Minneapolis holds Welcoming Week event in Cedar-Riverside

Welcoming Week is part of a nationwide initiative to bring immigrants, refugees and native-born citizens together.

Jacqui Rosenbush of GoodSpace Murals makes mosaics with children from the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood Abdi Qabar, left, and Faisal Mohamed at the Brian Coyle Center Wednesday.

Michael Achterling

Jacqui Rosenbush of GoodSpace Murals makes mosaics with children from the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood Abdi Qabar, left, and Faisal Mohamed at the Brian Coyle Center Wednesday.

Michael Achterling

To foster community dialogue, Minneapolis city officials led a discussion in Cedar-Riverside to connect immigrants and refugees with resources.

The Welcoming Week event was held at the Brian Coyle Center Tuesday. The forum showcased community leaders, immigrants and city officials who discussed concerns about the national political climate and shared stories and challenges of coming to Minneapolis.

Welcoming Week is a national initiative founded by the nonprofit group Welcoming America in 2009. Tuesday marked the first event held in Minneapolis since the city joined the network of Welcoming Cities and Counties in August.

“We had a really good crowd here tonight,” said David Rubedor, director of the Minneapolis Neighborhood and Community Relations department.

Much of the focus during the panel discussion addressed community fears caused by the national political climate.

Fear and confusion over national policymaking often affects local residents, Rubedor said. Events like Welcoming Week gives them an opportunity to voice concerns to city officials directly.

Suud Olat, a community activist and Somali refugee, shared his story during the panel discussion. After living in Tennessee for two years, he relocated to Minnesota based on positive media reports and the advice of friends. He has been a resident of Minnesota for the last two and a half years.

“There is a lot of challenges that we are facing as a city, but still we can work together. There is a window for opportunity, and everyone can take part to make this city a great place,” Olat said.

In attendance were many nonprofit groups, like Volunteer Lawyers Network, The Advocates for Human Rights, Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio, Dream Refugee and Good Space Murals.

“We really wanted to do a couple of events that would show where the city’s values are, and the city’s values are indeed, welcoming” said Peter Ebnet, Minneapolis Welcoming Week coordinator.

The outreach organizations that partner with the city, Ebnet said, offer city employees training for community interactions, as well as trauma training associated with refugee and immigrant re-settlements.

Velma Korbel, executive director of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, said the city will always welcome new residents, regardless of political climate. 

“The city is part of this national cohort … and we thought we needed to do something special here at Cedar-Riverside,” Korbel said. 

The event was also the launch of the #WeAreMpls campaign, a campaign designed to raise public awareness and elevate community voices reflective of the city’s diversity.

A second Welcoming Week event begins at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis.