By Rakia Ameen
I am a concerned citizen of the Bryant-Central neighborhood and would like to address some issues that are not only from me personally but from many of my fellow neighbors in the community.
I first would like to say that I am pleased to hear that Seward Co-op is building a ‘Friendship Store’ on 38th and 3rd Avenue South. I am also an advocate of healthy food access in urban communities.
I attended the March 12, 2014 meeting at Sabathani Community Center with the large turnout of the community. It shows that we are concerned and want this new business venture in our neighborhood to be successful. I came out of the meeting, however, with more questions than answers.
One main concern is the assurance that our community will be truly reflected by those hired to run and operate the Friendship Store. I believe for a community business to be successful it must reflect the community it is serving with staff and management that those who shop and patronize can relate too. If this does not happen failure of the business is probable, at best.
Often in our communities, businesses will talk about hiring from within the community to get the “buy in” and then when the establishment opens it is quite the opposite. I believe Seward Co-op is truly looking at doing the right thing with its Friendship Store. I want to make sure that follow through is made so the community is not left behind. It requires truly connecting with neighborhood partners who can help in accomplishing the goal of total community involvement.
At the Sabathani meeting there was mention of a “Community Benefits Agreement” (CBA). I was told that CBAs enable citizens to hold governments accountable for the use of tax dollars by giving them a voice in how development subsidies are distributed. When all parties interests are heard and identified in the planning process of a huge development project such as this, a CBA can ensure that everyone’s needs are met.
In my opinion this is one way of providing assurance that an accountability tool is put in place. This is why I am appealing to my friends, neighborhood and community to ensure that a “Community Benefits Agreement” (CBA) is put into place.
The Friendship Store plans to hire 100 new employees upon opening the new store. Seward Co-op must do much more outreach to ensure that local residents will be employed and the local community will benefit. This can be done with equitable economic relationships, positive environmental impacts and inclusive, socially responsible practices. This will strengthen and empower the Bryant-Central neighborhood.
Rakia Ameen is a Minneapolis resident.