Welcome to the Urban Village

Cultivating Connection, Collaboration, & Kinship

The Urban Village (5)
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The Urban Village Marketplace (1)

Connection. Collaboration. Kinship.

The Urban Village is a Karen community space designed to cultivate connection, collaboration, and kinship both inside and outside its walls - both inside and outside the Karen Community. Our Family Academy Model works to enhance home-to-classroom engagement through the empowerment of parents and the support of students. At the Urban Village, we believe that the road to opportunity and achievement can be difficult to travel alone. We believe, it takes a village.

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Who we are. What we do.

The Urban Village is  a launch pad for Karen students, artists, leaders, entrepreneurs, dreams, businesses, movements, and community projects. Our vision is big but our strategy is simple...

A Community Space
The Urban Village Marketplace (1)

Through our family academy model, we hope to impact not only ‘home to classroom’ engagement, but positively influence family relationships and re-establish healthy power dynamics for families caught in the challenges of resettlement. As a community space, The Urban Village is watering community growth in the way it provides space and resources for movements, visions, ideas, and hope to grow. By being a connector and collaborator, The Urban Village creates real opportunity for this capable and talented community to use its gifts in markets, communities, and networks that would have otherwise been unavailable.

"We chose to leave our homeland because of the violence but we decided to come here because we wanted opportunity for our children through education".

-Naw Dah

"The Urban Village is a place where I can bring my kids and they will be reminded of our history and where we came from".

-Shar Paw

"This means we have a space to go to when we want to connect with other Karen people. This means we have a place to turn to when we need support or would like to provide support. This means having a space to build relationships with one another."

-Eh Soe Dwe

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The Urban Village Marketplace provides a place for cultural preservation while also providing an opportunity for Karen and Karenni artisans to bring their products to market and generate and income. Right now, most Karen music, art, weavings, and other culturally relevant items can only be bought and shipped from Thailand or Burma. We hope to create a place where these items can be sourced from the talented community here in our neighborhoods.

We are excited to open our physical and online marketplace with culturally relevant goods, art, and handicrafts all provided by local Karen and Karenni entrepreneurs.

In our partnership with artists, we are excited to both put money into their pockets as well as into the Urban Village Community Fund. This fund helps to support the community led projects that we host and supports our community space full of community resources.

From watering hole to watering seeds

The Urban Village Saint Paul Minnesota

The building of 1082 Arcade Street was once used to serve its neighbors alcohol, now, it just serves its neighbors. The Urban Village is a gathering space for individuals, groups, entrepreneurs, organizers, ideas, movements, and dreams with the intention of not only being space, but fertile soil for seeds of hope to grow. As The Urban Village expands, so does it’s capacity to not only provide space, but to share resources, create connections, and cultivate new opportunities for and within the Karen community. Our village is a bar repurposed - where the source of connection is reimagined - offering a sense of community that is redefined.

The Power of Kinship

"Our liberation is bound up with one another, so let us work together."

The story of The Urban Village begins on the living room floor of a tiny apartment in St. Paul’s North End. Crammed on small plastic mats, a recently arrived Karen refugee family welcomes and shares their home with a Minnesota born 21 year old, volunteering to read their mail once a week. Through the common language of hand gestures and smiles, they share in the first of what would become many meals, laughs, wrestling matches, and hours spent together. What happened that day can only be described as the humble origins of a genuine and powerful kinship, one that altered the lives of all who experienced it.

After eight years of birthday parties, camping adventures, homework sessions, trips to Burma, swimming lessons, and of course more wresting matches, these one-time strangers now all live in a home they bought together, proving that though kinship, family knows no bounds. We live in complex world, and sometimes it can cause cracks in our human connection, but when you become family, you never stop fighting for your own. The Urban Village was founded by Jesse Phenow in the spirit of solidarity, but the heart of The Urban Village was created by the power kinship. Our liberation is bound up with one another, so let us work together. 


Village Values

What you do is important. But how you do it defines you. At The Urban Village, these are the values we hold. This, is who we are.



When we begin to identify with someone else, it no longer becomes a question if their humanity is worth fighting for, we never stop fighting for our own.



We believe in the power of sharing resources, time, ideas, and support. We hope that what you receive will be reflective of what you give. Come give. Come receive.

Mutual Learning

Mutual Learning

Student or teacher. Mentor or mentee. We believe that we all have lessons to learn and something to teach. No one has the corner in this village. We learn alongside one another.



No matter your background, your religion, your skin color, your gender identity, your ability, your sexual orientation, your education, your family history, or your personal story. You, are welcome in our village.



We honor the resilience of the Karen people, who have known grit and perseverance in the face of great trials and injustice. So then, at The Urban Village we will be gritty, we will persevere, we will adapt, we will get flexible, and we will pass it on.



We believe that justice is holistic and that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere”. Therefore, as this organization hopes to work for justice, equality, and opportunity for the Karen people, it will always stand in solidarity with other marginalized people groups and other causes for justice. Always.

Covid Resources

Do your part to help our community combat this virus.



Hand Washing


Hand Sanatizer

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Sharing space with someone who has Covid.


Contact Us

Do you have questions about the Urban Village? Contact us today. We would love to hear from you, and help with any questions you may have.

"If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." -Lila Watson

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The Urban Village
1082 Arcade Street
St. Paul MN 55106