Natural Woman’s advocacy extends from city hall to covenants to colon care

 

Kinshasha Kambui Photo by Dwight Hobbes

By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer

 

In any discussion of Twin Cities women who make a difference, Kinshasha Kambui cannot be left out of the conversation. Following a family tradition inherited from her dad, activist and columnist Matt Little (and shared with her twin sister Titilayo Bediako), Kambui’s contributions speak volumes. Not marching in the street with a bullhorn, but understatedly with practical, down-to-earth and hands-on dedication.

An excellent example is her work with We Win Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to academic and social success, particularly for youth deemed to be at-risk and accorded short shrift by public school systems. Working with Bediako, who in 1995 founded We Win, Kambui was a grant writer, teacher, and coordinated the organization’s Kwanzaa programs.

From there, she was a natural selection to give the Minneapolis mayor’s office credibility in terms of actually moving to empower minority communities. The historic perception of most politicians was something quite different: The best that could be expected is lip service.

She joined R.T. Rybak’s administration as community liaison in 2005. “I met the then-candidate [Rybak] in North Minneapolis at a debate with the candidates for mayor,” Kambui recalls.

“I was there advocating for children to make sure they were a part of the platform. R.T. was the only candidate that would listen and learned about the issues of African American youth and added it to the debate. At the time he was also a community advocate, which was my heart.”

On leaving city hall, she became a community organizer for the African American Mobilization for Education, which had been examining policies and practices of the Minneapolis Public Schools, pointedly scrutinizing the rate of suspension for African American students.

“In fall of 2005, 78 percent of all suspensions [were] African American children. [And] at the November 27, 2007 school board meeting, a document showed the suspension rates of students from September through November 15, 2007. Of 2,263 suspensions, 1,107 [were] African American males.”

She reflects that, in 2008, acting to counter such an alarming practice and to improve how Black students were generally treated, “I was the point person for the covenant that was created with the public schools to change the way that African American children are being taught in the schools with more emphasis on community, parents, and African American men to support our kids’ success.

“We successfully brought together most of the Black leadership in Minneapolis to sign off on this covenant — and the Minneapolis Public Schools. But after the document was signed, the Minneapolis Public Schools sabotaged its success.”

These days, Kinshasha Kambui contents herself with a focus on health, including continuing her 20-plus years as producer-host of KFAI’s “Health Notes from the Heart of a Natural Woman” (Monday evenings, 6:30-7:30). It provides a forum to “share pertinent and timely health topics on nutritional, mental, emotional, spiritual and political health topics.”

Sitting at Pow Wow Grounds coffee shop in South Minneapolis, Kambui says about the importance of getting such information out to the public, “[Black people] are number one in heart disease, diabetes, [high] blood pressure — every major disease this country has to offer. Ninety-five percent of it is because of the way we think and the way we eat.”

The show has built up a strong following that shows no signs of waning in listeners’ responses to the “Health Notes” message. “The whole goal of ‘Health Notes’ is to put out as much good information as possible. I believe adults can make adult decisions if they have good information, especially information without an agenda.

“I have no agenda. I’m not pushing any particular products or any particular thing. Instead, what I’m trying to do is, I want to relay [the] information as it relates to health and wellness. I want people to have it [so that] they can’t have the excuse of saying that they don’t know.

“It doesn’t cost anything. The airwaves are free. So, there’s no barrier to people being about to get that information.” All they need to do is tune in.

Away from the radio station, she has gone into private practice. “One of the major things I do now is that I’m a colon hydro-therapist as well as a massage therapist. I’ve recently become part of an anti-aging business, too. Feeling good makes sense to me. Not feeling good doesn’t.

“I remember back in the day, when I was a child. My mother or grandmother would say to me, if I was ill, ‘Baby, did you poop?’ They gave us castor oil or cod liver oil. We’ve become so cool and sophisticated that we’ve stopped taking care of our colons. We have stopped taking care of our inner health and only focus on outer beauty. As a result, we’re sicker than we’ve ever been. For me it’s about going back to the fundamentals and helping folks to be well from the inside out.”

 

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.