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In Minnesota We’re All From Somewhere Else

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Somalis are the latest. Not the last.

Fred Anderson"House on Second Ave," 2012oil on panel30 x 35Ó

One look at the housing stock in the Phillips neighborhood and you can see the early builders had working class intentions. They built for families, close together, filling up the slim South Minneapolis lots. These were not lavish homes, except for a few on the main thoroughfares like Park or Portland. This neighborhood, like many in Minneapolis, housed people from afar. Waves of people from all over the world, over a couple hundred years, people with a purpose and that purpose was to make a life.

Having spent a decade in Phillips, I’ve seen first-hand how newcomers find their place. I’m pleased that Minnesota tends toward being a good place to settle. Not perfect. Not flawless. Not without unrest, but good. I just finished Ahmed Ismail Yusuf’s Somalis in Minnesota, which tells the story of a current set of transplants finding their place. It is a good tale, particularly because a casual walk through South Minneapolis reveals this immigrant experience swirling all around you. In fact there are malls around Minneapolis that could have been lifted directly from Somalia. Where entrepreneurs are making a life for themselves.9780873518673_p0_v1_s260x420-2-03272013

Yusef’s book shows how it is that communities develop. The Somali-American experiences seemed to start in San Diego in the early 1990s, but then branched to Marshall, Minnesota and Minneapolis because of job opportunities (at first) and then because others had already come. Today Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the U.S. (~60,000 in 2010, according to the Minnesota Historical Society).

The Somali experience in Minnesota is a fresh taste of our own history. It’s heartening and I’m glad for this city’s large heart.

And this: I realize we’re not all from somewhere else–and telling that story will be another good conversation.


Image credit: Fred Anderson via the Groveland Gallery via StarTribune

Written by kirkistan

March 27, 2013 at 11:03 am

Posted in curiosities

Tagged with ,

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