Somali event bolsters culture

Mehgan Lee

Cheers and jeers erupted for more than one basketball game in Minneapolis on Friday night.

Before the Timberwolves were on the court to face the Lakers, approximately 150 people watched the battle between the Somali East and West boys’ high school basketball teams in the gymnasium of Edison High School.

The game wasn’t the only reason for the crowd’s attendance. They were also on hand to attend the third annual Somali Education Night.

Somali Education Night encourages higher education in the Somali community, said Mohamed Keynan, one of the event’s organizers. Its purpose, he said, is to give advice to students and provide an opportunity for them, their parents and teachers to get to know one another.

Several colleges, including the University, hosted booths at the event. Sports was a new addition this year.

“We used basketball to attract people,” Mahamoud Wardere, one of the event’s organizers, said. “People don’t want to just hear speeches on Friday night.”

A job fair, health fair and the Coexistence art exhibit, which is hosted by the College of Liberal Arts and Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, were also at the event this year.

“The exhibit shows people how to live together, regardless of religion or culture,” Keynan said.

Mukhtar Gaaddasaar, president of the University’s Somali Student Association, said he believes the event shows how the Somali community has learned to do just that.

“All people know about Somalis in Minnesota is the conflict in Somalia because that’s what’s portrayed,” said Gaaddasaar, a junior studying literature and political science. “But when you try to understand and make a connection with the community, you’ll see we’re very strong and united.”

“It’s very contrary to what people believe, to what’s going on in Somalia,” he said.

Gaaddasaar said he wished the Somali Education Night had been around when he was in high school.

“I wasn’t lucky enough to have this experience,” he said. “It’s encouragement for young kids.”

Several Somali high school seniors who are making plans for higher education next fall attended the event.

Samira Ahmed, a senior at Edison High School, has been a post-secondary student at the University since she was a sophomore. She will be attending the University’s Duluth campus in the fall to study genetics.