson Upholstery. “I am looking for a place to locate my law office,” said attorney Michael Fondungullah.
  7. For many it was the first time they met with legislative leaders – Minnesota Senate President Sandy Pappas and Representative Rena Moran were chief guests at the event. Senator Pappas welcomed the creation of Little Africa – a business and cultural district celebrating African immigrant assets. Representative Moran visited the owners of Snelling Café, Sunshine Café, Fasika Restaurant, and Freweini’s Sunshine Beauty Salon and offered her support.
  8. It launched a new activity – the Little Africa Book Club. Dr. Debra Beilke of Concordia University and poet and community leader Hassan Hussien launched the Little Africa Book club which will meet September 24 from 6:30 to 8 pm at Snelling Café to discuss the book, Americanah by Chimamanda Nzogi. Copies of the book will be available for borrowing at the Little Africa Free Library at Snelling Café.
  9. It launched the African Market Potential Study funded by the McKnight Foundation and conducted by Concordia University in partnership with African Economic Development Solutions and African immigrant groups. “For the first time we have hard data on the economy of a community festival. Our small sample of 55 African immigrants from diverse backgrounds revealed that they are an important engine of economic growth in their neighborhoods spending over $30,000 every month on household expenses. They represented a $2.5 million economic engine revitalizing 15 cities where they live and work,” said Dr. Bruce Corrie, economist at Concordia University.
  10. It brought pride to the community and the neighborhood. Festival attendees repeatedly expressed pride in the celebration of African cultural and business assets. Business owners of Fasika Restaurant and Sunshine building volunteered to work to take the next festival to new heights.
  11. Strong support for the concept of Little Africa – 92 percent of the African immigrants surveyed at the fest supported the concept of Little Africa. This corresponds to an earlier survey by AEDS on business owners who also strongly supported the concept.

“The vibrant energy of the artists and the warmth of our neighbors in the Hamline park area who came out to celebrate with the community, was very special,” said Gene Gelgelu of African Economic Development Solutions, which organized the festival in partnership with the Little Africa Development Group. Members of the Little Africa Development Group are: Gene Gelgelu, Dr. Kehinde Odusote, Michael Fondungullah, Mesfin Negia, Hassan Hussein, Nafisa Farah, Karifa Jalloh, and Dr. Bruce Corrie.

After enjoying the vibrant community drumming by artist Jesse Buckner and Solomon Bedane and the energy of the African dances by Tujare (Indy) Mohamad, and poetry by Hassan Hussein, the participants sampled African food and wine at Snelling Café, traditional Ethiopian coffee at Sunshine Café and more African wine tasting at Fasika restaurant. Other popular attractions at Little Africa Fest were beautiful art work by African artist Sara Endlaw and Yiran African Arts and Design and Streetcorner Letterpress by Jon Reynolds and Witt Siasoco.

Little Africa is a branding and marketing campaign focusing on African immigrant economic assets in three nodal points around primary transit corridors – the Blue Line, Green Line and Bottineau Corridor. Little Africa is an initiative of African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) in partnership with the Little Africa Development Group. The mission of Little Africa is to leverage the rich and diverse business, arts and cultural assets of Minnesota’s growing African immigrant populations to build sustainable wealth within these communities.

Major sponsors of the Little Africa Fest were LISC, Central Corridor Funder’s Collaborative, AEDS and Concordia University. Supporters included the City of Saint Paul, Park and Recs, Hamline Midway Coalition, Mosaic, Friends of Hamline Park, Nexus Community Partners, and Neighborhood Development Center.

For more information contact Gene Gelgelu at 651.646.9411 or visit AEDS website at www.aeds-mn.org.

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Little Africa Art & Cultural Fest on Saturday August 23, 2014

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Enjoy African art, music, dance, food and cultural connections at the Little Africa Art and Cultural Festival on Saturday August 23, 2014, from 4-8pm at Hamline Park in St. Paul, located at 1564 West Lafond Avenue St. Paul, Minnesota 55104.

Little Africa Fest will offer an African experience right in the middle of St. Paul along the Green Line.

Little Africa Art and Cultural Festival features African drums by Jesse Buckner, African dance and music by Tujare (Indy Jay) Mohamed, African digital paintings by Big Z, and African art by John Reynolds among others. The festival is part of the C4ward Arts and Culture along the Green Line project supported by a partnership between TC LISC and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.

Visit African restaurants, cafes, grocery stores and other businesses in the Little Africa Business & Cultural District of Minnesota. Be sure to experience the authentic spices of African food like Injera and curried lamb stew or lentils cooked in Berbere sauce at Snelling Cafe, Fasika Restaurant or Flamingo Restaurant. Attend the festival to get free tickets to FREE African wine, coffee and food at nearby businesses in the Little Africa district.

Also at the festival will be the launch of the African Market Potential study–an effort to estimate the impact of the $1.4 billion African immigrant market. This is a study funded by the McKnight Foundation in collaboration with Concordia University.

Little Africa is a branding and marketing campaign focusing on African immigrant economic assets in three nodal points around primary transit corridors–the Blue Line, Green Line, and Bottineau Corridor. The nodal points are: the core area around the Snelling and University Avenue area in St. Paul; in Minneapolis the area along Cedar/Riverside/Franklin Avenue; and in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center the area around Brooklyn Boulevard.

Little Africa is an initiative of the African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) in partnership with the Little Africa Development Group. The mission of Little Africa is to leverage the rich and diverse businesses, art, and cultural assets of Minnesota’s growing African immigrant populations to build sustainable wealth within the African immigrant communities.

For more information concerning the Little Africa Festival, please visit the Facebook event page or contact Gene Gelgelu, Executive Director of African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) at 651-646-9411.

The Little Africa Art and Cultural Fest on Saturday August 23, 2014 from 4-8 pm at Hamline Park in St. Paul. located at 1564 West Lafond Ave. Saint Paul, MN 55104.

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