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Dream Refugee nonprofit counters stereotypes, fights isolation

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“My family and I have been through trials and tribulations in our journey, but at the end of the day we made it.” It’s been three years since Mohamed Malim, a senior at Edina High School at the time, submitted these words as part of his Cecil E. Newman Scholarship-winning essay. Now a student at the University of St. Thomas where he will be a senior this fall, Malim has found a way to turn his trials into opportunities to help others.

In March of this year, Malim launched Dream Refugee, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, to help refugees share their stories and tackle the troubling climate of “exclusion, xenophobia and apathy,” according to press materials.

Malim explains, “With everything going on politically and how refugees are being labeled in a negative way with stereotypes, I just want to counter-attack that by sharing positive stories around the community of refugees. So, we go around local communities and share their stories.”

Personal experience fuels Malim’s passion for Dream Refugee. In the ’90s, his family left Somalia during the civil war for the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, where Malim was born. “My family and I were paired with thousands of starving, desperate people in the largest refugee complex in the world… Basic necessities such as clean running water, food, medications, proper schooling and a future seemed so out of reach,” recalls Malim on the nonprofit’s website.

“We stayed in a refugee camp for about three years, and we got out of the camp through a lottery,” Malim told the MSR. “Half of my family went to Europe and the other half went to America. We were fortunate to get out of that condition and have a better life.”

A new life came, but so did more struggle. “Although life here is great, life in America came with a new set of problems that we had to face. Learning a new language, feeling isolated around so many people, not fitting in, not knowing our way around, just to name a few.”

Malim hopes Dream Refugee can help ease that isolation for refugees by fostering understanding through storytelling, and by pairing new refugees with professionals in a new mentoring initiative that starts this fall.

Since the launch five months ago, the nonprofit has shared five stories from refugees on the website. The most recent story is of Ka Vang, director of Impact & Community Engagement at American Public Media. Vang gives a powerful account of her memories of a refugee camp in Thailand and the self-identity issues she overcame after arriving to America.

“We record the stories, and one of our [St. Thomas] colleagues transcribes it and edits and writes it in the words of the refugee,” said Malim of the narratives shared on the website. The organization holds fundraising events to pitch to potential investors. They also received a grant from St. Thomas and hope to do more grant writing in the future.

Dream Refugee is also on the move. The organization was recently invited to Canada to speak on refugee advocacy, and the nonprofit hosted its first World Refugee Day gathering at St. Thomas. Rep. Ilhan Omar was one of the speakers. “She is an amazing woman,” said Malim of Omar, the nation’s first Somali American lawmaker.

Malim lit up when recalling the 2014 Spokesman-Recorder Graduation Celebration, where he and other Cecil E. Newman Scholarship winners were celebrated. “It was a beautiful thing — just seeing all these other ambitious students and beautiful stories with goals of contributing to society and making an impact. That was my first scholarship…a very exciting time,” he said with a smile.

Although he didn’t quite remember the details of his essay, he did remember mentioning how the Edina High staff helped him power through his studies. He also remembers some of the struggles at the school. “One of the biggest challenges was the lack of diversity. Obviously you’re the only person of color in the classroom — it was all White people.

“At first, during the freshman and sophomore years, it was hard to break that barrier, but as I joined clubs and sports — football and track and field — that opened up things.” Malim still runs track at St. Thomas and is majoring in marketing with a minor in design. He also interns at an ad agency.

“I’ll be the first in my family to graduate from college. [Neither of] my parents got a high school diploma or even reached freshman [level] in high school,” said Malim, the oldest of six kids.

“[My parents] only have their skills, that’s it. And in my community education is a big factor. I just want to make my mom happy and my dad happy and break that barrier.”

Malim said he’d like to run Dream Refugee full-time when he finishes school, but his immediate future remains open. “I don’t have a plan. Every day is a new opportunity for me, and God has blessed me with a lot. God leads me,” he said. He added that his long-term goal is to work for the United Nations doing humanitarian work.

Ultimately, Malim said he sees himself continuing to draw upon his past to create opportunities for others. “My struggles and my parents’ struggles have [compelled] me to give back. It’s part of my DNA.

“I want people to know that no matter where you’re from or the tribulation you go through in life, giving back is one of the best and most rewarding things you can do.”

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Minnesota

Rep. Ellison, Rep. Emmer, and Colleagues Introduce Resolution Condemning Terror Attack in Mogadishu

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WASHINGTON — On the one-month anniversary of the October 14th terror attack on Mogadishu, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), along with Reps. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Karen Bass (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and Denny Heck (D-WA) introduced House Resolution 620, which condemns the attack, expresses sympathy for its victims and their families, and reaffirms U.S. support for Somalia.

The October 14th terror attack killed more than 350 people, including three American citizens, and injured another 200—making it the single deadliest in Somalia’s history.

“It’s been a month since the terrible and cowardly attack on Mogadishu, and my heart still breaks for the people of Somalia and their families and friends here in the United States,” Ellison said. “The people of Somalia have shown incredible resilience— coming together not only as part of an inspiring effort to recover from this attack, but also to rebuild their nation in the spirit of peace and prosperity. I am proud to stand with my colleagues to express solidarity with the people of Somalia by strongly condemning the senseless violence, extending our condolences to all those affected by the attack, and reaffirming continued U.S. support for Somalia.”

“Just over a month ago, Mogadishu experienced a horrific and tragic terrorist attack,” said Emmer. “This attack hit close to home with three of our fellow Americans – including one Minnesotan – among the more than 350 men, women and children who lost their lives far too soon. I stand with my colleagues and the Somali community to condemn last month’s attack. I am proud to work with my colleagues to offer condolences and lend support as Somalia works to rebuild itself and its communities in the wake of this recent tragedy. Today, and every day, we stand against terror and join together to rid this world of evil.”
The full text of the resolution reads as follows:

“Strongly condemning the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017, and expressing condolences and sympathies to the victims of the attack and their families.

Whereas on October 14, 2017, a truck bomb filled with military grade and homemade explosives detonated at a busy intersection in the center of Mogadishu, Somalia, and took the lives of more than 350 people and injured more than 200 additional people;

Whereas at least three Americans, Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, Mohamoud Elmi, and Abukar Dahie, were killed in the attack;

Whereas the Somali Government believes that Al-Shabaab was responsible for the attack, although no official claims of responsibility have yet been made;

Whereas Al-Shabaab has previously avoided claiming responsibility for Al Shabaab operations when it believes the operation may significantly damage its public image among Somalis;

Whereas the Department of State condemned ‘‘in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks that killed and injured hundreds in Mogadishu on October 14’’;

Whereas the Department of State stated that ‘‘the United States will continue to stand with the Somali government, its people, and our international allies to combat terrorism and support their efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity’’;

Whereas according to the Department of State’s Country Report on Terrorism for 2016, Al-Shabaab is the most potent threat to regional stability in East Africa;

Whereas the United States continues to support counterterrorism efforts in coordination with the Government of Somalia, international partners, and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) mainly through capacity building programs, advise and assist missions, and intelligence support;

Whereas Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, declared three days of national mourning in response to the attack;

Whereas the vibrant, bustling district of Mogadishu where the attack occurred is characteristic of the city’s revitalization, and the solidarity and efforts by the city’s residents to rebuild already are a testament to their resilience; and

Whereas Somalia has been a strong partner to the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017;

(2) expresses its heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies for the victims of the attack and their families;

(3) honors the memories of Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, Mohamoud Elmi, and Abukar Dahie, who were murdered in the horrific terrorist attack;

(4) recognizes the significant efforts to combat terrorism by the Government of Somalia, the countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, and United States forces in Somalia;

(5) reaffirms United States support for the Government of Somalia’s efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity and combat terrorism in Somalia; and

(6) renews the solidarity of the people and Government of the United States with the people and Government of Somalia.”

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Fartun Ahmed is first Somali-American woman elected to a school board in the country

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LAKESHORE WEEKLY — HOPKINS — Fartun Ahmed was elected to Hopkins school board Tuesday Nov. 7, making her the first Somali woman in the country to be elected to a school board and the second to be elected to public office.

She campaigned as part of a bloc with Chris LaTondresse and Jen Westmoreland-Bouchard under the message that every family in the school district should be able to access the resources they need to understand the system.

Campaigning against Steve Semler and Kevin Bennett, the bloc won the three open seats. Turnout was nearby double that of two years ago — 21,501 people voted for school board candidates in this year’s election; 12,159 votes were cast in 2015.

“It shows our district is ready to move forward,” Ahmed said. “It shows our district is open to connecting and engaging with someone despite the differences they may have.”

The three campaigned as a tight ensemble. They door-knocked every weekend in October, met with students and attended school board meetings. Neighborhoods even organized gatherings to meet the candidates.

People frequently recognized who they were upon opening the door, Barb Westmoreland said. Westmoreland is the mother of board member-elect Westmoreland-Bouchard. She described how Fartun felt after a day of door-knocking:

“For many of these people, they just had a lot of questions. They were really curious; they wanted to talk with a Muslim woman who wears a hijab,” Westmoreland said.

Ahmed, 26, was born in Somalia and moved to the United States when she was 3. With her family, she moved around Minnesota for a while before settling in Hopkins. As the oldest of eight children, Ahmed was the first in her immediate family to attend school.

She finished high school in 2009 with a GPA of 4.0 and moved on to study at Metropolitan State University. During her undergraduate years, Ahmed was appointed to committees formed by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger. Later, she obtained a full-ride dual masters from the University of Chicago.

“She’s a standard bearer for her family,” Westmoreland said. “First one to go to college, she has a master’s degree … for her to come back to this community and say ‘I really want to be a part of it and I want to make it better,’ I just admire her so much for these values.”

Ahmed is grateful for Hopkins Schools and the resources the district provided for her family when she entered schools, she said.

“It shows you what America is that my parents — who had no idea, who had never went to school, who don’t even know how to read or write in Somali — can raise this daughter who can be elected to a political position in an office,” she said, “and that’s what America is.”

However, despite the district’s efforts, the resources at hand right now don’t match the need for the 45 percent who are students of color, Ahmed said.

Working as an executive director at her family’s Family Resource and Childcare Center gave her insight. Family after family came in, addled in trying to navigate the school system. Many families with whom she spoke changed their minds to stay in Hopkins, but others left to open-enroll in neighboring districts.

Leaders in the community should understand the issues varying community members are facing, Ahmed said.

On the day before the election, Ahmed’s 8-year-old sister wrote her a letter for good luck, saying she looks up to her oldest sister.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m doing this is because I want her to grow up in a community where she knows her leaders and people will listen to her and people will respect her,” Ahmed said.

The campaign results proved that people underestimate their own community, she said. Hopkins was ready for leaders in public office who reflected a cross-section of the community.

Westmoreland said the relationships the trio formed with voters throughout the past several months will propel them into office.

“I feel a great sense of hope,” Westmoreland said, “and I think a lot of other people do, too. Everybody’s looking for goodness in our own community, that we really want to work together to make sure everyone’s life here is good and going well.”

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Scared liar Alex Jones: U.S. has ‘colonized Minnesota with Somalis’ [VIDEO]

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CITY PAGES — On Monday, legendary Hollywood shitheel James Woods tweeted a video depicting Somalis at the Mall of America.

Are these things connected?

EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED! WAKE UP SHEEPLE!

This we learned from a nine-minute clip from Alex Jones, a disturbingly popular conspiracist who has never let the fact that everything he says is a lie detract from the fact that it would be scary if it was true.

After showing the same clip James Woods had posted, Jones begins: “Mall of America yesterday…”

Wrong. The video’s timing is unclear, but it was almost certainly taken during Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday which many Somali Minnesotans celebrate with a trip to the Mall of America. This year, Eid al-Adha fell on August 31 and September 1, which is only “yesterday” if you, like Alex Jones, have been awake for the last 10 weeks.

Here’s an NPR story (from 2006) about why Muslims go to the mall to celebrate Eid.

Hold us, we’re scared.

Ahem. Continue, Alex.

“Mall of America yesterday was about 95 percent Somali…”

Wrong. This one small part of the Mall of America (the Nickelodeon Universe) appears to be heavily Somali or East African… during a very brief clip… recorded, again, on a day when Muslims traditionally gather at the mall. The Mall of America is enormous, though: 500-something stores spread out over 4.9 million square feet of space.

This video shows a couple hundred people. The Mall of America averages more than 100,000 visitors a day. Most are white.

Anyway, sorry to cut you off again Alex, continue.

“Mall of America yesterday was about 95 percent Somali. Now, that’s the main area where they’ve been resettling for 40-plus years…”

Wrong. The vast majority of Somali-Americans emigrated to the United States (and Minnesota, specifically) as refugees from a civil war … during the 1990s. That’s not 40 years ago.

OK, sorry Alex. Proceed.

“Now, that’s the main area where they’ve been resettling for 40-plus years. The U.S. Government has been bringing Muslims in, from the most suppressive, most radical Muslim nation…”

Wrong. Those are subjective assertions to begin with, but, while Somalia is essentially tied for dead last in freedoms, it’s down there with countries — Saudia Arabia, Yemen — the U.S. considers its allies.

As for “most radical,” Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan — again, all U.S. allies — suffer more terrorist attacks than Somalia. And most terrorists or would-be terrorists who target America are from… America.

OK Alex, go on.

“The U.S. Government has been bringing Muslims in, from the most suppressive, radical Muslim nation, where women are sold at slave auctions to this day…”

Not wrong, per se, but misleading as hell. Jones is almost certainly referring to sex slavery as practiced by Al-Shabaab militants, a group which consists of maybe 9,000 people — in a country of 14 million.

The way Jones phrases it makes it sound like slave auctions in Somalia are sanctioned, and happening everywhere, all the time. It’d be like describing the United States as a “nation where people get shot at country music concerts,” or a “nation where people live in St. Cloud, Minnesota.”

Is there… more?

“The U.S. Government has been bringing Muslims in, from the most suppressive, radical Muslim nation, where women are sold at slave auctions to this day. It has the highest murder rate in the world…”

Wrong.

“It has the highest murder rate in the world, and women are seen as, basically, animals. Now, our government, as part of the diversity VISA program, has colonized Minnesota with Somalis.”

Oh, fuck this. This is going to take all day. Imagine how exhausting it would be if the people who watch Alex Jones — or feed this hokum into his teleprompter — cared whether what he said was even remotely true.

You can watch this clip if you want, but please, go in knowing virtually every single thing in Jones says is either provably incorrrect, or has been twisted beyond recognition into something pointy, which he then waves right in front of his terrified viewers’ bug-eyes. At one point Jones starts talking about “drag queen festivals.” At another, he calls Abdiraham — Jones calls him “Adderdam” (wrong), then “Abababa” (wrong) — “our new Somali God.” Then he says the word “zero” 16 times in a row. It’s… well, it’s pretty much like every other Alex Jones clip.

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