Immigration

May 31, 2014

Cedar+Riverside+has+become+a+rich+cultural+center+for+Somali+life+in+Minnesota.

Parker Breza

Cedar Riverside has become a rich cultural center for Somali life in Minnesota.

Like many members of the Minnesota Somali community, Omar was born in Somalia, her home country, before the start of the Civil War in 1991. After the Civil War broke out, Omar and her family moved to refugee camps in Kenya in order to escape the violence, which became a sort of safe haven for her and her family. “The refugee camps became normal to me,” Omar said. “I didn’t even want to leave––it became normal and fun for me to be with all of my family. I didn’t want to be torn apart again.”

After some time, Omar’s family was able to secure the means to move to the United States thanks to the help of relief organizations and arrived in the state of Virginia. “Moving from the refugee camp to Virginia was difficult because of the isolation, but moving to Minnesota, because of all of the relatives I knew here, was a lot easier––it felt a lot more at home,” Omar said.

Her time in the refugee camps greatly impacted her life and subsequent choices; Omar credits these key developmental periods in her life as major influences in her career path. “I think that politics is all about making your voice heard, and trying to change things that you don’t like in society,” Omar said. “In this way, I think that my narrative has played a role in my choosing of the career that I am currently involved in.”

Keara Clacko and Elizabeth Grygar

Omar’s story is reminiscent of many others in the Somali community. Mr. Haji-Husein, Omar’s uncle, posses a similar drive thanks to his experiences, and has made it his goal to make more stories like his and Omar’s possible through the creation of the Somali Benadiri Community of Minnesota, an organization dedicated to help aid other Somali refugees. “We work with Somali families and local organizations and government in order to try and make the complicated transition process a little bit easier,” Haji-Husein said.

One of the reasons that the organization is successful in their mission is in part due to their open door policy; the organization is a place where all Somalis can come and receive help while also being a recognizable place for all. “It is our goal to help make this difficult process a little bit easier, and we like to be there with them all the way through the process,” Haji-Husein said.

As more Somalis have found refuge in Minnesota––especially the Twin Cities metropolis––key issues have begun to surface that need to be addressed. “Like any community we have problems that need to be dealt with, which is why political representation is so vital to making one’s mark––it is the defining characteristic of whether or not an immigrant community will be able to carve out their own space in a new country,” Omar said.

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