Somalis gather for youth summit at U of M this weekend

Mohamed Mohamed and Abdurashid Ali
Mohamed Mohamed, 15, a student at Robbinsdale Cooper High School, shares a laugh with his father, Abdurashid Ali, at the Somali Youth Summit at the University of Minnesota law school. Mohamed joked that he would be a good lawyer because he excels at arguing with his parents.
MPR Photo/Laura Yuen

Hundreds of young Somalis from the United States, Canada and Great Britain are gathering at the University of Minnesota Law School this weekend for the second Somali Youth Summit.

The three-day event, which starts Friday, is aimed at teaching leadership skills.

Many of the speakers are Somali-American college graduates and young professionals. Event co-founder Mohamoud Treek, 22, says members of his generation can play a vital role in bridging their community with other Americans.

"I am friends with Americans. I know how their culture is. I know how they live," he said. "My mom, she doesn't know that. So if you want to want to know the Somali community, you have to start with the youth because we know both cultures."

Treek says the younger generation is grappling with a number of challenges, including gang violence and the disappearances of Somali-American men who are believed to be fighting in their homeland.

"But this summit, we don't want to talk about all these problems," he said. "We want to talk about the future, how we're going to make better the community, how we're going to produce youth that are professionals and provide good things to society."

Treek is an editor with Bartamaha.com, a news site popular with young Somalis around the world. The site will offer live streaming of the conference. Meetings will be held 3 to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

The speakers will discuss matters ranging from surviving peer pressure to maintaining Islamic identity.

Last year, the summit was held in Columbus, Ohio, home to the second-largest Somali community in the U.S. The Twin Cities has the largest.

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