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Somali Independence Day – July 1 – a reason to learn a little about our neighbors by Ann Treacy
July 3, 2017, 6:01 am
Filed under: St Paul

Yesterday I just missed enjoying the Somali Celebration down on Lake Street by minutes. We walked around watching the different booths pack up – we were there too late. But it was fun especially to see the women decked out in sparkling hijabs and made up in a way that I don’t usually see.

I was thrilled to see today that there was an informative session tonight at the Minnesota History Center. (It’s Somali Week!) So Aine and I went to visit to learn more about Somalia and Somalis in Minnesota. It was interesting. We saw some Somali dance, music, poetry, hiphop and heard a keynote speaker in Somali. The keynote was a woman who had been recruited to play basketball at an American college and after was traveling back and forth encouraging other young woman to take up basketball. There was a fair number of young women in the audience (who seemed to understand Somali) so that was nice to see.

I hate to admit that my knowledge of Somalia is very limited. I know that a huge percentage of Somalians in the US are based in Minnesota. That was all I knew. Tonight I learned more about the importance of 1960. In 1960, the Somali Republic was established when two British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland united. (Clearly I’m skipping huge chuck of Somali history here but tonight focused on Independence.) The Somali Republic became the Somali Democratic Republic in 1969 under Mohamed Siad Barre, who touted a scientific socialism focusing on the national over clans. In 1991, a civil war broke out, which led to fighting among factions. There was some relief from fighting in 1998.

Transitional governments were set up in 2000 and 2004. More fighting in 2005-2007 – although apparently with less intensity than in the 1990s. The Federal Government of Somalia was established in 2012, after Kenyan troops entered Somalia in 2011. Somalia is currently considered a fragile state. They are working toward stability but continue to deal with insurgents, especially in the countryside.

The first speaker to take the stage tonight spoke about the importance of maintaining Culture, Language and Religion. I think he’s right – it’s important to keep those three alive both in a home country and an adopted country. Our lens is through life as Irish Americans. We have absolutely seen that happen with Irish culture. (Language being a little different.) There’s room to celebrate nation of descent and choice. I think the last performer highlighted that duality. He was a hiphop artist, American of Somali descent. He sang – don’t judge me by my clan but my merits. He also noted (I think it was he) that this is a big week as we celebrate Independence Day for Somalia and the US.

It was an interesting event. I’m glad we went. I’m glad I learned a little bit about folks I see around Cedar Riverside, at the YWCA and various cultural events around town.

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