Local and National People and Organizations Working to Combat Barriers


Brooklyn Center mayoral challenger Mike Elliott talks with voter Nancy Tanji, on Oct. 4, 2014. Source: MPR News
Mike Elliot speaking with a voter in 2014; Source: MPR News

Amaha Kassa divides organizations that work with African immigrants into four categories:

  • MSPs, Multiracial Service Providers, nonprofit agencies whose diverse client base includes African immigrants;
  • ASPs, African-focused Service Providers, nonprofit agencies led by, originating with, and directly serving African immigrants;
  • MAOs, Multiracial Advocacy Organizations, explicitly political nonprofit community organizations who advocate for racial minorities including Africans;
  • ESAs, Ethnic Specific Organizations, organizations focusing on Africans from a single ethnic or national background, usually volunteer-run and democratic.

Kassa also described four categories respondents used to assess the efficacy of their organizations: resources, responsiveness, commitment, and cultural competency.

The main goals of Liberian-American organizations are aimed at strengthening community ties, helping new arrivals adjust to life in the U.S., and supporting their relatives back in Liberia – issues relating more to immigration than to political participation in the U.S.


The West African Collaborative

The West African Collaborative (WAC) works to bring together West Africans in Minnesota by facilitating coordination between organizations of West African origins.

It aims to improve cooperation between organizations of different national origins, and to reduce tension and hostility between individual West Africans – important for immigrants from Sierra Leone, for example, who may have differing views on the government in power.

The Organization of Liberians in Minnesota

The Organization of Liberians in Minnesota (OLM) is a community-service-oriented nonprofit, originally a student-based social welfare organization but now a larger group.

The OLM has drawn criticism over allegations of corruption and accusations that it is cooperating too actively with the unpopular Liberian government – evidence of the political divides among Liberians in the U.S.

Liberian Women's Initiatives - Minnesota

Liberian Women’s Initiatives – Minnesota (LiWIM) was founded in 2003. In their own words, “strives to act as a strong advocate and resource repository for Liberian women and girls through building a solid and sustainable organization rooted in the needs of Liberian females. By creating an inclusive, community-based organization, LiWIM hopes to play a fundamental role in the ongoing success and adaptation of the Liberian community into mainstream America.”

 Since 2006 and up to at least 2012, they have held an annual August kickball game with the women of the Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park police departments, with the goal of building community ties between youth and police.

Mike Elliot

Mike Elliott, born in Liberia, immigrated to the U.S. with his family at the age of 11.

He was a leading candidate in Brooklyn Center’s 2014 mayoral election, where he ran on a campaign based on change – arguing, for example, that past development like the new WalMart were only creating low-end jobs and that more inclusive development was needed.

He also stressed his experiences as a recent immigrant, including the difficulties his mother faced in working three part-time jobs to make ends meet. In the end, however, he lost the Mayoral election to incumbent Tim Wilson.