By Abdullahi Janno
With the Super Bowl game moments away, Minnesota is excited about hosting such a historical event. With few blocks away from the US Bank Stadium, Minnesotans (including those of Somali descent) aren’t any less excited about the pride and opportunity this event brings to their home state. Therefore, the following scenarios will showcase the community in service:
1 — Hundreds of Minnesotan Uber, taxi, and bus drivers (including many of Somali descent) bringing customers to the Super Bowl games safe and sound
2 — Hundreds of Minnesotans (including young men of Somali descent), waving flags to help guests find parking spots in downtown.
3 — Hundreds of gregarious hotel workers (including those of Somali descent) welcoming exhausted guests and attending to their needs throughout their visit in the Twin Cities
4 — Hundreds of Minnesotans (including young men of Somali descent) working as security guards and first responders with head scarves, all supporting law enforcement officers and emergency medical teams in the area
5 — Dozens of Somali-owned businesses and cultural organizations sprawling just few blocks away including eateries serving ethnic dishes with bananas to football fans, and the Somali Museum of Minnesota where the artifacts are symbolic of a culture harmonious with itself and with other civilizations (One Somali-owned restaurant had already won a spot to provide catering to Super Bowl fans)
6 — And thousands of football fans (including Minnesotans of Somali descent who love this sport – and the Vikings) watching the game
Though working behind the scene, Minnesota politicians and city leaders (among them those of Somali descent at the state and city levels) have also been instrumental or supportive of this moment of Minnesota pride.
And yet the article by Reuters (“Super Bowl Stokes Hopes, Concerns of Minneapolis’ Somali Community”, Jan. 25th, 2018), has one subtle characterization running through it: an attempt to depict the young community as the “other” whose proximity to the Super Bowl is somehow “ominous”. Furthermore, the timing of the article raises more questions as it could stoke fear in those least familiar with the vibrancy of Minnesota and could act as a fodder for intolerance towards a community that’s healing from the trauma of Somali civil war while at the same time making great strides here in Minnesota. A handful of fringe elements who have been brainwashed should not be used to tarnish the image and glowing successes of this Minnesotan community, especially on the eve of the Super Bowl.
As an American (of Somali descent) who is privy to the dreams and aspirations of the community, I know that the reality is far from what the Reuters article is insinuating. Being an active and integral part of the larger Minnesotan communities, the Somali community shares the same values such as peace, tolerance, progress, generosity, and self-reliance with their fellow Minnesotans.
In fact, it is a conviction that’s embedded in the teaching of this Hadith: “The best of people are those who are most beneficial to people.” This positive and peaceful outlook on life is the untold narrative that defines the community and characterizes it as more optimistic and forward-thinking. This conviction drives them to be contributing citizens who are integral part of the state and the country—drives them to strive to do better than good in the service to Minnesota and Minnesotans, drives them to strive to be the most beneficial.
Abdullahi Janno is an educator and author of two collections of stories.
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