Somali leader pushes for civil rights, integration of F-M refugees

“We got two liaison officers, one from Somalia, one from Iraq,” he told the journalists Thursday, Aug. 10, after asking them to stop by the district building instead. “The project ended — it’s ending this month. So we are working on the reports on what it has accomplished.”

The Afro American Development Association he founded with nine friends three years ago had joined forces with the district to get grants for the liaisons, school workers who help new American parents not yet proficient in English better understand the school system.

Abdullahi, a tall Somali-American with an easy smile, has been in the news a lot this year as a civil rights advocate. A couple of weeks ago, he made some waves when he told Fargo city leaders that by focusing only on the financial burden refugees place on the community while ignoring refugees’ contributions, they’ve made targets of this vulnerable population. Earlier, three Somali-American women had received death threats in a Fargo parking lot, an incident they recorded on a video that went viral.

But, when Abdullahi’s not in the news, the bulk of his work involves not speeches or protests but the kind of grunt nonprofit work he did at the school district. He has said the goal of his organization, AADA, is to help new Americans fit in better, providing English classes and teaching the norms of this new society they’ve joined.

“I’ve known few people in my life who are as brave and big-hearted and optimistic and hardworking as Hukun,” said Kari Yates, a district official who worked with Abdullahi on the liaison grant and teaches English as an AADA volunteer. “And the thing I often have to remind myself about Hukun is, he has a lot of life experience but, I mean, he’s barely a kid; he’s 22 years old.”

Fast learner

Abdullahi was born and raised near Kismayo, a port city in southern Somalia that’s been fought over repeatedly since the country’s civil war began in the early 1990s.

When he was a toddler, Abdullahi’s mother, a teacher, was…

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