MINNEAPOLIS (Mshale) – Loring Park was host to the annual Twin Cities World Refugee Day on Sunday. Held each July, the event is a time Minnesota community celebrates its diverse cultures, honoring individuals who came to the United States as refugees.
Minnesota is home to over one hundred thousand refugees. The United Nations defines a refugee as someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. The state’s efforts to resettle refugees began in 1979 and continues to this day. Minnesota refugees come from around the world with the majority belonging to the Somali and Hmong communities. The African diaspora has communities of individuals that came to the United States as refugees primarily from four countries; Somalia, Ethiopia, Liberia, and South Sudan.
Twin Cities World Refugee Day featured food trucks with cuisine from all around the world, a resource fair, and kids fair with games and activities as well as live performances by individuals from various countries. Sunday’s event provided a platform for refugee stories and artistic practices, to honor their lives, as well as raise awareness of the millions of refugees around the world.
Among the performing artists was multimedia artist and author Ifrah Mansour, a Somali refugee and creative powerhouse, known for her critically acclaimed play “How to Have Fun in a Civil War”. Mansour’s play is an autobiographical story that explores the effects of war on young children. For TCWRD Ifrah Mansour performed her thoughtful and striking poem, I am a refugee. The piece was written as a response to President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which affected refugees and travelers from Muslim countries. “I am a refugee,” the poem reads “a wondering, colorful, restless, foreign, alien soul, won’t you just let me find my humanity right here next to you”.
The resource fair included organizations that serve the state’s refugee and under served communities, as well as artisans from immigrant backgrounds. Tanzanian children’s book author, Sabina Mugassa Bingman, was among those displaying their work.
Other resources available to refugees was the Behavioral Health Alliance, headed by licensed clinical therapist Muna Mohamed. The office aims to help individuals from underrepresented groups to get the right mental health treatment they need. “A lot of times we have misinformation especially in mental illness,” said Mohamed. Her goal is for the organization to help individuals that she encounters to heal and have an “improved wellness along with having more information (regarding mental health) as well as being validated.”
As a therapist, Mohamed seeks to help those who have experienced trauma by validating their experiences and then educating them on the steps to healing. Every refugee fleeing his or her homeland according to Mohamed, a Somali refugee herself, experiences trauma. She seeks to educate members of the community where conversations about mental health is still a taboo topic. “My hope is for people when they talk about mental health… to speak without the feeling of shame… to at least be able to seek help and not delay it.”
Sunday’s event was hosted by CAPI, an immigrant led nonprofit organization that aims to promote economic independence, self-determination and social equality by helping newly arrived refugees gain access to jobs, housing, food and health education. It also offers youth and senior social services. As refugees start their lives in the United States it is important they bring with them their rich cultural heritage and compassion for others. Program director Ekta Prakash has been working with CAPI for twelve years and says that some of the most transformative moments of her career was when she received emotional support from her friends at CAPI who are refugees, “they’re in crisis but they’re helping others too,” she said.
About Cynthia Simba, Mshale Reporter
Cynthia is a graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism. She has interned at Mshale and Voice of America and previously worked at the Minnesota Daily. She recently returned from Seoul, South Korea where she was an English educator.