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#WeAreMpls The City of Minneapolis strives to be welcoming for all people.

The #WeAreMpls campaign is a public awareness campaign elevating unique voices in the city reflective of Minneapolis' rich diversity. The campaign reaffirms the City of Minneapolis' commitment to be a welcoming place for all people, regardless of ethnicity, race, national origin, gender identity, religion or birthplace.

The City is showcasing compelling stories and photos of residents by Stephanie Glaros, a local photographer behind the blog, "Humans of Minneapolis." We encourage you to participate. If you have a story to share, live in Minneapolis and are interested in being featured in the campaign, share your photos and stories on social media with the hashtag #WeAreMpls. Download the #WeAreMpls sign for your selfies.

Lourdes de la Luz

I was born in Mexico City. My mom brought me to the United States when I was 10 months old. I’ve been living in Minneapolis for almost 22 years. I consider myself "from here" because I have no memories from Mexico.

When I was in high school, I wanted to go to France with my French class. I said, "OK Mom, let’s fill out this application." But they required a Social Security number. My mom had to explain that I was not a U.S. citizen. That’s when I realized that I was an immigrant.

To become a resident, my mom applied for a U visa. She didn’t know she could apply for one until a lawyer told her. My mom faced domestic violence years ago with my brother’s dad, so she was eligible. Since I was underage, she could apply for me, too. She was scared because the information has to go to ICE and if we weren’t accepted, they could come and deport us. There was a lot of fear. But we received a letter that said, ‘Congratulations, you were accepted.’ We got permits to work for three years and I was able to go to college. After that, we were eligible to apply to become residents and we got accepted. I cried, I prayed to God. I was so happy. Now we can drive, we can travel. It’s nice to have that freedom. After five years of residency, we can apply to become U.S. citizens.

We have a large and diverse Latino community here in Minneapolis. And we’re not all Mexicans. People here are from Ecuador, El Salvador, Colombia. Everywhere you go on Lake Street, you’re gonna see a Latino business. I like it because when you want something, you know where to go. Having a place that reminds you of where you come from really helps a lot.

It feels good to see the Latino community and other communities here growing: Somali, Hmong. It’s good to see that we’re growing as communities of color.

Suud Olat

I had to leave Somalia when I was 1 year old because of the civil war, so I grew up in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. It houses half a million refugees. They’re not allowed to move. It’s like being in St. Paul and you aren’t allowed to go to Minneapolis or Bloomington. I spent 20 years of my life in that camp.

I finished primary education and high school in the camp, but after that I had nothing to do. The border of Somalia is only 100 miles away, so al-Shabaab would come and say to the young men, ‘Kenya doesn’t want you. Americans are bombing Somalia. Come join us.’ I encountered them on several occasions, but I said, ‘No. I don’t want to join you guys. I don’t want violence.’

In 2011, I was told I was going to the United States. I was so happy. It had been a seven-year process. There were 11 of us who travelled together from the refugee camp. We boarded a plane from Swaziland and came to Miami, Florida. We had our documents and we were fingerprinted at the airport. Someone took me to a hotel. It was a scary moment because I was alone. I took a shower and watched TV for two hours.

Then the caseworker came and we went to dinner. After dinner she told me, ‘You’ll sleep here tonight, but tomorrow you’re going to Nashville, Tennessee.’ To my friend she said, ‘You’re going to Seattle.’ Another guy, ‘Columbus, Ohio.’ Another guy, ‘Hartford, Connecticut.’ Another guy, ‘Buffalo, New York.’ Everybody started Googling the city they were going to. I learned that Nashville was called ‘Music City.’

The next morning, I flew to Nashville. The caseworker brought me to my new home. In a matter of one month, I’d found a job. In six months, I was driving. In a year, I was able to get my own car. And within two years, I was working for the organization that brought me here, Catholic Charities, as an employment worker.

I decided to move to Minnesota because the Somali community here is good. There’s a lot of young people who are doing great things. They’re trying to make change and become a part of the larger community. Now I advocate for refugees so lawmakers and regular American citizens can understand why they need our support. My goal is to represent Minneapolis in a good way. I’m extremely happy to call it home.

Quinn Villagomez, aka Shimmer

I knew from when I was very young that I was completely different. I was never comfortable in a male’s body. I was really intrigued by Barbie dolls and My Little Ponies and lipstick and necklaces. I was never into sports; I was more into getting my hair done. I’d wear nail polish and cute little sandals. I started identifying as a trans girl at the age of 7.

I was bullied from kindergarten all the way through high school. It was the name-calling: faggot, queer, homo. I was always last to get picked for a team. And those things hurt. It really brings your self-esteem and morale down. Sometimes it feels like someone punching you in the face.

In my mid-20s, I tried to go the route of suicide. I was in a very dark place and I didn’t have a very good support system in my life. I walked down to this bridge and I was like, ‘I’m done. I don’t want to live anymore.’ But I think maybe God was there. I had this moment of, ‘If you commit suicide, what are you going to prove? That’s a way to let the bullies win.’ It would be like, ‘Yes! We got rid of her. She’s gone.’ So, I said to myself, ‘I’m stronger than that. I have a story to tell.’ It was a reality check for me, like a slap in the face.

I think that being bullied has helped me to be a little bit wiser as I’ve gotten older. I went to Brown College and got my degree in radio broadcasting. Now I co-host a radio show called Fresh Fruit on KFAI. It’s the longest-running LGBT radio show in the country. Our focus is on queer and trans artists of color. I love it more than anything. It’s just really great to live my passion. I’m really proud of myself. I’ve been able to interview some great people. I’m so blessed.

It’s a struggle every day being trans. I’m always being judged. But I feel grateful because Minneapolis is a place of acceptance. I’ve lived here all my life and I feel comfortable. We still have a lot of work to do; I still have a lot of fears every day. But this is my home. If I were to live somewhere else I think I would miss it too much; I’d probably come back. I’m happy that I’m able to live openly and freely as who I am.”

Manicha Xiong

I’m from Laos. My husband was a respected Hmong leader. He fought against the Vietnamese army alongside the Americans. I was a soldier too, for three years, until I got pregnant. There was so much bloodshed. In 1975, we fled to Thailand to stay in a refugee camp. We were very poor. We were eating rice with water and salt. We couldn’t leave the camp. If we did, the Thai people would arrest us.

My husband would have meetings in the camp with Thai leaders and they’d bring their wives. In between meetings, I would serve them. But we didn’t have the money to provide them with a proper meal. I hand-sewed traditional Hmong tapestries and started selling them to the wives. I saved the money I earned so that I could buy food to properly serve them. They loved me a lot. I became known as a Hmong tapestry specialist.

There was a pastor from America named David who visited the camp. He loved me so much. He started ordering my tapestries. Then he asked me to recruit 10 more women who could sew. Many wanted the work, but he only allowed me to hire women who couldn’t make ends meet and were suffering. I started taking his orders and assigning them to the women. I would give them the money for each cloth they’d sewn. I became a leader in the village by distributing the work and the money.

In 1993, Thailand closed the camp and we were allowed to come to the United States. We could have resided in St. Paul or Brooklyn Park, but my husband chose Minneapolis. He always had a mission to do good deeds and he remained active in the community. We have a lot of friends here. We also have four daughters, six sons, and 40 grandkids. My husband passed away in September.

Having this garden makes me feel connected. It’s organic, I don’t fertilize it. It’s good exercise for me. I can have food to eat and my children can come pick from the garden and visit me, too.

I’m so thankful and blessed. People say that when they die they will go to heaven. My heaven is here.

Saciido Shaie

In 1991, there was a civil war in Somalia. We fled from Mogadishu to a refugee camp in Kenya called Utanga. We were the first people to settle there. The Kenyan government gave us an empty lot. There was nothing. No schools, no hospital, no water. We had to make our own houses from bushes and we had to use the great outdoors for a bathroom. I was very young, only 7.

Luckily, my brother was in America and could sponsor us, so in 1992 we came to Atlanta, Georgia. We were the first Somalis who came here. Going to school was very difficult for me because English was not my first language. I had never been in a school setting before. I didn’t understand anything. Every morning when I came to the classroom, I’d freeze. But somehow, some way, I adopted the system and learned some of the language, so I was able to at least not freeze at school.

Somalis are an oral people so we heard about Minnesota. We heard that you can find ways to get an education and make a beautiful life. There’s jobs, people are nice, all of that. So, when I graduated from high school, we came to Minneapolis. There were not that many Somalis here before us, but my family knew some people here who were successful. I got married young, had kids, and went to college. Then I went to graduate school and started a nonprofit organization called Ummah Project that’s helping Somali youth. I’ve accomplished a lot.

In my heart, I see myself as American, just like anyone else. This is what I know. But a lot of the time, like on social media, you see anti-Somali people saying, ‘Go back to where you’re from.’ What do they mean? My kids were born in Minneapolis; one at Abbott and one at Methodist hospital. It makes you think about who you are.

Like, a few weeks ago, I went to Somalia and I went out with some Somali friends. I wore my baati, a normal Somali dress. But the moment I got out of the car, people knew I wasn’t from there. My gestures, my actions, the way I talk, the way I make eye contact. Everyone was like, ‘You’re not fully Somali, you’re Americanized.’

So, when I’m in Somalia, people say, ‘Where are you from?’ And in America people ask, ‘Where are you from?’ So, who am I? It’s really weird. Sometimes it makes you special because you’re unique in some way. But at the same time, when people ask in a negative way, you feel something. It hits you.

I feel at home when I’m in Minneapolis. The Somali community here gets it. They understand how to live the American way of life. They are part of the bigger fabric. Everywhere you go in Minneapolis there’s a Somali person working there. We have people in almost every sector. They’re taxpayers, they’re buying houses, they have businesses. They brought a beautiful culture to this state.

Jase Roe

Growing up, I was the only brown kid in a white school. I was the only Native. I got made fun of. I had a lot of shame about that. I got kicked out of my house when I was sixteen because I came out. I started staying with friends in Minneapolis.

I ended up homeless. There were other kids my age who were going through the same thing. I turned to drugs and alcohol. I had a fake ID so I was already going to the gay clubs downtown. I got wrapped up in that lifestyle.

I had a series of relationships that were unhealthy, but they provided me with a place to continue on with my addiction. After being addicted to meth for over 20 years, I started heroin. Then I started overdosing. I actually died twice and had to be brought back. That’s when I said, ‘What’s going on with my life? I need to do something different.’

Five years ago, I got into recovery. I did some research and found out that for a Native American, if you get tuned into your cultural roots, you have a better chance of staying sober. I wanted to find out more about that so I did some investigating through Facebook and found out about the Two-Spirit Society. I was able to get tapped into that community. I didn’t feel like an outsider anymore.

I just started at MCTC. I’m going for my LADC (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor). I want to give back to the community. I want to reach other Two-Spirits who may be going through the same thing I did. For me, the key was finding pride in who I am.

I love living in Minneapolis because of the diversity and the large Native community. And it is a community. People know each other, especially when you start going to events. Pow wows at the American Indian Center; an art opening at All My Relations. You can go hang out at Pow Wow Grounds. They have coffee and Fry Bread Fridays at the Four Sisters Farmer’s Market. There’s always something happening in the Native community that you can get tapped into and feel a part of. That sense of community is huge for me.

Chris Webley

I moved to Minneapolis when I got recruited for an engineering job in product design. I noticed right away that there were a lot of young professionals who had relocated here for work. But a lot of them felt displaced and uncomfortable. People enjoyed their jobs, the money was good. But it’s that 5-9 p.m. life. What am I doing outside of work? How am I connecting to the community? Am I using my passions? I just left the East Coast where I was volunteering with kids in my community who were right down the street. Now I live in Uptown. Where do I find my community?

Then I got laid off. Other people who got laid off were like, “When are you leaving?” I said, “I think I’m gonna stay.” They were like, “Are you sure?” My family’s not here. But God was telling me that I was here for something bigger than that job. I didn’t know what, but I knew there was something greater.

I learned that we have one of the highest average household incomes in the country, but right over the bridge in North Minneapolis, there’s a community that has some of the largest education, health and wellness, and economic disparities in the entire country. How does that happen in the same state? I don’t think it’s by accident. So that was the connection. I thought “If I’m gonna make it here, I’m gonna have to go out and lead some of the things I’m not seeing in the community to actually have skin in the game and stick around.”

Me and two friends formed a collective called Retention Strategy. We held an event where we asked the community what their needs were. We had 200 people attend throughout the day. We were able to get a really diverse pool of input. People expressed needs for affordable work space, access to networks, business and professional development and financial resources. New Rules was an outcome of that.

We offer resources and tools that enable creative and business professionals. We do that by providing them a creative ecosystem that includes shared work, retail and event spaces. That’s built into our memberships, which are on a sliding scale based on income. We’ve created a platform for the community to come in and explore their curiosities, their dreams, and their professional business goals while eliminating excuses for why they can’t. Money is always an issue, but in terms of equipment, people, wherewithal, and knowledge, all of that stuff is here.

It’s increasingly imperative that we, the like-minded individuals, start to harness each other’s visions and dreams and capacities in a collective manner. Everybody has a part to play in this. No matter what socio-economic status you come from, there’s something for you to do and a way that you can plug in and add value.

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