Department Leads Somali Language and Culture Evening


Pictured left to right: Camille Galles,
Presenter Ali Warsame, Representative
Ilhan Omar, Saad Samatar, and Elaine

On May 18, nearly 50 community members joined together over sambusas and Somali tea at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The event entitled, "Somali Language and Culture Evening" was hosted by the Continuing Education and Workforce Development department at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (Minneapolis College) and by State Representative Ilhan Omar's office.

Camille Galles, organizer for State Representative Omar said, "When I joined Rep. Ilhan Omar's campaign, I didn't know any Somali people, despite having lived in her district for nearly four years. Getting to know my Somali neighbors and forming friendships with different people all over her district was one of the most meaningful parts of her campaign, and I wanted to try to recreate that unity. As I began to work as her district director, I noticed that learning a few phrases in Somali went a long way to build relationships with those in the community. We organized this event because we thought there would be others out there, like myself, who wanted to learn more about Somali culture. I contacted Minneapolis College since they are one of the country's leaders in East African languages."

Somali Language Group
Somali Language and Culture Evening, at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Camille was right. When she reached out to Minneapolis College, they were equally enthused about the event. "It's a priority of Minneapolis College's to increase the cultural competency skills of our students and graduates, as well as our staff. As one of the most culturally diverse colleges in the state, we are seeing an increase in the number of businesses and organizations coming to Minneapolis College seeking customized training on cultural awareness for their employees," said Minneapolis College Customized Training Representative, Elaine Vandenburgh.

The event featured presenter was Ali Warsame, soon to be Dr. Warsame, who is a clear leader in the Somali community, both in Minnesota and back in Somalia, where he has worked with the local government on constitution building and conflict management. Mr. Warsame, also a Somali language instructor at Minneapolis College, has even published several papers on the current political climate in Somalia.

Mr. Warsame talked about his travel to the US in the 90s where he was one of the first Somali individuals to come to Minnesota. He discussed Somali cultural norms and why Minnesota has become a popular home for those with East African roots. Then, participants had a quick Somali language lesson. It was clear that the audience felt comfortable and had a great time. They asked several questions and shared numerous laughs over mispronunciations of newly learned Somali words. Participant Camri Walton said, "I really enjoyed the class. I can see this class being useful for many Twin Cities organizations who work with individuals from the Somali community."

State Representative Ilhan Omar commented, "A good time was had by all. We are delighted to see a huge turnout! Our fight for unity and justice starts by having conversations with our neighbors, so I encourage you to do just that. Get to know your neighbors, learn about their culture."

Since the event, the hosts have received several questions about similar upcoming training. Minneapolis College is uniquely positioned to serve Minnesota by advancing understanding of East African culture. You can find out more by contacting Elaine Vandenburgh, Customized Training Representative at Minneapolis College.

A big thank you goes out to Afro Deli, for their support and providing the delicious refreshments.