In Their Own Words : Young Somalis in Minnesota

In a three part series that started airing on Monday January 25, 2010, Minnesota Public Radio’s, Laura Yuen talked to Somali Minnesotans about some of the challenges the community has faced in recent years.  The series focused primarily on Young Somalis who have become of great interest to the American Law Enforcement Community in recent years.

The FBI says some two dozen Somali’s have either left for Somalia or joined Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda’s proxy in the Horn of Africa. The MPR report also notes that “since December 2007, at least 11 young men of Somali descent have been killed in the Twin Cities.” The Minneapolis Police that has a fairly established outreach with Somali residents in Minnesota has also been battling the rising of gang activity in recent years.

Some view the dilemma as young people who have previously escaped from violence trying to find their place in the society. Others, including some of the Somalis interviewed by MPR, are grappling with the paradox of escaping from civil war to only deal with yet another kind of violent crime. All the while, many are pursuing their American dream by going to schools and involving in community organizing.

Perhaps the most compelling part, second of a three-part series, deals with “the psychological scars inflicted by the bloody Somali civil war and how they are felt by the young generation in Minnesota.” Noting the effect of the civil war on almost all Somalis, David McGraw Schuchma, a social worker who spent years working with Somali Americans sums it up as follows;

For many Somalis, as I understand it, they have no concept of mental illness except ‘crazy… and when they think of crazy, its extreme cases, like practically throwing-off-your-clothes-in-public kind of crazy. So you’re either crazy, or you’re sane.

This is a commonly held belief among many immigrant communities like the Oromo, Eritrean and Ethiopians. The concepts of posttraumatic stress disorder and depression are foreign to their cultures. And the stigma of being a depressed person or one with mental illness runs so deep.

At least for now, the Somali community has to brace for unexpected dangers like the Steward Market triple homicide. But instead of scrambling only when tragedy strikes, the law enforcement and the community should work closely on addressing the root causes of the increasing violence, the rise in Somali gang activity and even the alleged recruitment into Al-Shabaab ranks.

Audio: In their own words (Click on the names to listen to the Audio)

Somalis in Minnesota share their stories of struggle and triumph.

Nimco AhmedNimco Ahmed

A community activist and policy aide with the Minneapolis City Council.

Abdulkadir SharifAbdulkadir Sharif

A former gang member and youth counselor at the Minnesota Da’Wah Institute.

Raho WarsameRaho Warsame

A 51-year-old single mother of four children and housing property manager.

Abdulahi FarahAbdulahi Farah

Coordinator of the Salaam Project, aimed at reducing violence among high-risk youth.

Zuhur AhmedZuhur Ahmed

A community activist, aspiring doctor, and host of KFAI’s “Somali Community Link

Full Report, Minnesota Public Radio: Civil War Kids: Young Somalis in Minnesota



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