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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! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/339KM9L

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

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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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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.

midway mural

Mural painted along the Pizza Market Shop building for festival

Little Africa artists, performers , and volunteers.

Little Africa artists, performers , and volunteers.

littleafrica2015festsponsors

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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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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 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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