Several dozen members of the Somali community in Columbus sang the Somali national anthem as they hoisted the country’s flag outside the Ohio Statehouse on Thursday. They hoisted the blue banner marked with a white star to commemorate the independence of the African country from European rule.
It was the first such celebration in nearly a dozen years for one of Columbus’s most prolific immigrant populations, and it was a reminder that the city is home to a thriving community native to the nation’s size. average of the Horn of Africa.
The two-day celebration also included a lighting ceremony at Columbus City Hall on Wednesday evening that saw City Hall and several downtown bridges bathed in blue light.
The city’s Somali community has not celebrated Independence Day since 2009, and the lighting ceremony was the first of its kind. The organizers said they wanted to connect the younger members of their community, some of whom were born in the United States or left Somalia at such a young age that they don’t remember the country, with the history and the culture of the nation.
“We want to mentor them and let them know what our Independence Day is all about,” said Faud Ali, who helped organize Thursday’s flag raising.
Several students who attended Thursday’s festivities said they studied Somalia very little in their formal education.
“It shows that we are moving in the right direction, in raising awareness among our people,” said Fareowsa Hersi, a recent high school graduate who lives in Columbus and attended Thursday’s ceremony. She will be attending Ohio State University in the fall.
“We learn American history in school, and it’s fair to learn more about your own culture,” she added.
Hersi attended the flag raising with his family.
They celebrated the 61st anniversary of the liberation of their home country from colonial powers. European nations controlled much of Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries after an era of colonial expansion on the continent.
In the 1950s, England and Italy ruled over much of the land that makes up Somalia today. After a brief civil war, the British and Italian territories merged and formed a united independent Somalia in 1960.
The relatively young nation has a checkered history, including a 15-year civil war and the resulting famine that drove Somalis to flee to other countries in the 1990s. eventually settled in and around Columbus. The city has an estimated Somali population of 60,000, making it the second largest Somali population in the United States behind the Minneapolis region.
“One of the reasons was the affordability of housing,” said Abukar Osman, Somali representative to the United Nations, who came from New York to join the festivities on Thursday. “And the people of Columbus were more welcoming than the other cities.”
Rumors spread among Somali refugee communities across the country that Columbus had reasonably priced housing, abundant jobs and a tolerant culture, which brought more Somalis here over time, he said. -he declares.
The city’s help for Wednesday’s lighting ceremony was crucial, said Burhan Ahmed, who worked with the Columbus-based Center for Somali Engagement to organize the event.
“It makes young Somalis feel like they are part of this city,” he said.
Several politicians have also partnered with the organization for Independence Day celebrations, including State Representative Dontavius Jarrells, D-Columbus and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, who represents the Third District of the ‘Ohio, which includes Columbus.