Interview of Sharon El-Amin
Interviewer: 00:00 Okay. May I have your first and last name spelling, please?
Sharon El-Amin: 00:06 Sharon, S-H-A-R-O-N, last name El-Amin, E-L, hyphen, A-M-I-N.
Interviewer: 00:17 And do you currently or have you ever lived in or near this part of North Minneapolis on this map?
Sharon El-Amin: 00:27 I do live in North Minneapolis right now. I’m Alpha 33rd, Lyndale over in this area here. Yes.
Interviewer: 00:35 For how long?
Sharon El-Amin: 00:36 We’ve been actually over at 33rd and Lyndale for ten years now, but I’ve lived in North Minneapolis for about 25 years.
Interviewer: 00:48 Okay. Yep.
Interviewer: 00:54 Thinking back from when you first came to this area to today, what changes have you seen, positive and negative?
Sharon El-Amin: 00:58 Positive and negative?
Interviewer: 00:59 Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Sharon El-Amin: 01:04 I’ll start with the positive.
Interviewer: 01:05 Okay.
Interviewer: 01:06 Okay.
Sharon El-Amin: 01:06 A lot more homes that are being built in our North Minneapolis area, the convenience of having the Black On Market, New Market up off of 44.
Interviewer: 01:20 Yeah. North Market?
Sharon El-Amin: 01:21 Yep. That. Having a lot more small on businesses within North Minneapolis, the mosque being in the central area here, as again being like a hub for the North Minneapolis area to be able to provide services for our community that our in need, services like the hot meal, our food shelf, the employment for the men, different things that happen throughout our Masjid here.
Sharon El-Amin: 02:00 For me it’s the community relationships that I’ve been able to build working with like the — owning my own business, which was El Amin’s Fish House for 13 years, building relationships, getting to know my customers, still today in the store people are referring to me today as the fish lady. And it’s just a community feeling that really keeps me bonded here in North Minneapolis, knowing people knowing where you are, and not having to worry. I really have no fear when I’m out and about within my community. Actually, the fear comes when I’m outside of my community, and I don’t know the people. So when I hear people say, “Oh, I don’t go to North Minneapolis,” it’s like, well, why? I mean for me it’s home.
Interviewer: 02:48 It’s normal life —
Sharon El-Amin: 02:50 It’s home for me.
Interviewer: 02:51 — being here?
Sharon El-Amin: 02:51 I know wherever I go I know somebody, somebody knows me, my children, my family. So for me there’s no other place but North Side Minneapolis.
Interviewer: 03:02 Absolutely.
Sharon El-Amin: 03:04 The negative that I see is more of the houses that are being placed in Minneapolis are being overpriced. So it’s pushing a lot of us out of our community because of the housing, the pricing, the influx that has taken place within our community. Now we have the new development, this 2020 project that’s taking place. So you’re seeing a lot of things that are starting to disappear. You have the streets that are becoming more one lane, giving more access to bikers and things like that. But the reality is that’s not a population for us right now. We need more road as opposed to the bike lanes that are being forced into our community.
Sharon El-Amin: 03:58 The negative things that I see is within our schools. Right now our schools are the ones that are — I mean my son is at North High. And a lot of times what I see is that our inner-city schools are the ones that get the new teachers, the inexperienced teachers that come into the most impoverished schools and don’t really know how to relate to our students. So we get these teachers that come in and they want to befriend our students as opposed to being the enforcer, and really teaching them, and educating them, and making sure that they are being prepared for life outside of high school, grammar school, our educational system. There’s no real equity as we hear them talk about a lot.
Sharon El-Amin: 04:49 We have very few teachers of color. Generally, our people that are of color are in more of the educational assistance behavior type roles. I want to see more teachers of colors, more administrators of color, just more so that our students are able to see themselves in those roles.
Sharon El-Amin: 05:14 I work for the sheriff’s department. And there’s so many different programs that our sheriff’s department offer. My frustration comes because the North Side always gets missed. They’ll go into all the other schools and talk about how working in the service industry, community service, giving back to your community, there’s opportunities for internships. And those doors are never really opened for our students within our community.
Sharon El-Amin: 05:45 And the only way we’re going to see change is if we are at the table. If we are becoming more of the teachers, more of the police officers, more of the lawyers, more of the political figures that are holding the spaces. It’s the only way that we can do it. But if we’re not teaching this to our
children, how do we expect it to happen?
Sharon El-Amin: 06:08 There’s quite a bit of crime that takes place, but I think the crime is because of the lack of our needs that are being met. We have to fight so much more harder to get the basic things in life. So we’re forced to fend for ourselves; right? Prices are higher. You go to Cubs across the street here versus Cubs in Brussels Center and the sales vary. You spend more money. You’re taxed higher, homes are taxed higher, the cost of living is higher, but yet we’re the most impoverished neighborhood. What sense does that make?
Sharon El-Amin: 06:54 It’s like you continue to take what we have. So even a person who feels like they’re middle class, they are always stuck in the middle. You can’t qualify for this, but you don’t make enough for that. So you’re constantly playing this tug of war of trying to get ahead. That’s our society. That’s
how they keep us, so — Okay. You’ll probably have to stop me because I have a lot —
Interviewer: 07:23 No, no. You’re fine. What do you feel caused the changes you’ve seen in this area over the years, and why do you feel this way?
Sharon El-Amin: 07:27 What caused the changes?
Interviewer: 07:29 Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Sharon El-Amin: 07:31 I think for too long we have been sitting in the background, and we have let others come in and start taking over our rights for being here, opportunity for being here. Am I going ahead —
Interviewer: 07:44 Oh, no, no. You’re good. You’re fine.
Sharon El-Amin: 07:49 Okay. Again, we’re not at the table. So decisions are being made, and we are not being involved in those decision-making opportunities. Information comes to us after decisions have already been made. We need more community leaders. We need more community leaders to be able to bring the information back to our community so we can show up and make sure we’re at the table when these opportunities, when these changes are being made
Sharon El-Amin: 08:22 A lot of time information comes about different projects and stuff that are being made, but in our reality the decision to do what’s going to be done is already made by the time it hits us. So we have to just get more involved and be more present within our community.
Interviewer: 08:39 Okay. We are gathering these stories to increase understanding between the city of Minneapolis and the community on the impact of the historic discriminatory government policies and other practices, examples including housing, employment discrimination in the early 20th Century, the War on Drugs in the 1990s and others. What impact have these policies or others had on the community in general? Or what impact have they had on you or your family personally?
Sharon El-Amin: 09:19 Well, I mean, we can talk about the housing industry. Again, the housing industry right now, cost of rent has went up almost twice as much as what it used to be. So it makes it more harder for families to be able to afford to live here in Minneapolis area. And then even just issues like the criminal, the justice system. People in my family that may have felonies or different things on their records, the opportunity to even be able to be placed into housing is basically obsolete.
Interviewer: 10:05 And jobs.
Sharon El-Amin: 10:06 And jobs. It’s like, okay, well, yes, they committed a crime, but they did their time. How do you expect them to come back and r establish themselves if you put the stamp on them that always rejects them. You’re forcing them back out into the criminal world. Right? Because I have to live. I have to eat. I have to provide for my family. But it’s because of our government and those different laws that says if you’re a felony you’re rejected housing, your chances of getting a job, they’ll always keep you at a lower pay. So you can’t really afford to take care of your family or you can’t afford the housing.
Sharon El-Amin: 10:50 So things like that that have impacted me and then just the schooling. The laws and the way that we are promoting — we’re basically pushing our children through the school system. And we as parents have to get more involved in the school to make sure that these laws that are being passed, that our schools become more transparent, that our teachers are being held more accountable, and that our district is being more aware of the needs that we need.
Sharon El-Amin: 11:26 So lots of different things when it comes to our schooling from funding to the curriculum within our schools. Our students are always way further behind than their peers when you put them all in the same group. Right? And that should not be something we have to face. My child should be able to go to North High School and be able to compete with somebody from Wayzata when it comes to any type of competition. But if we keep the curriculums at this very low standard, what are you setting us up for? What are you really trying to build them up to be? Right?
Sharon El-Amin: 12:05 So that’s one of the things that I continue and will always fight for is for stronger curriculums in our school, for parents to be more involved, for us to really just challenge the status quo of one way to teach our students, one way to teach our — because we know as African Americans we learn a little different. We’re more hands-on. You’ve got to show me. I’m going to question what you put before me. You can’t just give me anything and expect me to say, okay, yes, I accept that. So we need culturally competent teachers, staff within our schools to understand our children, to understand our families, our parents, and our needs as African American people.
Interviewer: 12:51 Okay. What changes have you seen in this community that raise your level of stress or concern about its future?
Sharon El-Amin: 13:03 The changes that I’m seeing right now really is basically the gentrification that’s taking place right before our eyes. Again, back to th 2020 plan and the development things that are happening, the over-pricing of the homes that are being put in our community, the fact that they choose to do these bike lanes in certain areas, which is minimizing parking, and the way that we move throughout the city, the high property taxes that have increased on our homes, which again will sometimes cause families to lose their homes because they can’t afford it.
Sharon El-Amin: 13:41 So you really just see the gentrification taking place. And if we don’t, again, get out here and be more involved in the community, we’re going to wake up, and it’s going to be a total different face here in North Minneapolis. From our schools, again, putting the least experienced teachers over in our schools to deal with the most impoverished or the most challenged group of children, students without having the experience to really tap into the potential that we have, right? It has a lot.
Interviewer: 14:20 No. I understand. I definitely, you know, being a north and knowing that a lot of the teachers that was there when I was there as — I was there in 2017, 2016. So when I was there it was a different brand of teachers and everybody knew the teachers. We was all kind of pretty comfortable with the teachers. And now that a lot of those teachers got pulled out and are at different schools, I saw that over the past couple of years when I came back that there is a lot of different teachers and a lot of different things going on. And I know that talking to some other students that they
didn’t necessarily like the changes that were happening. So I definitely understand how that goes.
Sharon El-Amin: 14:57 Good. Good.
Interviewer: 14:59 One last little question.
Sharon El-Amin: 14:59 Okay.
Interviewer: 15:01 What part does the city of Minneapolis need to play in relieving that stress
Sharon El-Amin: 15:07 What part does the city need to play? Transparency. We need to be transparent with what’s taking place. Information needs to go out in a more timely manner to give people the opportunity to be able to attend the different functions that are taking place, utilizing our city radio stations, our city newspapers, the schools, and just different — really reaching to the community and people that have been here to help spread the word and bring the people together when things are happening if they really want to see change.
Interviewer: 15:45 Okay. Yeah. I agree. I agree. And that concludes our time.