Minnesota’s little Mogadishu

Students have an opportunity to experience the largest Somali population in the country.

Among other distinct cultural communities in Minneapolis, the Somali community presents a golden opportunity for University students to step out of their comfort zones. Somali immigrants have made the Twin Cities their home and are leaving a mark of their existence. While the Somali community has brought many assets to this area, it’s time for Somali and other Minneapolis residents, particularily University students, to push away from isolation and toward a more integrated city.

A vibrant Somali culture is evident on the West Bank. One imported phenomenon of Somali culture is the Al-Karama Somali Mall, three markets consisting of small shops set within a building where individual vendors sell their merchandise. Prices are never final, and customers pay according to their bargaining skills. Somalis have brought their customs and lifestyle to America, leaving behind only the land. All over the metro, one can find Somalis operating grocery stores, bookstores, tax consulting firms and even shops that specialize in atypical furniture. A person taking a cab might notice that many of the cabdrivers in the city and suburbs are of Somali descent.

The significant population of Somalis at the University has led to the formation of the Somali Student Association, which, along with many other groups and departments, brought Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah to address the University last year. More recently, a Somali psychologist began practicing in the Twin Cities to cater to mental health needs of the community in especially stressful times. With the so-called “war on terror,” many Somali families and businesses have been targeted by authorities. Simply wiring money to support family overseas is treated with suspicion. With the help of other Twin Cities organizations, political organization has occurred and moves toward defending citizen rights that have been taken.

There is still a long way to go for desegregation. We all must continue to reach out in mutual understanding. As students, we can frequent Somali businesses, tutor recent immigrants and work to make Minneapolis more inclusive. Together we can celebrate and learn.