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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Celebrating all things Somali at the U of M | MinnPost

Celebrating all things Somali at the U of M | MinnPost

On Feb. 22, CBS Evening News reporter Jeff Pegues concluded his report about East African terrorist groups and ramped-up security at the Mall of America with, “Al-Shabaab has found sympathizers in Minneapolis’ large Somali-American population, where more than 20 people have been charged with trying to join the group.” 
The fact is, only a dozen Americans have been confirmed as ever being jihadi recruits. But beyond the stereotypes and media fear-mongering – and after a week of listening to ESPN’s Joe Soucheray on #blacklivesmatter versus the Mall of America (Souch is on the side of the law and order, period), and just hours after President Barack Obama’s Selma speech — a couple hundred Somali-American students at the University of Minnesota gathered in Coffman Union’s Great Hall Saturday night to celebrate all things Somali:
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
Ahmed Abdulle and Ali Omar. “I’m studying IT here at the U; I identify more with Somali culture than western culture,” said Abdulle. “The biggest difference is the level of conservatism. Somali culture is a little more conservative; we don’t show off a lot our body, we’re kind of modest. We don’t try to put ourselves out there, and we’re not so individualistic, and we think each one of us plays a particular role in our society and our family. Like, going to school, we don’t just study what we want to study, we study what will help us and our families in the long run. We look at ourselves as more of gear pieces in a collective.
“My family and I watched the [Obama] speech today, and it was a moment for us to think about because our families were not there at the time, we were in a completely different part of the world, but at the same time had that [the civil rights movement] not happened, we would not have the opportunities we have now. So coming from the outside, we can definitely see the opportunities that we have and can take far more advantage of that and forget about the rationale or reasoning that happened because of [slavery and racism]. I have a friend who is African-American and whose family has been here for generations on end, and when they see themselves they see themselves in a very particular way. He’s not OK going to a city that’s full of white guys because of his and his family’s history, whereas Somali persons, when we see white people, we don’t have that hesitation.”
Somali ENT is a group of young boys, me and my cousins, who produce Somali videos and comedy skits,” said Omar. “Our greatest hit got 300,000 views, called ‘Somali Catfish.’ Somali culture is unique and beautiful; we are part of the East African culture, but Somali is different in its own way. And Somali youth, we have a Muslim point of view of life, but we also put our own little ‘ummph’ in it, if you know what I mean. We’re kind of the generation that’s going to build Somali. You can find it in our poetry, in our dances, in our music, all kinds of things.”
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
Liena Hamza, Aisha Barra, Hayat Mohamed. “I’m studying family social science at the U,” said Mohamed. “I’m originally from Mogadishu, Somalia. I was raised here, but it’s important to keep your culture from home so you never really forget where you come from. I love how diverse Minnesota is, and how all the different cultures come together at the U and do events together. It bothers me when people say ‘Somalians’ versus ‘Somali,’ because the original term is ‘Somali.’ It’s like saying, ‘I’m hanging out with the Mexicans’ versus ‘I’m hanging out with the Hispanics.’ There’s a big difference. The correct term would be ‘I’m hanging out with the Somalis.’ ”
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
Najmo Yusef. “I’m the president of the Somali Student Association. Somali culture is really enriching, it’s a really thick culture. Even if you’ve been here a long time, you still carry the culture with you. With our behaviors, with our characteristics, it’s so deeply rooted in us.”
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
Yura Fora. “I’m here representing the nonprofit organization ARAHA, the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa. We’re just trying to get more awareness about what’s going on in the Horn of Africa, in terms of the poverty level, the drought, the suffering, and the good projects we’re working on. We have offices in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya. It’s my motherland; I care deeply about it, and the community, when we do come here, we have to remember where we came from and not forget the situation that’s going on over there.”
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
Naima Hamad. “I’m a U student, I’m studying youth studies with a minor in sociology. I was born in Kenya, but my family is from Somalia. Somali music is very powerful. It sends a great message; a lot of the songs are about love, and that’s one thing that Somali people have for each other. They have love for everybody, but they have love for each other because of what they went through – the war, the turmoil, the drought, and hunger that’s going on there. Minnesota is a place I want to live forever, because of the diversity and I find that I learn something new every day about my culture and who I am from the people who live and work inside Cedar-Riverside in Minneapolis.”
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

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