Once upon a time Somalia was the land of poets, it was the land that people far and wide traveled to just for vacations. We had a good government, an atmosphere that was peaceful, and people that treated one another as though they were blood. Somewhere along the lines though something changed, something devilish entered our country and struck one against the other. As the civil war raged on it was during that time many families were running away from the only home they once knew. As you know war affects families by devastation. War has always taken a toll. Accounts throughout history tell of nightmares and other emotional problems associated with the horrors of war. I have read many books, and essays about war yet I came to learned that all of the war stories including my own experience about war are the same. As a victim of war, I know the pain of war and the affects and the cruel impact it has for society. In 1990, a civil war broke out in Somalia, after a failed attempt by the people, to overthrow the former president, Said Bare. Many families ventured to other parts of Africa, and beyond. As for me my journey began in America. America was to become my new home; it was to become a new beginning, and one that would help me grow into the person that I am today. However, I will never forget about where I am from, the history of my country of Somalia, or the trials that lead me to come to my new country of America. I thank Allah for where I started my journey and where my journey has brought me. The American melting pot was in the works since the immigrants began to arrive on the shores of America and today is not different. Every year new immigrants come to America, leaving their country without their choice, running from violence, war, hunger, and luck of opportunities to integrate and assimilate and become part of their new homeland with their new distinct beliefs and culture. This is the American dream. This is what brought me to this beautiful country, a county where there are opportunities, education, safety, a law and order. The dream I lost due to the civilian war. As a Muslim woman living in this great country, I believe in the American dream that everyone regardless of religion, ethnicity, color, and income have the right to exercise that dream. Therefore, as a member of the American society, I am committed to the public ideals of unity and community, social and economic justice and peace at home and abroad. I believe in the virtue of hospitality, dialogue, partnership and openness.
As a Muslim East African woman, a mother, and a community advocate, women and women’s rights are dear to my heart. My mother raised me alone, saving me from harm. As a result, I am now living in the world’s most powerful country, the United States of America. I am educated, have a job, and a safe place to call home. Now, I have the power to stand with those who are making positive changes around the world particularly women. I have the power to speak against all forms of injustice. I am willing to raise my voice, and be the voice for the voiceless because that is my responsibility as a woman, a mother and as a human. However, in the last few years, it become very difficult for me to accomplish and exercise my responsibility. Though, most of us are great, genuine, welcoming and helpful people, there are a few who hate me and hate those who look like me associating my kind as an evil, terror, and a violence group who are in a war with the west and with America. I received many hate messages through social media and other places including public places. Those messages scared me so much that it threatens, frightens and shakes my harmony. Many times I question myself wondering why? Why me? I left my country without my choice left everyone and everything that I knew, witnessing the horror, and the nightmare of war as a young child. Nevertheless, after many struggle, stumble and potholes, I thought I finally made it through, but why I feel shaken and uncertain?
Few days ago, I received a phone call from a friend who informed me about an incident in St. Cloud city concerning a Somali man stabbing Shoppers at the Crossover mall, inside Macy’s injuring at least 9 people and died after he was shot by an off duty officer. As a member of the Somali community in the State of Minnesota, I was very sad angry and confused at the same time. I was sad because he injured many people, many innocent people, who went there to shop and take care of their business and certainty did not deserved to be stabbed by anyone. I was sad because, the victims were going through a lot, and so do their families. They were someone’s child, daughter, uncle, father, partner, friend and a neighbor. I know the horror of violence and I hate to know someone is going through that. Also, I was angry for that young man who committed this horrendous act. On the other hand, I was confused as to why he did what he did. Was he mentally sick or what? Those were the questions running through my head. I never once thought this was an act of terror, but after I watch the news, every outlet was saying terror, ISIS and Al-Qaida. Wow, just because he was Muslim? But when non-Muslim commit such act, that person in the eyes of the media, he is Mental, bipolar, or drunk. I mean seriously? Is this right? Fair and just? Treat others the way you want to be treated! I am not a terrorist, and America is my country. This is my home and I will never leave my country. This message is for those people that asked me to go back to my country.
In conclusion, what brought me to this great country was what brought those before me. Seeking a better life, opportunity and a new family, new friends, neighbors, and a new life, a better life. Guess what? I got and received that title, “an American Citizen,” and I am thankful, thankful to call you a friend, a teacher, and a community. Finally, I am asking all my American family to stand against injustice, Islamophobia being one. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
A plan to create what could become the first recreation center in the country designed to comply with Muslim religious beliefs is gaining steam in the Twin Cities.
The proposal for a $48 million Muslim Youth and Recreation Center comes from Somali Youth Action of Minnesota, a new nonprofit organization working to reduce youth violence.
Early sketches of the project reveal separate swimming pools for men and women, separate exercise rooms, an indoor soccer field and a large multi-purpose room for weddings and other events.
The group hasn’t purchased land for the proposed center and is just starting to form a fundraising committee.
“We’re going to go after it … and we’re going to hope that the local community and donors and foundations respond,” said Matthew Palombo, secretary of Somali Youth Action (SYA). “If they do, then it will move forward.”
Creating a safe place for Somali youth to meet…
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It gives me the goosebopms to think back that day, that moment in that class room, without my loved ones, my parents and my siblings. I can hear my heart beat as if it was not even my heart beat, and i couldn’t even differentiate the sound of my heart beat and the sound of the gun shots s to anyone who has never witness such a horror in their lifetime. so though i am talking about it, i know deep down that many might not follow what i am describing here put beleive me, it was one of the scariest moments in my life that i will carry and remember til death.
I remember leaving my home not looking back, not knowing what was going on. The only thing I knew was that something awful was happening, and that people were dying, yet I didn’t know why. I was very scared and confused yet did not know what to do. As I and my family left with my aunt’s car, my eyes were glued to the window, as I watched the people on the street, I remember seeing injured people crying for help on the side walk yet no one was helping, everyone was running. But one thing that I can’t ever forget was, as I was watching people on the side walk, running, carrying backpacks, and carrying their babies on their back , walking without shoes, there was a child maybe one year old sucking his dead mother’s breast. This made me cry for many days. I remember looking at the baby, and telling my mother to stop the car, so I can help the baby. I remember how devastated and shocked I felt. I still remember the red shirt he was wearing. You see, it is not easy to forget such incident, how can I when I still see the sand and the dust all over his little face and the tears and the horror in his face. How can I forget the cry and the scene as if I am rewinding an old horror movie? But make no mistake, as it was, and it is a reality of my past that hunts me down up until now. I wish someone heard me when I called my mother asking her to stop the car and didn’t.
“Mom, please stop the car,” I keep repeating the same word, and I thought maybe my mother didn’t hear me at all. Then again, I said “mom, the baby, please lets help him.” And this time I was literally shouting out loud thinking that maybe my mother didn’t hear me the first time. But the noise of the gun shots was so close, that it was impossible for us to stop the car, and this baby’s situation was so real to me that I still remember that moment. At one point, I remember opening the window of the car, and the smell of the gun was so powerful that I thought the tires of our car were actually burning
“La hawla wla qota ela blah!!!” (God please help) a woman was screaming in the street.
Every time that I thought about the war and my country, this incident is so alive that I often think about the baby wondering what happened to him. I always wonder if he is alive, and that maybe someone saved him and he is healthy, educated and all grown up.
Ethnography Sketch at the Nicollet Coffee
The Somali community of Minnesota is unique in many ways. From their language, religion, clothes, food, and family structure to their behavior, bias, believe systems, attitudes, and relation towards the rest of Minnesotans. However, just like any other community in the state of Minnesota, the Somali community in the twin cities of Minnesota has distinctive beliefs attitudes, and specific folkloric customs within the different tribes. Even though Somali community was very strong and viable, and adaptive to any environment and circumstances, yet coming to a totally new systems, languages, and communities, was the hardest situation we have ever encountered. Thus without strong community leadership, capabilities, advocates, maneuvers, and drivers within the community, we, the Somali community wouldn’t be where we are today.
On the other side we faced enormous cultural difference with our new neighbors, friends and coworkers since we use to live in a homogeneous culture and faith. I, as young Somali American women, have witnessed, seen, been to and involved in so many cultural clashes within the Somalis and Non-Somali people here in the Twin Cities. Thus, the amount of bias, rumors, and false believes within these people are enormously unbelievable deep. Now, fueling from this ideology, these misconceptions, I decided to do my ethnography sketch at the Nicollet Coffee. Two reasons why I decided to go and observe this place. Though I don’t have these false and bias beliefs about my Non-Somali communities, apparently, and sadly it does exist. Hence, I want to Dig deeper and see from another angle, from another perspectives by going to completely white, inner city coffee shop. I knew from the bottom of my heart that this place will be scary, weary, weirdly and completely uncomfortable for me to go there alone and absorb for an hour and so.
Now, here I am, wondering about this place, worrying, and confused about this entire assignment. The funny about this entire experience is the self-discovery part of my own intuition, and reaction to the idea of going to this place without anyone. I did not tell my husband because he will not allowed me to go there, period. Thus that even worried me more than I can handle of. “Worry” and I are not related. I am not a shy person and I have been to so many places throughout the world that I am able to go and explore the world without anyone. Yet this place, this exercise was totally different. I don’t know why? Is it because I am doing this because I know I will be uncomfortable, am I looking to be uncomfortable by acting to be uncomfortable or is this another site of me that I am unpacking now.
Anyhow, it was Saturday morning, just woke up from an a bad dream, a nightmare that woke me up several times during the night caused by the worrisome of the assignment, the side and what might happen while absorbing the observation. I get up from the bed, and started dressing up for an interesting day of discovery and wondering to discover this nerve-racking place. After I dress up, I walked down the stairs and by the time I reached the living room, I run to my husband sitting, watching the news before he heads out to work. As I greet him, my heart was pumping, and I seem so nervous as well as unsettled and anxiously perplexed. I didn’t want him to asked me where I was going so I try to walk by him to go to the kitchen but before I walked out he said to me “honey are you ok? You seem sick or something,” And assured him that I was perfecto, but tire and that he doesn’t need to worry about me. Then as I walk in to the kitchen, I hear him getting his keys and going out of the door. I walked to the window and watched him drive out of the ally. Woooooooooow! That was nerve-racking, and amazingly and unforgettably weird to discover that side of me.
Furthermore, as I walked out of the door to my car, i looked around to see the mood and the atmosphere and even though it was not raining, it sure was cloudy, windy and smoky. It seemed like I was watching a horror movie or something and for some reason ever thing was unreal. However, it was a reality and I was uncovering many sides of me and how I feel about this particular place. Was it because I hear so much rumors from my own people, and because of that, it created weird bias side of me without knowing that there is a weird side of me or what?
Anyhow, I get in to my car and I started driving to the Nicollet Coffee. As I drive through heading down to the place, it seemed, or felt like I was driving to unfamiliar place, maybe mars, I mean seriously what the heck is wrong with me? This is very interesting! Why was I feeling the way I was feeling? Somehow some way, I find myself in front of the Nicollet Coffee Shop, like I was sleeping there and woke up from the dead or something. I was numb and didn’t want to go inside at all. Then there was this weird voice inside of me telling me to get out of the car to just go and buy coffee. There was something inside me that was motivating me, empowering me to get up. What was it? Was this my other side that was waking up? Whatever it was, I liked it. I could tell it was powerful as it boosted my energy level, and mood. Now, I started looking around, the sites to my car, my windshield, the backside, and inside the Coffee shop. Believe it or not, it seemed normal day and people were going by, talking, chatting, and holding hands, with their children. Some were smoking and some were at the bus station waiting to take the bus. I felt that something was different and that whatever was happening to me for the past hour or so was interesting, unfamiliar, and wilder territory of my instinct that was never touched before and that I was somehow discovering within me. However, whatever that voice that talked to me few minutes ago was great as it allowed me to realize the world was normal and that nothing was the matter.
Anyways, with a better energy and feeling enthusiastically empowered feeling about the this entire unpredictable feelings of horror, weirdly, numbed to energized, motivated yet perpetually unbalance moods allowed me to get out of the car. As I close the car door and start walking I notice most of people around the street were younger looking people and dressed funny. The women wear more tightly pants with lots of keys, and medals hanging around their pockets and around their waist. Most of these youngsters smoke and had more medals hanging from their ears, nose, libs, bellybutton, and some even had it on their tongue. The men wore leather tight jackets and cowboys-ish kind of style and shoe. Most of them had colored their hair blue, pink, purple and some were even red. It was so weird now that I am thinking about it. Other interesting fact that I notice was, these youngsters were either bicycling or driving motorcycling. I felt that I am no longer in Minnesota or even in American territory. I thought I have lived long enough to know who these funny looking people were, and why they dressed this way. And oh, wait! What is with these big holes on their ears?
As I walked inside the coffee shops, wearing a pink Hijab and high heels, beautiful purse and a black blazer, I notice most of the people inside were eyeing at me. I felt awkward, but that didn’t stop me from keep walking to find place to sit down. As I walked through the raws for tables and chairs full of people. The place was a little crowded and so I had to go all the way back to find me a seat. Anyways, after I sat down, facing back to the crowd, I try my best to feel and looked relaxed. So, here I am along, and anxious, in the middle of this weird crowded place and I had to be here for an hour or so to sit back and just observed without talking and conversing with anyone. Yacks! As I look around me, I saw these two young girls, holding hands, and kissing each other, laughing and making funny faces. As I listen, looking around trying to see or hear what people were doing, I notice that one of the two girls seem pregnant. At this time, I thought they were going out together since they were kissing, and touching each other on a romantic way, but then I wasn’t sure that anymore. Two women can’t make pregnant each other, so maybe I was wrong. But for some reason, she looked so pregnant, maybe 7 month pregnant.
As I sat there wondering, looking around the coffee shop, I hear these two men talking out loud about money. I try to hear exactly what they were talking about to get the scoop of the conversation. It was a little hard to follow through the conversation but one of them looked drunk or induced by something. However, the other was calmer and trying to control the conversation by trying to assured the other that everything was going to be okay. i try to read the relation between these two men, where they boyfriends, brothers or just friends? I couldn’t tell that. So I started looking around the room, to hear and get a better sense of what exactly is happening here. However, even though there were a lot of people, it was still hard to hear normal talks, because most of these people were younger and was maybe there to just have fun, part of their fun was to be there and laugh, yell, and romanticize with their other significance, while others just play chess and or serve on the internet.
Ummah Project Inc is a nonprofit organization that is established to improve the life of Somali youth in Minnesota. Ummah Project Inc comprise a diverse group of Somali and American friends who are willing to break the Cycle of youth violence in the Somali Community in Minneapolis and around the twin-cities. Ummah Project Inc will introduce a crime prevention program that include mentoring, intervention, rehabilitation to the youth in collaboration with families, target neighborhood communities, governmental entities and other agencies.