Somali mothers continue work with Cedar-Riverside youth as local influence grows

The Somali Mothers of MN have recently partnered with a local neighborhood organization for youth violence prevention.

by Mohamed Ibrahim

Approaching the one-year anniversary of its formation, the Somali Mothers of MN continues to expand its efforts to advocate for the Cedar-Riverside community.

The Somali Mothers of MN, a local community group of Somali women in Cedar-Riverside, is currently working with neighborhood organizations to curb youth violence. Since its first meeting last fall, the group has been very active, raising safety concerns in the neighborhood and advocating for residents.

Most recently, the women organized a protest against the city’s plan to build an “African market” in the neighborhood on July 7.

”I’ve seen a lot and I just couldn’t take it anymore,” said Fartun Del, one of the group’s founders. “I chose to do something — anything.”

The organization was formed following two shootings in the neighborhood last year, Del said. Feeling existing violence prevention measures, or lack thereof, were failing the youth in the area, she said the group of about 20 Somali women decided to take matters into their own hands.

Local businesses and their owners, including Del, who owns Sagal Restaurant on Cedar Avenue, raised $9,000 from businesses in December to hire off-duty police officers for extra security. The group also recently met with Brian Coyle Center management to discuss expanding its hours, which Del said are currently restrictive and limit space for adequate youth programming.

“We tell the people who are supposed to help, and if they choose not to listen and ignore us, we will keep telling them,” Del said. “We have a plan to save the youth as a group, as mothers, and we are getting stronger everyday.”

Mothers are an integral part of society in Somali culture, amplifying the group’s support in the predominantly East African neighborhood, said Ward 6 City Council member Abdi Warsame, who has met with Somali Mothers of MN on multiple occasions. But while bringing attention to issues is important, developing plans to address those issues will make the organization more effective going forward, he said.

“They have to come up with solutions — what is the reason for your existence? What are the mothers doing apart from highlighting the issue that most people know?” Warsame said. “Concentrate more on the solutions and less on just highlighting the problem.”

Following a dormant period before new leadership stepped in, the Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood Revitalization Program received grant money from the Blueprint for Action, a youth violence prevention initiative through the Minneapolis health department. At a board meeting July 1, the organization approved a partnership with the Somali Mothers of MN to use the funding for training and education efforts related to youth violence.

In addition to long-term measures, the mothers work to reach the youth immediately. Del said about seven to eight women meet every night to walk around the neighborhood for a few hours, engaging the young people they encounter.

“Our goal is not to get grants — our goal is to change the community,” Del said.

Dave Alderson, currently co-executive director of the CRNRP, has worked with the organization for three and a half years and with other nonprofits in the West Bank area over the last 30 years.

Alderson said the level of activity by the Mothers in such a relatively short time period is encouraging and illustrates their motivation to advocate for themselves and their community.

“Any time people get a chance to participate in decision-making that affects them, that makes them feel a lot better about the community that they’re in,” Alderson said. “Everybody deserves a place at the table when decisions are being made that affect your life.”