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Think Global, Act Local: From The Pearl Of The Indian Ocean To The Shores Of The Red River

Photo By Hillary Ehlen

Asalaam’Alaykum Beloved Readers! (“Peace be with you” in Arabic)

As the summer is timidly being replaced by the fall season our college town is getting ready for Homecoming parades, therefore I wanted to explore the meaning of HOME.

Meet Farhiya Abdulkarim, a Muslim, Somali-American, who calls the Fargo-Moorhead area home. Her academic background is in Education and English Literature. She is passionate and committed to causes that drive equitable and transformative change in communities. She is the Diversity Coordinator for Programs at Concordia College, a Narrative 4 facilitator, and an active member of the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce’s Professional of Colors’ committee.

Outside of her work, she is a mother, an avid reader, a foodie, a creative, and an empathy advocate

If you ever cross her humble path you will be compelled to exchange few words with Farhiya because of her contagious smile and magnetic aura!

Happy Homecoming & Happy Fall!

Bisonly/Cobberly/Dragonly yours,

Alexandre Cyusa

Where do you call home?

I would like to think I am a global citizen but there is a lot more to unpack than that. The notion of “home” for me is a complex and multilayered one rooted in displacement and duality. The most common phrase I have been asked is “where are you from”? My most common response has been “Somalia”. What that fails to capture or illustrate is the complex and multilayered nature of my sense of belonging.

I was born in Somalia and have been in the Fargo-Moorhead area since my formative years. And despite my pride in Somali culture, its coastal landscape, the strength and beauty of its people, my love for chai and the food, I’ve never had a relationship with the Republic of Somalia.

My relationship with Somalia is deeply rooted in my expressive use of Afka Hooyo (mother tongue), in my experiences, in my culture and family traditions that have been passed down. With these rituals, experiences and relationships, also comes restrictions, in navigating and negotiating my identity as both Somali and American. Therefore, my relationship with home isn’t a singular experience, it’s a culmination of experiences, rituals, relationships, restrictions and negotiations in the world.

What does Homecoming mean to you?

Homecoming – is twofold for me, of going and coming home. It stirs feelings of uncertainty, familiarity, of wholeness, of displacement and of belonging.

The author, Nayyirah Waheed vividly captures this complexity in her piece, “Immigrant.”

In “Immigrant,” she writes, “you broke the ocean in half to be here. Only to meet nothing that wants you.”

Why did you come back to the Fargo area?

There is an Arabic term, maktoub, meaning “it was written.” I was rerouted home because it was what I needed, and where I needed to be.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the FM area?

That’s a loaded question. I have a lot of hopes and aspirations for this place because I deeply care for it, and caring deeply means acknowledging the moment in history it finds itself but hopeful for a possibility of changing for its own betterment.

My desire is for it to acknowledge the histories and contributions of Native Americans, POC and immigrants in this area. I hope that this place can embrace, and share a collective community story that is reflective of its people and restores the dignity of others.

When you travel, what do people say when you say “home is Fargo?”

(Laughs). I get a mixture of fascination and curious glances. I get asked if the movie “Fargo” was based on the place. And oftentimes, people have no clue where it is, and cannot fathom how someone like myself ended up here.

What would you like the world to know about Fargo?

There is a lot that I would want people to know about Fargo and most of it is rooted in my own experiences. But it is a place of extremes, exceedingly cold winters and warm to hot, humid summers. For a city it’s size, there is a lot of cultural opportunities and a vibrant arts community. There is a lot of momentum happening here, and the city is finding itself in a new place. It’s an uncertain but hopeful place to be.

What are your favorite community activities in the FM area during the Fall?

My favorite activities during the fall are the Fall Festival at Rheault Farm, Saturday Red River Market runs, prayers at the mosque, sipping on homemade Somali chai and eating warm off the press crispy chapati with my daughter.

Written by Brady Drake

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