The Progressive Face of CVE


Mayor Betsy Hodges and Council Member Abdi Warsame

I will reflect later on the many thoughts I have on seeing Mayor Betsy Hodges and other supporters of the racist & Islamophobic entrapment program (CVE) coming together for a photo op at the expense of Muslim refugees but first, let’s unpack councilman Abdi Warsame.

For years activists have rallied against CVE especially right here in Minneapolis. But Abdi Warsame, along with members of the Coalition of Somali Leaders and the Somali American Task Force (the latter put together by the DOJ for CVE purposes), flew to Washington in 2015 to tell a room full of people who make decisions that impact our lives, that the City of Minneapolis desperately needed CVE. Of course, Warsame doesn’t use that language, he instead focuses on the “job creation” of CVE. In light of the remarks made by community members such as myself, Warsame was questioned on his support of CVE. He brushed it off as just “being a part of initial conversations” and makes it clear that he doesn’t support it. Maybe 2015 is too far off in the past for a council member to be held to his statements and views.

But how does that explain the trip that councilman Abdi Warsame took as recently as September 2016 to Morocco, funded by the state department, to speak on the “radicalization of the youth”? Again, in the Star Tribune article, Warsame references unemployment and job creation without directly disclosing the source of the funds (CVE). Our councilmember has the time to publish op-eds on the hurt feelings of Islamophobia but has the time to fly across the world to teach other countries of deradicalization. I live in Ward 6 (but I may as well be saying District 11 at this point), the ward Warsame represents, and I can’t fathom the justification that in order for me to have access to employment that my community must first be labeled inherently violent and in need of drastic rehabilitation through social service.

The largest, most influential proponents of CVE in Minneapolis are scrambling to distance themselves from this fascist and racist policy following the election of a man clearly intent on destroying the homes and lives of Muslims. Now is not the time to turn to leaders whose only allegiance lies squarely with their own interests. It is also not the time to make warm, feel good invitations of solidarity without the actual work that comes with it. If you’ve decided to be idle no more, to trust the communities that have been telling you since day 1 that these policies hurt more than they help, then I encourage to support the organizations that actually do the work.

Organizations like Young Muslim Collective and Black Liberation Project are actually on the ground doing this work. Support them. Use your bodies. Use your pockets. Whatever you do, don’t be complacent.

PS: Don’t be fooled by the promise of private funders. Private funders, such as the Carlson Family Foundation have given funds to the CVE effort in collaboration with DHS, DOJ, and other governmental agencies.
Photo credits:

What I Learned In D.C.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

My friends asked “Why are you going to D.C. a week before Trump’s inauguration?”

I asked myself the same question, but perhaps, too late.

I hadn’t been on a plane since my family came to this country. To say I was scared was a major understatement. Prayer, medication, and mediation alone got me to the airport that day. Lucky for me, one of my friends was also a flying newb so we clung to each other as the plane raced to takeoff and once again during landing. Somehow everyone around us managed to get some shut eye while we instantly grabbed at each other at the slightest bump or sound.

I decided before even leaving that no matter what would happen, I would be happy. No person, experience, or thing was going to take away my joy. While we waited an hour for the train, I was happy. When our uber decided to play games, I was happy. I found out the first day that I lost the scholarship I was counting on. I wanted to go home. After an hour of sulking, I said to myself “There’s nothing I can change about it now, the only thing I have control over is what I do.” I made a promise to myself that I would be happy, not even losing my scholarship was going to make me break it.


We went out the first day we landed, rushing to our hostel to shower and glam up before we hit the town. The day after, we went to the National Museum of African American Culture and History. I felt uncomfortable taking pictures of shackles and other artifacts, remembering constantly that they belonged to someone and that this was someone’s life.  I walked through the lower levels of the Museum in somber remembrance, anger, helplessness, and familiarity. The mood changed when we hit the upper levels, learning and absorbing the resistance, the role of Black media and art, and culture.


One morning, I headed out by myself. My sneakers hit the pavement in search of city life. I almost got lost by staring at buildings and streets when I should have looked for directions. I ended up at the Botanical Gardens which holds over 65,000 species of plant and spent the day capturing pictures. I felt the realization hit me on the way home. As I walked through strange city, not knowing where to turn and knowing only a handful of people, it hit me. I can make it anywhere. I had been worried for months, and in truth, continue to be without effort. I’m the on the cusp of graduation and like so many others, have no clue about what I will do after I get my diploma. Grad school? Work? Travel? Work on my novel? Where excitement and curiosity should be overflowing, I felt anxiety at the certain future.


But in D.C. I realized I would be okay. It is not about the location. It is not about the people. It’s about what I make it. I chose Minneapolis. I chose the people in my life. I can make those decisions again. More importantly, I can fret over not knowing where I will be in 5 months or 5 years, or I can get comfortable in the uncertainty.  I can see excitement where I might interpret threat. This isn’t an attempt to avoid the very real societal constructions of inequality or oppression. No, it’s admitting that I am not infallible and that it is not reasonable to anticipate where life will take me. All I can do is work on what I can control and let God deal with the rest.   As long as I am grounded in my faith and values, nothing can touch me.


Everyone asked us if we were sticking around for an election and we gave an emphatic “hell no”. The whole city felt like it was bracing for the inauguration. At the Lincoln Memorial, we saw POC construction workers working on structures for the special day. Maybe I was reading into it, but people everywhere just looked tired. I felt for them but I was glad I wouldn’t have to witness it. At nights, my friends and I would stay up playing board games and complaining about the shitty wifi. The perpetual stress and fear I lived in seeped out of me with every step. No work, school, or stress. This was the first vacation I’d ever had and not checking my email, phone, or social media about some bullshit was extremely foreign. But it was something I could get used to.


On the very last day, I woke up before dawn. Finally, the moment I was waiting for. That day I met my hero, Yasmin Yonis. I squealed the week before when I found out. If you’re not familiar with Yasmin, you should stop right here and get to know her. You know that saying about not meeting your heroes? If your hero is a Black woman, 9/10 you should meet her. Yasmin was even more beautiful in person than I imagined and I had to fight myself from fangirling. I brought my notebook because I didn’t want to forget a single thing. Talking about dhaqan, deen, gradschool, writing, family, relationships, activism and everything in between just reaffirmed my firm and unwavering conviction in Somali women.


I came back from D.C. with an invigorated hunger for happiness. I refused to let school consume me like it did last semester. I refused to spend hours stressed out about shit I can’t control. I want to take steps every day to be happy now, not just in the future. I’m the type of person who pours their heart, mind, and soul into something. If I don’t receive instantaneous results, then I drop it. I will actively work against this nefarious form of self-sabotage. For me, that means creating daily habits that work towards my values and dreams.  If I can stay grounded during the tornado going on around me, I will be okay.



Despite community rejection of HBO TV series, public officials support the ongoing production



Members of the Minneapolis Highrise Resident Council and discuss how they feel about HBO’s proposal to film its show “Mogadishu, Minnesota” at Cedar-Riverside Plaza on Oct. 5, 2016. Photo by Alexa Aretz.

On a windy Wednesday afternoon, residents shuffled past guards and staff to get to their seats. The Minneapolis Highrise Representative Council (MHRC) held a hearing for residents to vote on allowing HBO to film its upcoming “Mogadishu, Minnesota” TV series on their premises. That day, Oct. 5, residents voted 51-0 and denied HBO access to filming in Cedar-Riverside Plaza.

“The intergenerational solidarity I witnessed was something I had never seen before,” says Saida Mahamud. Residents cheered when the verdict was delivered and invited media and guests in for tea and biscuits.

Residents of Cedar-Riverside Plaza, the city’s Somali community and other allies are vocally opposed to “Mogadishu, Minnesota,” formally titled “The Recruiters,” directed by Somali pop artist K’Naan and executive produced by Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow, known for directing war films like “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” Like Bigelow’s other projects, “Mogadishu, Minnesota” worries many in the local Somali community due to themes that might spread Islamophobia.

Read the rest at Twin Cities Daily Planet.

What Happened When K’naan Came to Cedar?

What Happened When K’naan Came to Cedar?


Cedar Riverside, credit Burhan Mohamud

As many of you know, on sunny Saturday afternoon, the West Bank Community Coalition held their annual block party. This year, musician K’naan Warsame would be in attendance. The event was set to take place in Cedar, a notable Somali community. K’naan was even scheduled to give a live performance.

His arrival in the Twin-Cities, which holds the largest amount of Somali diaspora worldwide, was met with concern. The Canadian rapper was promoting his new HBO drama series, which according to Rolling Stone, “will focus on Jihadi recruitment in the United States.” He is joined by the series executive producer Kathryn Bigelow.

Many are extremely concerned with the series potential portrayal of Somali folk, especially during the rise of hate crimes and surveillance. News of K’naan’s project comes on the eve of a historically unsuccessful initiative called Combating Violent Extremism(CVE). This program profiles Somali youth as “potential extremists” and uses institutions to surveil and monitor young kids. Nearly 50 Muslim organizations in the Twin-Cities issued the following statement in response: “It is our recommendation that the government stop investing in programs that will only stigmatize, divide, and marginalize our communities further.” The Somali community is largely against this program.


Cedar Riverside, credit Nessa @BaconTribe

That is why it is no surprise that protesters attended this event to voice their concerns and show a united front against the deeply problematic CVE program. They were met with abuse from Minneapolis Police Department, who were seen using pepper spray on women and children. Some shop owners immediately locked down their stores and refused to give milk to the victims.  One protester was brutally slammed to the ground by an officer when she joined K’naan on stage. A West Bank Community Coalition organizer reportedly put his hands on a young woman protesting in an attempt to take her microphone and officers did not intervene. Attendees were told it was against the law to stand on the sidewalk and were rushed off. Police sanctioned violence ensued as 2 protesters were arrested. Adults were seen harassing and shoving youth.


Protester slammed off stage onto the groud by an officer

Cedar Riverside, credit Nessa @BaconTribe

K’naan previously held a meeting with concerned community members and assured them the show that was once titled “The Recruiters” was really about intimate family struggles and relationships. Further concerns were nonchalantly dismissed by K’naan and brushed community members off as “excitable”. What K’naan and his supporters fail to understand is that the concern for the community’s well being is not unsubstantiated. Reports of FBI agents harassing tenants at Cedar have been occurring for some time. During the summer, Somali youth were shot at by a white supremacist was angry to see them in khamis. Reports of hate crimes and assaults continue to rise with the political climate our country.

Historically, American films about Somalis have portrayed us as unreasonable and violent extremists. Somalis in Minneapolis remember not too long ago auditions that were held for Tom Hank’s Captain Phillips. Like it or not, pop culture is a huge influencer of public opinion. Before we were seen as pirates, the only time people could reference Somalis was from Black Hawk Down. It is not simply that a glossy new TV show about Somalis being portrayed as future terrorists will hurt our feelings. It has been shown that time and time again, these stereotypes of Somali people fuel a climate in which safety is a major concern. Public perception also influences law and legislation that supports CVE could very well be commonplace and acceptable thanks to one-dimensional narratives.

What the proponents of CVE further ignore is that there is no quantitative data that proves that Somalis are more likely to be extremists than anyone else. Times like these are reminiscent of the McCarthy witch hunts, where fear ruled the majority and the innocent paid the price.

In the aftermath that followed the botched block party, rumors ran rampant on social media sites. People who had never stepped foot in Cedar, much less Minnesota, chimed in with helpful tips to uncover the reasoning of the dubious protesters (never mind the signs the held, the videos posted all over the same sites, and the consistent activism from the community).


Cedar Riverside, credit Nessa @BaconTribe

Some asked “How can people protest when the show hasn’t even come out?” and chalked up the concern as unfounded. One user followed a more paternalistic route and pleaded with K’naan that Cedar kids are just frustrated and need him to talk to them about the show, ending their plea with “lack of knowledge kills”. Yes, because the youth are too dumb to see what’s right in front of them. Others bitterly complained about how jealous Somali people are of their own and called them xasid. You won’t have to scroll far to find debates about qabil come up, with some saying that because K’naan is from one region, his opponents are obviously from the opposite. One person alleged that the protesters were paid to be there. The words “haters” and “buuq jeceela” were thrown around quite a bit.

Imagine being so desperate to have someone else share your narrative that you’re willing to be exploited.

Others argued that if someone were to “mess it up”, it ought to be a Somali person, so he can at least show a little sympathy to the characters. This was probably the most disheartening perspective I found that night. Imagine being so desperate to have someone else share your narrative that you’re willing to be exploited.

Some of K’naan’s fans argued that because the rapper waved the Somali flag around in the past, that he is entitled to some trust. Many argued that because K’naan is Somali, he is due benefit of the doubt in this case. Around Minneapolis, K’naan’s supporters seemed to be more upset at missing a selfie with the star than they were at the mistreatment of protesters.

Unsurprisingly, Somali elders and adults were soon gossiping over a “cedar mafia” and discussing the role qabil played in the day’s events. If most of the same people were asked about CVE, they would probably scratch their heads and change the subject.  That is the primary difference between elders and the youth. Elders can become jaded over time and have a hard time seeing past status quo. They are fixated on imagining change within the frame we exist in. This paradigm not only effects the rate of change but also the power of change.

The youth are able to envision a world not lived in oppression. The youth are able to mobilize and create change while the people they are around judge and patronize them. It would be foolish to underestimate the power of the youth. What people fail to understand is that Somali youth have a right to discuss, question, organize, and protest.

It is more important to get a juicy 10 second soundbite than it is to research the issues that affect us.


Cedar Riverside, credit Nessa @BaconTribe

It pains me to see people actively fight against their own freedom. More people were interested in the manners and politeness of protesters than they were of the excessive and inexcusable force used by officers. Telling protesters to organize at a more convenient time is as ignorant as it is deplorable. Had any one of those dismissing the protesters spent a little time reading their signs or listening to them speak, the misinformed responses might have been different. This type of reckless commentary is unfortunately commonplace in our society. It is more important to get a juicy 10 second soundbite than it is to research the issues that affect us.

I am tired of justifying the activism of youth.

I was really disappointed to read all of those comments disparaging young people for daring to speak out. I am a firm believer in educating my brothers and sisters about the manner in which our behaviors can be problematic and hurtful. But I know I am not alone when I say I am tired. I am tired of people praising those who exploit them and letting celebrity blind their common sense. I am tired of seeing people rail against one another with no understanding of oppression. I am tired of justifying the activism of youth. And most of all I am tired of repeating myself to those who cannot see past their own perspective. If I have learned anything it is that we cannot allow fear to quell justice.

K’naan, if you’re reading this, there is just one thing you need to understand.

This is not about you.

This is about a community who is fed up with being mischaracterized and targeted by those who claim to have good intentions. This is about kids who are afraid to go back to school because they have been bullied for being Muslim and Black. This is about hooyoyin who live in fear when their children leave for school. This is about dugsi teachers who are afraid to do their calling. This is about young girls who are afraid to wear hijab. This is about young boys who are afraid to practice their religion. This is about a community who is not afraid to speak up even when they have every reason to be afraid.

We cannot afford to be exploited, not even by one of our own.


One of those arrested was a young Somali woman. Here is a facebook post by the Black Liberation Project on how to help.


One of the founders of BLP was thrown off a stage during a protest tonight and was injured in the process. (details about this action are in the comment section) Shortly after this, Minneapolis PD swooped down on dozens of Somali youth and other Black youth, maced them indiscriminately and chased them down the street attempting to arrest them. When they tried to snatch up a Black youth, our founder (who asked to remain anonymous) attempted to protect him and was arrested herself along with a minor who’s since been released. She however won’t be released until Tuesday at noon. We’re currently trying to raise bail funds to get her out as soon as possible but we need help both with raising money and putting pressure on the jail to release her earlier. She’s a Black, Muslim woman and Eid (an important Muslim holiday) is this weekend. She hasn’t been charged with anything and if they don’t release her she will spend Eid in jail. You can help by:

  1. Donating to their bail fund and legal team at our PayPal:
  2. Boosting this post.
  3. Calling the jail and asking that any and all protesters arrested at West Bank during this action be released. The number to the Hennepin County Attorney’s office is 612-348-5550 and the one to the jail is (612) 348-5112

Please help however you can.

Top Ten Apartment Hunting Tips


The Simpsons


Whether you’re a renter who has been out of the game or a first time renter, apartment hunting can be a frustrating and time consuming ordeal. As someone with renting history, I’ve constructed my most important tips to finding the right place for you. Let’s get straight to it.


No seriously, sit down and go through all of your current expenses and add in your projected expenses. You typically need a security deposit, first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and an application fee. If utilities are not covered, expect to pay “activation” fees. Then, make room for unexpected costs because they do come up (and frequently in my opinion). And whatever you expect to spend, remember to give yourself some upward wiggle room. For instance, if you expect to spend $100 on gas a month, estimate a little higher just in case. That way, in case you go a little above your budget, you are not unexpectedly strained.


What do you really want from your housing situation? It usually comes down to safety, size, location, and price. Be prepared to sacrifice something nice for something you can’t live without. Is the kitchen island worth the 20 minute commute? Yeah, you’re 3 minutes from everything but is it worth having no money left over at the end of the month? Okay, so you can afford this location but all that fits is half of your mattress and a nightstand, is that fine? It’s up to you to decide where you are willing to sacrifice. Unless you’re rich, in which case, you can do whatever you want.


Take a shower, put on something moderately nice, and show up on time.

You would not believe how much a first impression stays with people. Don’t let this make you nervous though, people’s opinions are fickle and ever changing. Landlords are secretly assessing if you can maintain the property, pay rent on time, and if the other tenants will hate you. So use your best people skills and make a good impression. If it comes down to you and a bunch of other prospective tenants, they might like you better and bump you up the short list.


No, you do not need a $79 glass lamp. Sooner or later, you will feel the itch of interior decorating. This usually includes a lot of nice things that are WAY out of your budget. Do not give in to this urge. Buy used and save up for the stuff you refuse to compromise on. When you’re on your own, you realize how much vacuums cost. There are a ton of expenses you won’t predict but seem like no brainers when you need them. Spend money on that, not luxury monogrammed hand woven towels. Don’t worry, things will come along in time.


If you don’t get along with your roommates, you might smash a few plates over someone’s head.

Some of ya’ll are leaving on your own, give yourself a pat on the back you lucky bastards. For the rest of you, roommates are a part of the deal. If you can, meet your roommates before you sign your lease. You need to get a feel for how compatible you are. If you get along with your roommates, they can be lifelong friends. If you don’t get along with your roommates, you might smash a few plates over someone’s head. Set boundaries and rules before you even move in together. Not all people do things the way you do so it’s best to have an agreement of how things get done before you both lose your minds. And for the love of The Most High, do not be passive aggressive. If you have an issue, deal with it straight away. Do not let resentment build for months and months when problems can be easily resolved. It might be uncomfortable but just know it can be dealt with now or later, but it will be dealt with.


Men lie, women lie, and landlords lie.

Unfortunately, not everyone is looking out for your best interests. Before you move in take pictures of every part of the apartment, even if it’s not broken or in need of repair. If something is shoddy, take note and speak with the landlord about having it repaired before you move in. If they seem flaky about it, take that as a sign of what dealing with management would be like if you sign a lease. All agreements should be in writing, verbal agreements mean nothing. Record or detail any conversations you have with your landlord. Make sure the apartment that you are being shown is the EXACT same as the one you would be renting. Landlords love to play this trick. They show you a “show apartment” and if you ask, they’ll tell you everything is the same. Demand to see the actual apartment or get the hell out.


Check online reviews, sometimes that’s the only way tenants can get their complaints heard. Talk to tenants that live there currently. Get comfortable with local rent, square footage, and other important details. Call ahead and ask your questions ahead of time to save time. When you’re starting out, schedule a bunch of showings. This will help you get comfortable with what you’re really looking for and asking the right questions.


Take the time to thoroughly read the application as well as the lease for the apartment. This is where they get the little guys. Unnecessary restrictions, hidden fees, and strange requests might be found in a lease. If you find something you don’t like, speak with the leasing office or landlord BEFORE you sign your lease. Sometimes they are willing to make changes and other times they are unmoving. It’s up you to decide what you are willing to settle on. Know your rights as a tenant. So many people have been illegally screwed over by rental companies and landlords over things they should not be doing. Don’t let them take advantage of you.


Let’s say you found the perfect place in a nice neighborhood with a price you can afford. First off, stay cool and keep your composure during the showing. No matter how beautiful the place might seem, ask all of your questions and cover all your bases. If it all checks out, move quick. There are usually more than one prospective tenants looking at an apartment. Make sure you have all your paperwork and fees ready in advance.


    Be choosy when you can afford to be.

Most leases require a 12 month commitment. A year is a long time to be in a place you hate. So make sure you take your time looking for the right place. Sure, an apartment can grow on you but why take the chance? Compromise willingly not uncomfortably. Don’t let anyone talk you into doing something you don’t want to do. After all, it is your name on the lease and you will be the one who has to live with it. Be choosy when you can afford to be.

BONUS TIP: Find a place with google fiber! Centurylink and Comcast are quite possibly the worst companies in the world.

Stop Killing Us

I can’t

I can’t feel this grief

I can’t dwell on this sadness

I have to go to sleep tonight

I have to wake up tomorrow

I have to smile at my racist landlord

I have to chat with my white neighbors

I have to take the bus to school

I have to bite my tongue when they say

“We must have hope, we need love”

I have never needed love to not kill someone

I have to listen to black women being erased from our own genocide

While we carry a movement on our backs

And abandon ourselves along the way

I have to pretend black women are not being murdered

I have to pretend our femininity cloaks us with protection

Even though black women have never been afforded femininity

I have to fuss over a mirror tomorrow

While my insides twist and rot and bleed out of me

I have to pick up my neice

I have to keep it together

Just a little while longer

I can’t grieve

Not if I want to survive tomorrow

Not if I want to sleep tonight

I have to plan a funeral tomorrow

I can’t grieve


  • | Ayaan Dahir

A Letter to Myself

quote post 5

What an eventful year.

So much has happened since beginning this tradition. I have met so many great people, had life changing experiences, and learned a lot of things the hard way. This year has been filled with excitement, change, fear, sadness, frustration, euphoria, grief, anticipation, envy, pity, empathy, shame, wonder, appreciation, confusion, enlightenment, pride, and love.

Let’s get straight to it. Here are my insights about the year past.

quote post 4

  1. Practice being right here, right now

I have picked up and dropped so many forms of art and habits. When I couldn’t pay attention in my night class, I decided to become a master knitter. Later on, I bought an adorable turquoise helmet and started riding my bike to school. For a New Year’s resolution, I stretched my legs and started a 30 day yoga class. What do all these things have in common?

I quit.

When I didn’t have a luxurious 30 foot scarf after two weeks, I quietly placed my yarn in a basket and told myself I would try again later. When I didn’t have toned Serena Williams quality thighs, I locked my bike against a fence and told myself I would try again later. When I couldn’t hold the same positions as the experienced yoga instructor, I rolled up my mat and told myself I would try again.

I am not a habitual quitter. But I noticed that when I don’t reach unconscious, ridiculous expectations of activities, I quietly make a decision to quit. I am, however, a perfectionist as well as someone with extremely high expectations for myself. And I also noticed that I rarely enjoy the activity as much as what I envision will be the end result of the activity.

So I believe it’s time for a paradigm shift. Instead of doing things because I believe something will come of it later, I will participate in activities that I enjoy doing. And for the record, I enjoy knitting, biking, and yoga. What I was not enjoying was the moments during the activities. I fantasized about the future when I should have been enjoying the present.

quote post 1

  1. Talk less, Speak more

I know what you’re thinking but it’s not a typo. Let me explain. If you ever have a conversation with me, you’ll probably notice a lot of “uh-huh, uh-huh, wooooow” from my end. This is because I want you to know that I am an active participant in our conversation and I care about what you have to say.

But earlier this year, during my training at Aurora, I did something totally unlike me. I did an activity where I was forced to listen to somebody speak for 2 full minutes without nodding, smiling, participating, or in any way interrupting the other person. My jaw was so sore from the strain of clenching tight and my knuckles were white from gripping my seat but goddammit, I did not say a word. At first, I thought it was just a cruel form of torture. I mean, what’s the point of a conversation if I can’t participate? But what I soon realized is my day is littered with meaningless words.

Moments of natural silence in conversations are filled with “Yeah, so anyways, I was like saying…” I could’ve use those moments to compose my thoughts and consider the meaning of my words. I could have used those moments to allow my partner to elaborate on their opinions and perceptions. I could have used those moments to breathe. To close my eyes and take a break.

We are so worried about that tiny moment of quiet that we say whatever it takes to prevent the possibility of an uncomfortable silence. But silence can be just the thing to take a conversation to the next level. It can allow for someone to gain the confidence to share something deeply personal. It can be what someone needs in order to continue the effort of being present. Most of all, it can be golden.

quote post 7

  1. Do not rely on other people for validation

Sometimes when I feel truly at loss with my standing in the world, I like to imagine a world full of me. My neighbor, the president, my mailman are all just a “bunch of me”. And then I think of a bunch of me trying to judge me, tell me what to do, or feign superiority. I get angry! “Who do I think I are?” I might say to myself.

Then it all makes a little more sense. Most people do not know what they’re doing. They’re faking their purpose, jobs, parenting, leadership, and/or ability. But we don’t notice it because we are so innately obsessed with our own lives. So it’s easy to imagine how little we know, how bad are at what we do, and how truly lost we are.

But the truth of the matter is we are not alone. No one knows what they’re doing. But the people who find happiness with the chaos of life are those who know to not control it. Life is unpredictable, as sappy as that sounds. If we spent all our nights thinking about all the ways to control it we would never sleep.

Control what you can and let God do the rest.

quote post 10

  1. Trust yourself first

If you make a promise to yourself, keep it. Because if you can’t keep promises to yourself, you can trust yourself. I don’t mean improbable or highly unlikely promises, what I’m talking about is the little things we can do for ourselves every day. If I promise to help my friend with an assignment or do a favor for a co-worker, I can trust myself to keep it. But why is it that the promises we make to ourselves are the first to be broken?

I propose we treat ourselves with the same respect we afford the people in our lives. If I promise myself 10 minutes of self-care each day, then why shouldn’t I trust myself to do it? Maybe pumping iron or kicking butt in Booty Bootcamp makes me happy. Why shouldn’t I keep my promise to do it? Just because we are doing something for ourselves does not make it selfish. If anything, it’s in the interest of everyone who loves you for you be happy, healthy, and hopeful.

quote post 6

  1. Learn to say sorry—and mean it

Last year, I had a falling out with a good friend of mine. We both thought we were right and the other had wronged us. We ended up not talking for months. I wasn’t too worried about it though. We had been friends since childhood. There was even a period where we hadn’t spoken or seen each other for years (not on purpose, of course). I figured the dust would settle and we would soon forget why we were even mad in the first place. So when I reached out to her a while later and she hadn’t returned my calls, I knew something was up.

I went to see her one day and things were not the same. I apologized, even though I still felt like I was right, for the sake of our friendship. But it turned our fight was just the straw that broke the geel’s back. I found out that I had been acting in a really hurtful ways towards her. It was so obvious after she had told me and yet when I said/did hurtful things, I didn’t even see them that way at the time. I was wrong.

I felt like a truly horrible person. This time I apologized from the bottom of my heart and I truly meant it. All the defensiveness I had come with had dissipated. We sat there hashing over every action and word. It was like the first time I wore glasses. I took one step outside and shouted “I didn’t know trees had leaves!”

Of course those leaves had been there well before I could see them and make out their details. And the pain I had inflicted had existed well before I understood it. Regardless of if I knew what I was doing was hurtful or not, the effect was still there. Even if I had not acknowledged my wrongdoing, it wouldn’t take away the effects. The point is that sometimes we attach ourselves to this notion that our intentions are all that matter. And even though intentions are a major factor we can’t deny that people are not mind readers who have complete understanding of our actions 24/7. We’re human. We judge based on how we perceive situations, actions, words, and people.

Even if it wasn’t your intention to hurt someone, apologize. And don’t just apologize, mean it.

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  1. Don’t take it personally

This one’s a doozy. It also relates to the concept that the world doesn’t revolve around me which is not only hard to believe but downright unacceptable. I for one pride myself in being quite perceptive. But I will admit, in confidence to you, that I do not know it all. I don’t know why some conversations never take off. I don’t know why that old dude on the bus always scowls at me while I walk past him. I don’t know why some people use their phone when I give presentations.  I don’t know why I can’t connect with some people. I don’t know why small talk is so hard. I don’t know why the people who love us hurt us the most. But what I do know is that it is not reflection of my self-worth, abilities, or purpose.

Maybe that person is having a bad day. Or maybe they’re just tired. Or maybe they’re a prick. Whatever the reason, one thing remains true; I do not have to own other people’s perceptions of me. That is not my obligation.

  1. Take care of yourself

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You know how they say the grass is greener on the other side? Lies.

I was a super extrovert as a youngin’ so I when life got a little quieter, I looked back on the old days with fondness. I yearned for the days I could spend time around other people. So this year, I got my wish. I started participating on campus and meeting people everywhere I went. I found myself skipping class to go to movies with strangers. I attended functions and said yes to every invite. Every event I attended was further proof of my ability to tackle to unfamiliar. I thought that if I said no to an outing, I would be missing out on so many things. Plus, I could never tell if I genuinely did not want to go out or if I was experiencing a symptom of my illnesses. I felt like I had to prove to myself that I could do it, even if I didn’t enjoy myself one bit.

And it’s exhausting. Talking to people for hours on end is exhausting. But not just in the physical sense. When I started hanging out more often, I noticed a weird effect. The center of head started aching and I could only focus on the pain. I called it a “people headache”. I’m not prone to headaches, Alhumdulilah, but something about being around people made me physically ill. I would become irritable with anyone so I would keep to myself to stop from hurting anyone’s feelings.

But there were exceptions to this rule.

If I knew the person for a long time, I could avoid the headache for most of the day. If I really, really like a person, the people headache would set in very late. And if I was 100% comfortable with someone, my people headache would not develop. And if it did develop, I knew what I had to do.

When I get a people headache, it’s time for me to be by myself. I chose Saturday and Sunday to be my “people free” days. And I started scheduling time alone into my week. If I knew I was going out Tuesday, I made sure Wednesday was chill. I would go home Friday night and not see a single soul until Monday. I used my weekend to recharge. I would read, write, clean, cook, watch TV, relax, play with my cat, paint, or anything else I wanted to do. I just needed to be alone.

There are some people who completely understand why I need to be alone. Most people don’t understand why I need this time. They might take it personally and get hurt because they believe I don’t want to hang out with them. Some understand it to a degree but believe that if we’re doing something “fun” then that should be enough to change my plans. So I don’t spend too much time convincing others. I resort to making up imaginary plans for people to respect my time.

I’ve learned time and time again, nothing is worth the expense of my wellbeing.

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  1. Learn the difference between being lonely and being alone

I come from a family of 9. The only alone time I got was in my head. I had learned to tune out the buuq of a full household. So living on my own has been nothing short of a shock to my senses. I went from having never spent a night alone to going days without talking to another person. I felt like I was another planet. I even missed my loud neighbors.

The first few months were torture. I didn’t have Wi-Fi for a torturous amount of time so the internet could not distract me. I was unused to spending this much time alone. Everything was so quiet. I would turn on the dishwasher just to keep me company. There were many nights I couldn’t find solace in sleep. It was as if all the noise of my family had been funneled into my mind. Only this time, there was no way to tune it out.

During the day, I could feign normality. But it was night that brought out the strangeness of my situation. I felt disconnected from the world. It is human nature to want to feel loved and noticed and I was drowning in isolation.

If I was to survive, I had to reconstruct what alone meant for me.

Instead of feeling isolated and trapped, I learned to appreciate the solitude and take advantage of the company of others. If I was bored, I would have fun regardless of who could join. If I felt like going out, I would go to the movies or a museum. If I felt like staying in, I would write a passage or read a good book. I soon realized I did not have time or energy to do things I did not want to do.  So why waste it?

To my 22 year old self, I don’t expect you to have it together. I don’t expect you to know what you’re doing. But if there is one thing I want you to know by 22, it is a firm and unabashed understanding of who you are. What are your morals? Who are you? Without your titles, or your relation to other people, or your possessions, or how other people see you? Who are you?

Once you find out, stay true to it no matter what.

I expect you to make a lot of mistakes. I expect you to have a lot of failures. I want you to know that it’s okay to have both. I want you to know that every good decision I made this past year was made with fear in my heart. But I did it anyway.

Whatever you do, remember Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) in all things.

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”




The Arraweelo Project


Wait, what’s going on?

This year we are launching The Arraweelo Project.

The Arraweelo Project is a collection of experiences, adventures, and stories as told by Somali women.  The need for the collection came about after reading countless articles and books on the Somali experience as interpreted by people who have no claim to the culture or understanding of it. Many of those pieces were zealously fixated on violence and centered the experiences of complex, multifaceted women on their relation to men.

On a more personal note, Somali culture has a deep history of oral tradition. We don’t have designated storytellers because everyone you meet can tell you a tale. Stories passed down from generation to generation are preserved through war, poverty, and sickness.

Every person has that story that takes you on an emotional rollercoaster and has you feeling like you were there with them. Stories have the power to motivate, enlighten, educate, and inspire those who have the privilege of hearing them. And they can even have the same effect on those who share their stories.

The stories are lost when we find that we are unable to share them. Sometimes we stay silent because we are afraid of what might happen when we share them. Sometimes we stay silent because we lack visibility. Sometimes we stay silent because of shame.

But whatever our reason for staying silent, one thing that is certain is that the story is lost. The only way to preserve the story is by sharing it. Whether that be in a journal, with a friend, or in a book. Our stories make us who we are. They shape the tapestry of our lives each time a material is woven in.

This collection will have a wide range of experiences and emotions. We will explore subjects such as identity, grief/loss, heartbreak, motherhood, first love, gender, abuse, race, education, relationships, mistakes, addiction, mental health, childhood, careers, friendship, marriage, culture, health, discrimination, religion, art, family, and much more.

Here’s how it works.

We accept submissions in one of two ways. You can send a story to

You have the right share your name or keep it anonymous; it’s 100% up to you. For a list of complete guidelines, check out our submission guidelines.

I am also interviewing Somali women in the Twin Cities area. Contributors still have the option to remain anonymous. Stories are then written and composed by me. If you would like to know more about the process or would like to request an interview, send an email to

Living with Undiagnosed ADHD


What comes to mind when you hear Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder? For most people, it’s hyperactive elementary-aged boys who can’t be bothered to sit down and who teachers can’t seem to manage. But for many women, the stereotype does not ring true. As a young girl, I noticed the same comments in all of my report cards. “Ayaan has so much potential but she wastes her time” or “If only Ayaan could utilize her free time instead of daydreaming…” Despite all this, I still did remarkably well in classes. I was the kid who never studied for an exam and somehow managed to exceed. I just figured tests came easy to me and did not think twice about it. By the way, I will be using ADHD and ADD interchangeably since they are two sides of the same coin. Although for the record, I seem to be lacking the hyperactive part.

Then I hit a roadblock. When I became a high school student, my carefree days were over and I spent an unhealthy amount of time thinking of ways to get my teachers to like me so they could over look my unimpressive marks. Paying attention, reading textbooks, studying for tests, and completing assignments became a mission. For years I struggled with understanding why I was putting in extreme amounts of effort and receiving none of the pay off.


This year, I was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurobiological condition characterized by a persistent pattern of inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive behaviors, was once perceived to be exclusively a childhood disorder (American Psychiatric Association). Some symptoms of ADHD may include feeling frustrated, scattered, unfocused (R. Waite and M. Tran). Most days I felt like I was walking around in a cloud of haze. I had a hard time forming sentences, thinking of the right words, or remembering appointments and meetings. It followed me everywhere.

Later in life, ADHD can “impede their academic success, employment stability, personal relationships, and friendships. Students reported emotional symptoms from depression, anxiety, substance abuse, stress, worry, and eating disorders.” (R. Waite and M. Tran). In my case, I could definitely relate. Unfortunately for me, most research thus far has been conducted with mainly white male participants (R. Waite and M. Tran). However, according to researchers, there are reports that women represent a large part of adults with ADHD (R. Waite and M. Tran). The director of the University of Utah Mood Disorders Clinic, Dr. Fred Reimherr says “ADHD is still presumed to be a male disorder. The women had a much more frequent history of having been diagnosed with other emotionally based psychiatric illnesses, such as depression or anxiety. I think those symptoms are often the things that a physician treating adults focuses on. A woman might come in presenting emotional symptoms, and the ADHD that’s underneath might be missed.” (Sigler). This could be one explanation of why women are underdiagnosed and undertreated when it comes to ADHD.


Stress has a lot to do with ADHD. There a basically three ways in which people respond to stress. There is a somatic response in which the body acts out by inducing stomach pains, diarrhea, headaches, and assortment of ailments. Another response is externalized feelings where we physically act out how we feel. A young boy might be frustrated by his homework and throw a tantrum. Teachers are very quick to either discuss a medical evaluation with parents or have the student expelled (if they’re black). The often ignored response is internalization. Internalization may include low self-esteem and inattentiveness. Teachers rarely catch onto internalization and the person doesn’t realize that their symptoms are unusual or can be treated. So the problem goes unchecked.

According to Doctor Carol Watkins, “Inattentive or impulsive girls often feel that “something” is wrong with them. Feelings of shame and guilt can layer themselves into a young woman’s personality as she grows up. When a woman is first diagnosed with AD/HD, she may feel relief and a temporary euphoria. She now has a name for her guilty secret. But a diagnosis does not change an ingrained personality style. After the diagnosis comes the real work. She must gain an in-depth understanding of how the AD/HD affects her own unique strengths and weaknesses” (Watkins).


According to Waite, the first line of treatment is medication. (Waite). There are stimulants such as amphetamine and methylphenidate as well as new non stimulants that are gaining popularity. Some other options are therapy, life coaches, and using aids such as planners or technology (Watkins).

One of the biggest issues I face with my ADHD is completing tasks. I have a hard time getting started and when I take a break, I end up returning 6 hours later wondering where the day went. Or I might lie in bed for hours mustering the mental wherewithal it takes to get to my desk and start. After a long day of fighting with my mind, I lie in bed too anxious to sleep considering all the work that needs to be done.


Forgetfulness is a serious problem that people with ADHD face. One way to battle this is to use a planner. We can’t always remember what our future plans are or use proper time management and estimate how long activities will take. That’s why a planner can be useful. A planner can track all our future goals, dates, and other important things we need to remember but can’t consciously do so. A trick I use is that if I know I will forget something later, I try to plan for it while I can. Lists are a godsend.

The most frustrating part of inattentiveness are conversations. Sometimes when someone is speaking to me, my mind wanders elsewhere and I come back to find them still talking with no clue that I was not with them. After about 30 seconds of someone talking to me, I feel that familiar tug, waiting for the word that will lure me back into my mind. It’s pretty embarrassing when I am listening to a friend and a question gets launched at me. It always happens when I am desperately trying to refocus on what’s being said but not quickly enough!

I’ve definitely had an issue with internalizing my ADHD. After being disappointed time and time again by my grades, it was hard not to take it personally. But I’ve learned that blaming myself for things I can’t control won’t change anything.


Something I noticed was that I am not the only Somali girl I know with ADHD. In fact, I’ve discovered that I have a few diagnosed and many undiagnosed friends with ADHD. These girls are bright, personable, and most had no clue what they were dealing with until adulthood even though the symptoms were there since childhood. Not only that but each girl told me how no one had guided them to seek care.  In fact, no doctor or teacher in their many years of living had even once mentioned ADHD. Even more infuriating is the response that some girls received. One in particular went to an appointment with a Doctor who is a so called ADHD specialist who by the end of their session denied her medication. Instead, he refilled antidepressants and completely disregarded her medically evaluated and diagnosed ADHD. When she attempted to discuss her concerns, she was invalidated and dismissed. This type of negligence and mishandling is all too common with black patients and only further fuels the distrust among patient and care provider. Especially since doctors have no problem writing a prescription for their Caucasian patients.  There is evidence that doctors routinely under prescribe pain medication, especially to black women. It’s not a stretch to imagine what else they under prescribe because of their paranoia of drug abuse.

Many Somali girls are tasked with big responsibilities at a young age. We have to do well in school, work in order to contribute to the household income, babysit (more like parent) our siblings all while living in poverty. Somali girls are warriors by any definition. But I can’t help but imagine how differently our lives would be if we received the care we needed as children. Where would we be today? How many untold consequences arose from undiagnosed mental disorders?


I wanted to learn more about ADHD after my diagnoses but I felt paralyzed into inaction. I began collecting books I would not read, articles I would ignore, and procrastinate learning about how to understand ADHD. With all things, it took time to get used to the idea of it. One thing that has helped medication. Coupled with cultivating time management skills, experimenting, and a healthy dose of forgiveness, I’ve been able to work on the matter. I’ve been tremendously blessed in getting a diagnoses and treatment from a caring team. Not all girls are so lucky. My mind sometimes hovers on this thought. Thankfully, I’m in a position to do something about it.

One of my goals as chairperson of the Healing Committee in the Young Muslim Collective is to bridge the gap between disadvantaged communities and the care we need. This experience has given me perspective I can use to best serve my community. The experience has given me some much needed perspective and hopefully something I can bring to the table. After all, I can focus for more than 30 seconds now.

And there is something else I can do. If you’re reading this and you relate to my story, please consider getting treatment. The first step is to talk to your health care provider. If you don’t have a doctor, don’t worry, you don’t need a referral. You can go to straight to a licensed provider and get testing done directly. If you make an appointment with someone and don’t feel comfortable with them, leave. You are not obligated to continuing seeing anyone you would rather not. The number one, most important objective is that you feel comfortable and safe. I have attached below ADHD resources that would useful if you live in the Twin Cities area.



For testing and evaluation, go to:





American Psychiatric Association. 2000. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.

Waite, R. (2010), Women With ADHD: It Is an Explanation, Not the Excuse Du Jour. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 46: 182–196. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6163.2010.00254.x

Waite, Roberta, and Mary Tran. “Explanatory Models and Help-Seeking Behavior for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among a Cohort of Postsecondary Students.” Archives of Psychiatric Nursing 24.4 (2010): 247-59. Science Direct. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

Roberta Waite EdD and APRN and CNS-BC & Mary Tran BA and MPH (2010) ADHDAmong a Cohort of Ethnic Minority Women, Women & Health, 50:1, 71-87, DOI: 10.1080/03630241003601095

Sigler, Eunice. “Women with ADHD: Why Girls and Moms Go Undiagnosed.”ADHDitude Magazine. ADHDitude, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

Watkins, Carol, Dr. “Treating Girls and Women with Attention Deficit Disorder.” Northern County Psychiatric Associates. Northern County Psychiatric Associates, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.