Essentially through the early 1990s, new immigrants to Minnesota from East Africa were fairly few and far between. We enjoy the arriving cultures of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Oromia, Kenya and others. As political and military events exploded in Somalia, Minnesota became a destination for Somali men and women exiting the chaos that befell their home country, eventually enriching Minnesota’s culture, especially that of the core cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul. In fact, in many circles, Somalis refer to Minneapolis as "Little Mogadishu." The burgeoning populations of Somali refugees here required major adjustments.
Initially, of course, language barriers made rapid assimilation all but impossible for most Somalis, many of whom can recall the days prior to June, 1960, when their country was still a so-called Italian protectorate. Thus do many Somalis speak Italian and Arabic in addition to their native Somali. English is difficult to learn for several cultures outside our linguistic subgroups. Then, of course, how to create needed housing, employment, health care and education environments without displacing other subcommunities hereabouts.
Moreover, the homeland still calls out to many in the Somali diaspora to come home and fight for one political or religious faction or another, including al-Shabbab, the US-designated terrorist group. Some have heeded it, especially many young men, others affirmed their commitment to building a new life in this not-so-welcoming set of social and economic systems.
The newest generation of Somali-Americans, as with most new immigrants, is making its way in this new world with fewer language barriers but facing long-standing and ignorant American prejudices otherwise, not the least of which is their Muslim religious faith and their dark skin. We want you and us to learn much more about our newest neighbors and, for the most part, dedicated contributors to our way of life, while understand that they, as well as we, must face often extraordinary barriers to full acceptance and the reaction those barriers elicit from often-frustrated young people.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and LYNNELL MICKELSEN talk with a few key figures in the Somali community here to gain a greater understanding of the culture, the traditions and the enterprising creativity they’ve brought to our state and cities, and, yes, the barriers they continue to encounter. We’ll present an overview this week with an eye toward a fairly regular series of programs dealing in depth with specific issues Somalis and other new Minnesotans are facing over the next year or two.
58:57 minutes (26.99 MB)