Ilhan Omar Makes History as the First Somali-American, Muslim Woman Legislator

Ilhan Omar is officially the next State Representative of Minnesota's District 60B, thus making her the first Somali-American lawmaker in U.S. history.

Here’s some much-needed good news from this mind-boggling, what-the-fuck of a U.S. election night: the U.S. officially has its first Somali-American legislator (and first black Muslim woman legislator) in Ilhan Omar, who made history this Tuesday evening with a commanding win in the Minnesota State House race. With tonight’s win, she’ll serve as the next State Representative of Minnesota's District 60B.

Omar, 34, is a policy analyst, community educator, advocate and mother of three who currently serves as the Director of Policy Initiatives at Women Organizing Women, where she empowers East African women to take civic leadership roles in their community. Born in Somalia in 1982, Omar and her family fled the country when she was eight, spending four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before coming to the U.S. and eventually settling in the Cedar-Riverside (West Bank) neighborhood of Minneapolis in 1997.

In August, she defeated Minnesota’s longest-serving member of the House, Phyllis Kahn, to win Minnesota’s District 60B primary and thus become the likely frontrunner in today’s general election race.

She ran on a progressive platform that focused on economic, social, racial, and environmental justice. Students were the backbone of Omar’s campaign. According to Joelle Stangler, the student body president at the University of Minnesota, with the exception of East African volunteers, the campaign was primarily staffed by volunteers under the age of 25.

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"Tonight is the culmination of more than a year of hard work," Omar said in a press statement. “I am so proud of this win because District 60B represents Minnesota at its finest. My neighbors, and everyone here in this room, represent what we as a nation strive to be: united in our diversity. Long time residents, East African immigrants and students -- we came together and engaged in the political progress. We talked about the issues that concern us and we connected on the future we want to create.”

"Tonight, we are celebrating this win, our win," she continued, "but our work won’t stop. We will continue to build a more prosperous and equitable district -- state, and nation -- where each and every one of us has opportunities to thrive and move forward together."

For more insight into Omar’s historic campaign, check out the following story from Feet in 2 Worlds, published last week on Okayafrica: “The ‘Ilhan Omar Effect’: How a Somali-American Muslim Woman Candidate is Mobilizing Millennial Voters in Minnesota”


Amadou & Mariam Forever

We talk to the legendary Malian duo about their rich past, songwriting process and their advice for young African artists with disabilities.

Amadou & Mariam don't require an introduction.

The couple has been making Afro-blues music for over 35 years, drawing inspiration from their home of Mali, for over 35 years.

Their 1999 albumSou Ni Tilé sold 100,000 copies. In 2005, their album Dimanche à Bamako won the French Victoire de la Musique prize for Best World Music Album of the year and the BBC Radio 3 Award for Africa. It also went platinum in France after selling over 300,000 copies. The duo have performed with U2, Coldplay, Blur and many others.

We caught up with them below for a conversation about their rich past, their songwriting process and their advice for young African artists with disabilities, ahead of the duo's performance at the upcoming London Jazz Festival 2021.

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