On the cultures beat: Newer immigrants review life in Minnesota

  • Article by: ALLIE SHAH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 7, 2012 - 12:55 AM

Immigrants will get a chance to share their stories -- good and bad -- about living in Minnesota at an upcoming event hosted by the Advocates for Human Rights and African Immigrant Services.

Billed as a "community conversation," the discussion is part of an ongoing project conducted by the Advocates for Human Rights. The aim of the One Voice Minnesota Monitoring Project is to ensure that all Minnesota residents feel welcome here.

Feedback from the Nov. 15 discussion will be used to create a list of recommendations for lawmakers and activists.

"Minnesota has been a very welcoming environment," said Abdullah Kiatamba, executive director of the African Immigrant Services, a nonprofit organization that promotes civic engagement. "Immigrants feel it is a place to grow and prosper, but there are things we still need to solve and we can only do this if we have a real conversation."

He's expecting between 50 and 75 people at the event, which is open to the public. His organization has spread the word among communities he works with -- primarily immigrants from Liberia, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Somalia and other African countries.

Two more community conversations, scheduled for Nov. 18 and Nov. 25, are aimed at getting feedback from Latino immigrants.

Immigrant voices aren't the only ones being sought. Organizers say they also want to hear from long-term residents of Minnesota.

"It's not just immigrants in a vacuum," said Michele Garnett McKenzie, advocacy director for the group. "It's all of us collectively."

While there are a lot of welcoming initiatives around the country, the One Voice project is different because it's based on international human rights standards, Garnett McKenzie said.

The Nov. 15 community conversation will take place at 5:45 p.m. at Brooklyn Park Council Chambers, 5200 85th Av. N., in Brooklyn Park.

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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