Meet Halla Henderson: Minnesota’s First Eritrean American (and of Lebanese Heritage) to Win School Board Seat

By: Lolla Nur, Freelance Journalist 

Note: This interview took place in early November 2021. Quotes have been lightly edited for readability and brevity. Hi Halla! Please introduce yourself and a bit more about your background. 

My name is Halla Henderson, I’m Lebanese and Eritrean-American. I recently (in fall 2021) won my Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) board campaign. My father is an Eritrean immigrant, my mother is of Arab descent; she’s second generation Lebanese American. 

I’m a daughter of immigrants but not an immigrant myself.

African Diaspora Muslim Women in Minnesota Making Impact: Part 2

By Lolla Nur, Freelance Journalist

Last fall, The UpTake launched part 1 of our series on African diaspora Muslim Minnesotan women making cross-sector impact. In part 2 of the series, we highlight more Minnesotan women from African and Muslim diasporas.  

These upcoming profiles include:

Halla Henderson, Minnesota’s first Eritrean American elected to a school board,Zinet Kamal, an Ethiopian American self-published author and cybersecurity professional,Aya Elmileik, a Sudanese American journalist helping to document Sudan’s democracy uprisings,And Jamila Mame, an Oromo-Ethiopian American political organizer. *(Bonus from Series Part 1: Starasea Camara, a Black Latina arts curator and historian). All four women have unique personal stories as immigrants or children of immigrants. They also have dynamic career trajectories.

Minnesota school board elections face a coordinated push by critics of Critical Race Theory, vaccines and masks

Conservative media outlets and thinktanks have ignited a groundswell of fear and anger about Critical Race Theory, vaccines and mask mandates in schools. In Minnesota, these concerns have been ignited in private Facebook groups and at rallies around the state. With school board elections on the horizon, progressive candidates have tried to push back on misinformation while elevating their desires for inclusive school environments.

Meet Ayan Omar – a Somali American Educator Using Literature to Mentor Refugee Youth

Ayan Omar (or, Ms. Omar as her students call her) is a St. Cloud resident, writer and Somali American English teacher. She is also a wife, mother and TEDx speaker who migrated to the U.S. in 1993 as a Somali refugee. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, Ayan became a language arts teacher. She has lived in St. Cloud since 2005.

In this interview, Ayan talks about her experiences growing up in the South and in Minnesota, and the different experiences of Somalis in Minneapolis versus in St. Cloud. Ayan also talks about the unique ways Somali refugees experience racism, and the need for healing justice for Somalis, Muslims, and Black communities.

Meet Binta Kanteh – a Young Gambian Muslim American Making Her Mark on Minnesota Politics

Meet Binta Kanteh, a Gambian American and Black Muslim woman working in public policy. She is currently the policy director to Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley. In this interview, Binta talks about her early career journey: personal experiences as the daughter of West African immigrants, how their migration story impacted her decision to work in politics, and what moves her as an up-and-coming Minnesotan policymaker.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Many people are familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression manifests during the shorter days of winter. But what is SAD, and what can you do if you are experiencing symptoms?

Livetweet Embed: House Redistricting Committee

By: McKenzie Kemper, Freelance Journalist-in-Training

The Minnesota House Redistricting Committee met on Aug. 25. Click on the tweet below to learn more about what happened during that meeting.

Livetweet Embed: Mounds View Board Meeting, Aug. 17

By: McKenzie Kemper, Freelance Journalist-in-Training

The Mounds View School Board met on Aug. 17. Click on the tweet below to learn about everything that happened during the meeting.

Livetweet Embed: Aug. 17 Social Studies Standards Discussion

By: McKenzie Kemper, Freelance Journalist-in-Training

The Minnesota K-12 Social Studies Standards Review Committee Meeting met on Aug. 17. This is a livetweet thread of their meeting. Click through the thread linked below.

2021 Voter Guide, Ward 12, City of Minneapolis: David Rosenfield

Primary Endorsementsn/aBrief Background: Member of the Socialist Workers Party and is often quoted in The Militant, a socialist weekly news publication. He ran in the 2017 Minneapolis mayoral election but was eliminated in round two (of five). He is a steelworker and a Detroit native.Primary IssuesPolice Accountability: N/A Charter Amendments: N/AEducation: N/ARacial Justice (gen.): N/AOther major issues/priorities: N/ABest Way to Learn More Information:’s Bio of David Rosenfeld

2021 Voter Guide, Ward 12, City of Minneapolis: Nancy Ford

By: JT Pinther, Freelance Journalist

Primary EndorsementsOperation Safety NowBrief Background: Ford is a small business owner and has lived in Minneapolis most of her life. She specifically mentions she is running as an Independent because she “believe[s] elected city officials should be nonpartisan. They should represent the people of Minneapolis before they represent a political party.”Primary IssuesPolice Accountability – Against defunding the police; supports police reform and Chief ArrondondoCharter Amendments – n/aEducation – n/aRacial Justice (gen.) – n/aOther major issues/priorities – Increasing homeownership; small businesses and environmentBest Way to Learn More Information: Nancy Ford Campaign Website

2021 Voter Guide, Ward 12, City of Minneapolis: Andrew Johnson

By: JT Pinther, Freelance Journalist

Primary EndorsementsRep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)DFL MinneapolisStonewall DFLSenator Patricia Torres RaySeveral local and state unionsBrief Background: Johnson is the first millennial to serve on the Minneapolis City Council. He is a small business owner and served on the Longfellow Community Council, being elected to council president his second year. Johnson currently lives in the Howe neighborhood.Primary IssuesPolice Accountability – Believes police need to be part of the City’s public safety system, but “we cannot continue to expect every problem to be solved by a police officer, nor dysfunction within the institution of MPD to be solved via minor reforms.”Charter Amendments – In favor of Department of Public Safety; opposed rent stabilizationEducation – n/aRacial Justice (gen.) – One of only three council members to vote against the East Phillips Water Yard; co-authored several BIPOC-related resolutions, including speaking out against the Dakota Access Pipeline and fought to repeal the lurking and spitting ordinances.Other major issues/priorities – small businesses; public health; affordable housing; climate change and the 2040 Comp Plan.Best Way to Learn More InformationAndrew Johnson Campaign Website | Minneapolis City Council Page

2021 Voter Guide: City of Minneapolis City Council

By: UpTake Community Journalists

Click the names below to find each individual candidate’s profile

Ward 1

Elliott Payne

Kevin Reich (Incumbent)

Calvin Carpenter

Ward 2

Yusra Arab

Robin Wonsley Worbolah

Tom Anderson

Cam Gordon (Incumbent)

Ward 3

Michael Rainville

Merv Moorhead

Steve Fletcher (Incumbent)

Ward 4

Phillipe Cunningham (Incumbent)

LaTrisha Vetaw

Leslie Davis

Ward 5

Victor Martinez

Jeremiah Ellison (Incumbent)

Suleiman Isse

Cathy Spann

Kristel Porter

Ward 6

Jamal Osman (Incumbent)

A Bihi

Ward 7

Lisa Goodman (Incumbent)

Nick Kor

Teqen Zéa-Aida

Joanna Diaz

Ward 8

Andrea Jenkins (Incumbent)

Robert Sullentrop

Ward 9

Mickey Moore

Yussuf Haji

Brenda Short

Ross Tenneson

Ward 10

David Wheeler

Chris Parsons

Katie Jones

Ubah Nur

Alicia Gibson 

Aisha Chughtai

Ward 11

Emily Koski

Dillon Gherna

Jeremy Schroeder (Incumbent)

Albert T. Ross

Ward 12

Andrew Johnson (Incumbent)

David Rosenfield

Nancy Ford

Ward 13

Bob Reuer

Linea Palmisano (Incumbent)

Mike Norton

Kati Medford

2021 Voter Guide, Ward 6, City of Minneapolis: Jamal Osman

By: JT Pinther, Freelance Journalist

Primary endorsements:AFSCME Council 5Operation Safety Now (but Osman rejected the endorsement in an August 5, 2021 Facebook post)Brief background: Refugee and longtime resident of Ward 6, living in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood. Osman is a certified mental health first aid instructor. Prior to being elected to the City Council, Osman worked for Common Bond Communities in the Social Services department.Primary issues:Police Accountability: Supports “reform” but says “the MPD [needs] to be fundamentally re-imagined.” Says the MPD is often “openly hostile” toward BIPOC in the community. Charter Amendments: In favor of rent stabilization, in favor of Department of Public SafetyEducation – n/aRacial Justice (gen.): Nothing found beyond police-related issues.Other major issues/priorities: Affordable housing, youth empowerment, mental health and the opioid crisis. “We need a coordinated approach with law enforcement and government services, working together with a focus on treatment and recovery, not policing.”Best way to learn more information: Jamal Osman Campaign Website | Minneapolis City Council Page

2021 Voter Guide, Ward 6, City of Minneapolis: A. Bihi

By: JT Pinther, Freelance Journalist

Primary endorsements:Stonewall DFLBrief background: A Somali refugee, Minneapolis resident since 1996. Bihi was a translator for Hennepin County Medical Center, and founder of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center and the Hennepin County Multicultural Project.Primary issues:Police accountability:  “The structural racism that exists in the M.P.D [sic] makes it impossible for any fundamental reform to happen. That’s why we need to dismantle the department and create an equitable, unbiased, agency which protects Minneapolitans unconditionally, with courage and compassion.”Charter amendments: n/aEducation: n/aRacial justice (gen.): Nothing found beyond police-related issues.Other major issues/priorities – Affordable housing Best way to learn more information: Abdirizak Bihi Campaign Website