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Somali Week aims to build community ties across Minnesota

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Somali Independence Day celebration in Minneapolis
Early on in the Somali Independence Day celebration in Minneapolis on Saturday, a stall selling Somali hats, clothing, flags and bracelets did brisk business. The event is the first in Somali Week, which aims to build connections between Somali-Americans and the larger Minnesota community.
Euan Kerr | MPR News

Thousands of people are expected to gather in South Minneapolis on Saturday evening for a Somali Independence Day celebration. 

Three blocks of Lake Street just west of Interstate 35W were closed to make room for music, community information and cultural demonstrations. 

The event kicks off what's called Somali Week, sponsored by the Somali youth organization Ka Joog. Executive Director Mohamed Farah said the theme is education and building community ties, and celebrating the Somali-American community in Minnesota and what it has to offer.

"And also how do we build connections, build trust and relationships," he said.

He said he wants that to be not just with the public sector, but the private sector, too. 

Farah is also looking outside the Twin Cities. On Sunday, Somali Week hosts an event in Moorhead with a screening of the documentary "Somalia: A Nation of Poets." 

Somali Museum founder and executive director Osman Ali
Somali Museum founder and executive director Osman Ali stands before a traditional nomadic Somali hut set up in the middle of Lake Street in Minneapolis on Saturday. The hut was being used to demonstrate building techniques as part of the cultural celebration of Somali Independence Day. Three blocks of the busy thoroughfare were closed to allow temporary staging of booths sharing cultural and community information. Thousands of visitors were expected for the celebration which included live music and dancing.
Euan Kerr | MPR News

The film will be used as the basis for a discussion of connections between Somali and U.S. independence. Farah has said at similar events elsewhere, the audience has been largely made up of non-Somalis who want to learn more.   He said the Moorhead event acknowledges the spread of the Somali community in Minnesota.

"Especially in Greater Minnesota, the idea is how do we build that trust and relationship, because we know the community is growing, and we have to think about — how do we do we do our programming? Change with the community?  And this is the first time we are heading out because there is a growing population in the Fargo-Moorhead area," he said. 

A third Somali Week event will be a young professionals' networking event held Tuesday at the Wilder Foundation in St. Paul. That event will include two speakers from the Somali community in the U.K. 

In Minneapolis, the crowd started to gather along Lake Street during the afternoon hours.

Osman Ali, the founder and executive director of the Somali Museum, said his group is demonstrating the history and technique of Somali hut building — which he hoped would interest people of all communities.

"We are trying to spread the word of the culture and integration between the communities," he said. "And that is what the museum is standing for."