africa / Economy / Refugees

African Development Center moves to bigger home in Minneapolis

DSC_0024DSC_0008Ten years ago, just a handful of African immigrants tricklied into the Twin Cities. In 2009, conservative estimates put the number of African immigrants at about 100,000. On the West Bank and in suburbs like Brooklyn Park, they are becoming part of the fabric of their communities.

Sixteen years ago, Hussein Samatar, a refugee from Somalia, was struggling to adjust to his adopted country, and discovered that learning to navigate the American system was helpful in moving up the socio-economic ladder. When he founded the African Development Center (ADC)  in 2004, Samatar saw the need to provide resources to African immigrants. Now, he is proud of the work that he, together with his eight-person staff, have done in the community. ADC, through culturally competent interaction, offers its clients, mostly African immigrants, workshops and one-on-one training on financial literacy, business development, and information on home ownership.

Ten years ago, just a handful of African immigrants tricklied into the Twin Cities. In 2009, conservative estimates put the number of African immigrants at about 100,000. On the West Bank and in suburbs like Brooklyn Park, they are becoming part of the fabric of their communities.

Sixteen years ago, Hussein Samatar, a refugee from Somalia, was struggling to adjust to his adopted country, and discovered that learning to navigate the American system was helpful in moving up the socio-economic ladder. When he founded the African Development Center (ADC)  in 2004, Samatar saw the need to provide resources to African immigrants. Now, he is proud of the work that he, together with his eight-person staff, have done in the community. ADC, through culturally competent interaction, offers its clients, mostly African immigrants, workshops and one-on-one training on financial literacy, business development, and information on home ownership.

With a staff that is exclusively made up of African immigrants (from Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Liberia), ADC has done more than paid lip service to cultural competence, as each staff member knows how best to communicate and reach clients with diverse cultural backgrounds. For instance, ADC has worked with several lending agencies, including the city of Minneapolis, towards offering Sharia-compliant loans, which allow for Muslim borrowers to receive restructured loans without earning or paying interest on borrowed money which is prohibited by Islam.

In further support of African immigrant entrepreneurs, ADC’s hallways will feature art by different African artists. Oreoluwa Adedeji is the curator for this Contemporary African Art Gallery, in which she mostly features artists from Nigeria, Brazil and Somalia.

Samatar says that the choice to stay in the West Bank was deliberate: “Look at the diversity in the West Bank!” He says that his center is intent on being a pillar of support in business to this diversifying community and to move away from the stereotype of violence, referring to a spate of gang violence in the Somali community over the last year that has resulted in the death of several teenagers.

The ADC building on the West Bank undoubtedly stands as a sign of the diversifying of the not just the Twin Cities, but the rest of Minnesota.

Becky Shaw, an employee in the Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development department said that ADC has been instrumental in bridging the African immigrant and mainstream communities together. “They have directed new business owners, who bring revenue to the city, to the right resources because they know what they are doing,” she said. “They are a trusted source.”

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3 thoughts on “African Development Center moves to bigger home in Minneapolis

  1. I love ADC and am proud of the job they’re doing. I was at the open house, the space is fabulous and it was wonderful to reconnect with the staff, several of whom I know personally.

    However, I’m noticing a trend in Minnesota that I think the African Community needs to be aware of: in mainstream circles in MN, African = Somali; Somali = African.

    I’ll give one example. I recently came across an Immigration Policy Center report of New Americans in the North Star State, dated Oct. 15, 2009. In giving stats about the immigrant population in MN, here are the groups mentioned: Latino, Asian, Mexican-American, Asian-Indians, Hmong and Somali.

    I guess I don’t know the details of how groups are measured or deemed significant enough to mention in reports but it seems like this is a trend that’s been growing over the years to the point where voices of other African populations are no longer being recognized in the mainstream.

    I’m just saying…we, as the African community, need to be aware of it and consider addressing this problem. The worst case scenario? Resources could get really scarce and support only a part of the whole.

    Something to think about…

    P.S. You can find the entire report at http://www.immigrationpolicy.org

  2. Hey Rita
    thanks for your comment. I am surprised that the Immigration Policy Org doesn’t have numbers on other African immigrants. Generally, from what I have seen the size of immigrant populations determine whether certain groups of people show up in reports… in Minnesota that means Somalis and Liberians and sometimes Ethiopians, because those three are the largest groups. Another determinant would be the source of their data. Do other immigrants self-identify?

    On the other hand, government agencies like the Minnesota Department of Health have data on specific numbers by country. For instance, I was looking at a report on birth rates in Minnesota which showed specific numbers of children born to Nigerian, Liberian, Ethiopian, Cameroonian, Kenyan, etc mothers.

    One of the challenges in next year’s census is that unless African immigrants self-identify on the census form, their only choice will be to check “Black/African American”, which would speak directly to your concerns of resource allocation.

    But, it is certainly something worth pursuing.

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