Yaa Asantewaa, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Wangari Maathai, Ann Nzingha and others are names that readers of Mshale will be very familiar with, many of them having been educated in Africa and taught the history of its people. Those are four names of great African women during different periods in African history. The most recent of the four being Wangari Maathai. Flawed human beings that nevertheless overcame serious odds to lead their people, for the better. In other words, Africans are used to and are very familiar with strong women, contrary to popular opinion.
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, the first black person born on African soil elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, is seeking reelection for a second term and her fight for that second term has reminded us of the aforementioned four women. Rep. Omar first came to the attention of many of you when she was awarded the 2015 Community Leadership Award at the African Awards, which are run by Mshale. She told us the award inspired her to seek elective office for the first time the following year. Since then we have followed her legislative career.
Some criticism leveled at her is justified for an elected leader, and must be expected. However, there is another type of criticism directed her way that is unjustified because some of it is rooted in Islamophobia and an aversion to ‘strong women’. For example, some tell her to tone it down in her twitter battles with the racist president we have in office currently, or that she should be nicer and work for the people of the Fifth District. Those of us who have read the history of Ann Nzigha of Angola, described as a great military strategist, will not buy that line of argument. Nzigha, in addition to doing the work of government that her people expected her to do also fought for the dignity of her people that was under assault from the Portuguese. No, we do not want Ilhan Omar to just roll over and be nice as she is being abused, and her very humanity questioned.
If your choice of leader is based on their legislative record, we are here to tell you Rep. Ilhan Omar is doing the work she was elected to do (Just take a look at her legislative record here). There are many that would like to diminish that record but you need to keep in mind this is Rep. Omar’s first term (which is two years). She needs another term to accomplish more. In addition, those that live in the Fifth District and have a larger worldview than just Minneapolis and the surrounding areas that constitute the Fifth, and they deserve a leader that has that same worldview. We say that in the wake of the killing of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked a global protest. Minneapolis people, all of whom reside in the Fifth District, are known to espouse a global view that goes beyond the Fifth and Omar fits the bill. Like her predecessor, Keith Ellison, whom we loved because he had time for issues in Africa that we all cared about, Omar has had time for many of us who have a difficult time gaining access to our elected leaders. Just read this Op-Ed by a Liberian American that appreciates Rep. Omar’s work in obtaining a pathway to citizenship for Liberians.
Two years is too short to accomplish what she set out to do. She needs another term to do more. We ask voters in the Fifth District on August 11 to pick her as their choice to move on to the November 3 election.