First Somali-American to hold public office in Minnesota

Minneapolis voters have elected the first Somali-American to hold public office in Minnesota, and likely the nation.

Hussein Samatar fled the civil war of his East African homeland nearly two decades ago, with basic survival as his only concern. Last night, the nonprofit leader won a seat on the Minneapolis school board.

At his victory party last night, he reached out to any African-Americans who don’t consider him one of their own, saying his election wouldn’t be possible without the civil-rights struggle.

“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the people who came before us,” Samatar said. “We are part of the new African-American community in the state of Minnesota.”

Samatar says he prefers to be known as an African-American rather than as a Somali-American, which he finds too limiting.

“Last time I checked, Somalia is still in Africa,” he said an in interview. “And I am an American. Therefore, I am more African-American than anyone else.”

While his personal experiences may be different, Samatar said he understands some of the pressing challenges in the black community.

His supporters are counting on him to help close an academic achievement gap between white students and students of color. And they say he may bring an even stronger sensibility when it comes to helping kids whose first language isn’t English.

Samatar says he prefers to be known as an African-American rather than as a Somali-American, which he finds too limiting.

“Last time I checked, Somalia is still in Africa,” he said an in interview. “And I am an American. Therefore, I am more African-American than anyone else.”

While his personal experiences may be different, Samatar said he understands some of the pressing challenges in the black community.

His supporters are counting on him to help close an academic achievement gap between white students and students of color. And they say he may bring an even stronger sensibility when it comes to helping kids whose first language isn’t English.

Samatar says he’s troubled that the parents of many of those students, especially East African immigrants, feel the need to send their kids to charter schools, which they believe can better meet the students’ needs.

“I have no problem with charter schools per se, but I do have a problem with segregation,” he said. “I really think we’ll be in trouble if we believe we can educate children separately.”

On Facebook

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field