Born in 1991, Ahmed came to Minnesota because of the Somali Civil War. With a thick accent, he told me about his experiences being unjustifiably stopped by police, most recently in September. He wanted to become a truck driver, but no one would hire him. “My heart was clean before, but now I’m affected,” he told me.
In my six minutes of conversation with him, Ahmed mentioned, six times, his advice for other immigrants: go to school, get your certificate, then go back to your homeland or another country where you can make something. He is now awaiting his passport, and with it he hopes to go to Canada or the UK, and become a truck driver.
Ahmed chose not to show his face in his portrait. An hour after he left, he called me and requested me to delete his phone number. He was worried about getting in trouble for what he had told me. After reassuring him that I wouldn’t share his number with anyone, I was able to keep his contact information under a pseudonym.
Roshonda is a stay-at-home mom of 3 children. She said she didn’t have any story, but would love a portrait since she had just had her hair done. When she saw the pictures I took, she said I had just made her day. She didn’t know that she had just made my day as well.
“I do not recommend any young person to join the armed services. The United States are bullies. They’re gangsters. They promised to take care of me, but I was given nothing but grief.” said Clyde, who joined the Army in June, 1972. While serving, he was blown up and injured. “They have all these in the record but they just wouldn’t pull it up. It took me years and years and years to find some of them.”
After handing some rolling paper to a friend who walked by us, Lorna told me that she works at a hair salon on Lake Street, which she calls “one of the unlikely hoods in the world”, and lives on the North side, “one of the other worst hoods in the spot”. She travels by bus every day and is constantly late for work, but her boss never fires her. Her laughter was hoarse and unrestrained. “I’m living the life,” she said, “That’s it. Anything else would take hours to tell you. That could be for another day.”
Jerry has lived in the Phillips neighborhood since his family’s arrival from Tennessee when he was 8. He is currently attending a school of ministry and hopes to come back to the community and help those who are less fortunate.
Jerry told me that the Phillips community has changed a lot for the better both geographically and culturally. He mentioned the arrival of Hispanic, Somali, African, and Asian people. “We can learn from other cultures and they can learn from us. And we should come together as one.”
During our conversation, a car accident happened across the street. Seeing that no one was injured, we kept talking. He said that my being out there interviewing people and taking photos was very uplifting, because it showed that there are people who care about the community. “It’s good to get to know people. When I see you out here, I don’t believe that it’s by coincidence that I dropped my glasses and you picked them up for me. There is a car accident that took place at the same time yet still me and you are continuing this interview. That’s not a coincidence.”
Rogelio grew up in Denver, Colorado. Half Mexican and half Spanish, he has been living in the Cities for 7 years. He is starting a group with his friends to talk about what they can do to bring about peace in the world. From different cultures and backgrounds, they will exchange perspectives and ideas. “As we do that, the government is going to hear us somehow, and [peace] is going to be possible. Everybody can get together and have a big block party or something and get to know each other.”
Rogelio said he wasn’t a good boy growing up, but he is learning to be a good citizen. “I see all the cultures out here. I see fighting, I see shooting, I see all the other stuff that people can imagine. But if everybody can pitch in, and let this word out, we can make this happen.”