Insight News

Feb 13th

Legacy: Sabathani Community Center

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Suluki FardanSabathani Community Center has been impacting South Minneapolis by providing for the community since the 1950s and recently celebrated its accomplishments and history.

The community center was originally Sabathani Baptist Church.

Left to right:
Shirley Callendar, exhibit attendee and regular Sabathani participant; Anika Robbins, co-curator; Pam Russell-Young, project director, Sabathani; and Beverly Propes, exhibit attendee.

“The church had a vision to do more community outreach,” said development manager, Pamela Young.

“Black Churches were the leaders in the community.” 

According to Young, during the 1950s and early 1960s, African-American families were predominant in South Minneapolis. Currently, South Minneapolis has a more diverse population. 

“Today we serve a multicultural population,” said Young. “We had to learn and be willing capable learners.”
According to the website, Sabathani’s mission is to provide people of all ages and cultures with essential resources that inspire them to improve their lives and build a thriving community. As evidence of the increasing diversity, Sabathani now provides a prayer space for its Somali community on the second floor.
Clarissa Walker was highlighted as a community servant in Sabathani’s Spring newsletter in 2011.  “She had a gift”, said Young.  “She saw people’s needs.” 

Young said with Walker’s help Sabathani began to provide basic needs such as food and clothing to members of the community. Walker, who passed away a year ago, was instrumental in helping the community with tax filing.  Young said Walker started a program for free tax preparation. According to Young, Walker attended to the communities needs for over 40 years.

Former Executive Director Jim Cook is another significant person in Sabathani’s history. Young said he helped with the financial infrastructure at Sabathani.

“(Cook) put Sabathani on the map,” said Young. “He also had a gift for reaching out to the supporting community. He had a passion about Sabathani.”

Cook worked with the community center for 27 years.

Young said the Sabathani Community Center was born in the basement of the church.  The church housed a bowling alley in the basement.

To celebrate the center’s legacy, Sabathani recently held an event called “We are Sabathani” which featured tours of Sabathani’s art collection.  The exhibit was curated by the LaJune T. Lange International Institute and ANIKA & Friends.

The project was a collaboration between the Council on Black Minnesotans and the Minnesota Humanities Center and was funded by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Sabathani has 40 tenants in the building. Half of the center is filled by a food shelf, Horizon Youth program and the James G. Cook’s First Access Clinic. The other half is made up of tenant offices of non-profits and small businesses. Young said the building’s community is “a little village.”

Sabathani has been in its current location, 310 East 38th Street Minneapolis since 1979 when the Bryant Junior High school closed, but the center was incorporated in 1966. 


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