Attendees crowded inside the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center last Saturday as Somali youth held their first organized meeting to discuss community issues on the West Bank.
The youth meetings have stemmed from gatherings organized early last month by Somali mothers to address local safety concerns. Every other week at the opportunity center, both groups discuss issues ranging from crime and opioid abuse, to police brutality and after school activities.
Local mothers organized their first meeting on Oct. 6 to respond to recent crimes in the Cedar-Riverside area, said Yusra Arab, a policy associate for Ward 6 City Council member Abdi Warsame. In September, a shooting in Cedar-Riverside left a man dead. An 18-year-old was shot and killed in the Seven Corners neighborhood last July.
By organizing, the mothers aim to find ways to promote a safety discussions among women and youth, Arab said.
Nasra Hassan, one of the organizing mothers, said she attended the meetings to show solidarity with the Cedar-Riverside community.
Saeed Bihi, manager of the opportunity center, said the meetings aim to combine the perspectives of local imams, city government officials and community members in constructive conversations. Warsame, who helped coordinate the discussions, spoke at a recent meeting.
“It’s an organic voice,” Warsame said. “It’s a community coming together, having dialogue.”
So far, attendance at the semiweekly meetings have exceeded expectations.
“We planned on only the mothers showing up, and [then] we happened to have mothers from Chaska and Eden Prairie and the suburbs. We had other community members who were curious who came to watch,” Arab said.
Both the youth and mothers invited officers from the Minneapolis Police Department to their meetings. Warsame said the meetings are a chance to “reset” the relationship between MPD and Cedar-Riverside residents. Although public safety concerns prompted the meetings, Warsame said the conversations should reach beyond crime.
“That’s detrimental because the community is not unsafe or a hub or hotspot for crime activity. This is where we live. … There are challenges and those challenges can only be addressed if the community is empowered to have a greater say,” Warsame said.
The youth meetings have addressed topics like forming local sports teams and other activities.
Bihi said youth activities are part of keeping Cedar-Riverside safe because they focus youth energy in constructive ways. “We want to focus more on the youth. The future of the community and the future of the city and the state are the youth,” he said.
The meetings provide a platform for youth and women’s voices in the community, Warsame said.
“I think what we’re having is the emergence of a voice that was needed in the community that was missing,” he said.