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Somalis making presence felt on Lewiston’s political scene



LEWISTON — The city had three candidates from the Somali community on the local ballot Election Day, each a political newcomer.

All three lost their bids for the School Committee, but three people from the community on the ballot marks a high. Before this year, some elections had one immigrant candidate, and most years there was none.

Tuesday’s results show incumbent at-large candidate Megan Parks received 6,694 votes; challenger Safiya Khalid received 2,619.

In Ward 1, Renee Courtemanche got 775 votes to Ahmed Sheikh’s 516 votes, and in Ward 5 incumbent Luke Jensen won with 409 votes to Hassan Abdi’s 291 votes.

Khalid, Sheikh and Abdi are all in their 20s, products of the Lewiston School Department. Each is a recent graduate of Lewiston High School.

Watching the Somali community grow “is like history repeating itself,” said Rita Dube, founder and former executive director of the Dolard & Priscilla Gendron Franco Center.

It took years for the French Canadian immigrants to find a place in society, she said.

“They were not accepted at first, but slowly succeeded in finding work, learning the language and becoming productive members of the community,” Dube said. “I see this happening with the Somalis.”

Many excel in school, are excellent athletes and more Somali businesses are popping up everywhere, Dube said. “This last election shows how they are climbing their way up to the successes the Francos have had.”

Rilwan Osman, executive director of Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services, said his community is not only producing more candidates, it’s producing a growing voter bloc.

Some 2,500 members of the immigrant community were eligible to vote this year, a number that is rising with every election as more gain citizenship, Osman said.

“Every week, we have at least one individual who is getting citizenship or applying to become a citizen,” he said. Last week, one parent became a citizen. On Monday another passed the citizenship interview.

“We have also seen more parents coming to our citizenship classes,” even though some have not lived in the United States for five years, a requirement for citizenship. They are enrolling to learn and get ready, he said.

He expects there will be more candidates from the immigrant community, and is excited that Hassan, Sheikh and Khalid ran.

“It is time for the community to integrate and be part of the broader community, and this is the best way,” Osman said.

Even though they didn’t win, “from our community’s perspective, they are winners.”

Community leader ZamZam Mohamud agreed. The great part of democracy is “everybody has a chance,” she said. The candidates didn’t want to lose, but seeking public office “is positive. The young generation is coming up, which is great.”

Central Maine Community College’s Roger Philippon, dean of communications and a former Lewiston city councilor, predicted the community will see a Somali candidate win office in the near future.

“We have a large number of Somali students here at CMCC,” he said. “More are becoming actively involved in campus life through the Student Senate, the Muslim Student Association, the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and the TRIO (student support services) program.”

After years of veteran members serving on the school board, often with no opposition during elections, in recent years there’s been increased interest, Superintendent Bill Webster said.

This year one race, Ward 6, had no candidate, but half of the eight races were contested.

“There’s greater public awareness of the school board with the issues we face in schools,” Webster said, including student test scores, teacher certification and proficiency-based diplomas.

With so many Lewiston students from immigrant families – 25 percent of the student population – it’s good to see more candidates represent that diversity, Webster said.

“We need the active involvement of all our families in the entire community,” he said.


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



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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Somali youth project update (Project TooSoo)



CBC —  For the past year, a group of young Somalis in Toronto has been learning how to re-claim the stories told about their community.

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Looking back on my Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace | Mo Farah



I recently had the honour of being knighted by Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace. When I came to the UK from Somalia aged 8, not speaking any English, who would have thought that my running would eventually lead me here? This was another very special gold medal for me and I am so honoured to have received it. Here’s a little glimpse of how the day went for me.

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