Ousman Camara is no stranger to the North Minneapolis Community. In fact he’s a familiar face with a well respected reputation. Ousman is the owner of K’s Dollar and Grocery, a corner store and deli located in North Minneapolis for over ten years. I recently sat down with Ousman at his North Minneapolis store to discuss his participation in the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Ambassadors Program.
Ousman is the owner of K’s Dollar and Grocery, a corner store and deli in North Minneapolis. He is an active partner with the Minneapolis Health Department’s Healthy Corner Store Program and Healthy Restaurant Initiative, and is committed to transforming his business into a trusted, locally owned neighborhood outlet for nutritious, affordable food options. Ousman is cognizant of his store’s inventory and works to increase healthy food options such as fresh fruits and locally grown vegetables.
Why did you become a Civil Rights Ambassador?
I spend at lot of time conversing with members of the community. Unfortunately, often times they tell me stories through which I recognize they are victims of unlawful discrimination. Before, I was vaguely familiar with the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, so I would tell people to just reach out to their city council member or the attorney general when they were wronged. I didn’t know there was an organization right here in Minneapolis which was solely committed to investigating complaints of discrimination. Some time ago I met some representatives from the Civil Rights Department at an outreach event. They told me about the Department’s services and its various divisions. After that, anytime someone came to me with a story hinting of discrimination, I began referring them to the Department of Civil Rights. Over time, I decided to make it official and become a part of the MDCR Ambassador Program. I received training, and I now feel confident in my ability to speak to the services provided by the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights and encourage community members to utilize their resources.
In your capacity as an ambassador, how do you advance or promote the work of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights?
I raise awareness about the many different areas of civil rights protections included in the City’s Civil Rights Ordinance. Most people think that the Civil Rights Department only manages complaints of race discrimination. A lot of times, I hear stories of housing discrimination and employment discrimination based on religion. People will say to me, “Well I don’t think it about race, its more about my faith, so I don’t think the Civil Rights staff can help.” Even in 2016, it’s still a major misconception.
I also talk to fellow minority small business owners about the benefits of being certified to do business with the City.
As an ambassador I proudly display the MDCR brochures on my store counter. I encourage all customers to learn about the resources available, if not for themselves, for someone else. Sometimes people ask me questions that I can’t answer and I tell them to call the Department directly for the best answer.
The Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance specifies that it is illegal to discriminate based on race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, marital status, and status with regard to public assistance. As a MDCR ambassador, what inspires you to promote the message of common humanity and educate your community of their civil rights protections?
All people are just that- people. It’s a simple fact, but an important one to remember. We may not look the same, act the same, or worship the same- but we are all human. That common denominator should be enough for us to live together in harmony and treat all people with respect.
Join Ousman, become a MDCR Ambassador Today!
MDCR ambassadors are community liaisons, and play a critical role in ensuring the voice of the community is heard. The MDCR Ambassador Program focuses on educating and informing the community of its rights to file complaints of discrimination or police misconduct, become certified minority and women owned businesses and to otherwise engage with the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights.
Current employees of Nonprofit or For-Profit Community Organizations in Minneapolis that support principles of equal opportunity, non-discrimination and the objectives of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance are encouraged to apply. To learn more about the Ambassador Program, fill out the contact form below.
For reasonable accommodations or alternative formats please contact the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights at 612-673-2697. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to call 311 at 612-673-3000. TTY users call 612-673-2157 or 612-673-2626. Para asistencia 612-673-2700 – Rau kev pab 612-673-2800 – Hadii aad Caawimaad u baahantahay 612-673-3500.