News Brief

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.

"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”

Photo: Mariela Alvarez.

Interview: ÌFÉ Blends Music & Religion to Honor Those Who Have Died During the Pandemic

Producer and percussionist Otura Mun talks about his latest EP, The Living Dead, and how he traces the influences of West Africa in his new work.

There are bands that open up a spiritual world through their music. ÌFÉ is one example. An electro-futurist band that fuses Afro-Cuban rhythms and Jamaican dancehall with Yoruba mystical voices. With the success of their 2017 debut album "IIII+IIII" (pronounced Eji-Ogbe), ÌFÉ has reached an audience that is looking for Caribbean and contemporary sounds.

The Puerto Rican-based band just released a new EP, The Living Dead- Ashé Bogbo Egun, that aims to heal and honor those who have died during this pandemic. Otura Mun, the band leader, is an African-American producer and percussionist, who began a personal journey about a decade ago, when he landed in San Juan, and decided to move there. He learned Spanish, dug deep into his African ancestry and started to practice the Yoruba-Caribbean religion of Santería.

ÌFÉ, which means "love and expansion" in Yoruba, ties two worlds, music and religion, artistically. This new EP modernized prayer songs to hopefully make them more accessible to a younger generation. OkayAfrica spoke with Otura Mun on his latest work.

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