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#ForHooyo: Moms at heart of new campaign to curb violence in Twin Cities

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A group holds #ForHooyo signs.
A group of women gathers for the #ForHooyo anti-violence campaign launch on Saturday in the Garden of Eden Islamic Cemetery in Burnsville, Minn.
Cody Nelson | MPR News

Nimco Ahmed visited her son's grave Saturday afternoon. He was shot while sitting in a car in Minneapolis last summer and died in the hospital. 

Last month, another of her sons was shot in the city. He survived, but Ahmed is tired of the guns. She said the sound of an ambulance sends her into a panic. 

"If my son doesn't answer his phone, my mind's telling me, 'he's dead,'" she said. "It's like living in fear everyday. ... We don't know what's next. We need them to stop this violence. We need them to stop picking on each other."

Nimco Ahmed
Nimco Ahmed poses for a portrait Saturday in the Garden of Eden Islamic Cemetery in Burnsville.
Cody Nelson | MPR News

Ahmed and dozens of others from the Twin Cities' East African community gathered Saturday to launch a campaign called #ForHooyo — hooyo means mother in Somali — that aims to harness young men and boys' love for their mothers as a means to stopping violence. 

One thing many young Somali Americans have in common — if they share nothing else — is a love for their mothers, said veteran youth worker Abdirahman Mukhtar. His outreach group, Daryeel Youth, is leading the #ForHooyo campaign. 

"Moms are the ones that are always crying for help," he said. "So this campaign brings the idea of really giving mothers a voice and making mothers be the face of doing something about gun violence in the Somali community."

Abdirahman Mukhtar, volunteer and founder of Daryeel Youth
Abdirahman Mukhtar, volunteer and founder of Daryeel Youth (in white jacket), stands in front of a group of mothers at the #ForHooyo anti-violence campaign launch Saturday in Burnsville.
Cody Nelson | MPR News

Mukhtar said the effort wasn't inspired by one particular shooting or string of shootings. Rather, he said, it's an effort to be proactive in spreading anti-violence messages throughout the community. 

"We don't really engage. We don't continue to have meaningful ways to prevent and to talk to young people about gun violence and youth violence," he said. 

#ForHooyo is intended to change that. It'll include community meetings, a poster campaign and a video series with mothers and youths affected by gun violence.

Social media outreach will be crucial to the effort, too, Mukhtar said. "A lot of the fights, a lot of the problems start online," he said. 

Posters for the #ForHooyo campaign.
Posters for the #ForHooyo campaign were designed at Augsburg University.
Cody Nelson | MPR News

Daryeel Youth leaders say they hope the campaign can identify and promote ways parents and their children can curb violence.

For Ahmed, it makes sense that mothers are leading the way.

"We are the ones who are getting hurt. When they go to jail or something happens to them, we are the ones who will cry," she said. "We are the ones who are helping them when they become sick. We are the ones who are there, so we are asking them to stop this."