Every Step a Novel: Final Thoughts
This exhibit has only scratched the surface of the history and experiences of the Somalia diaspora in the Salt Lake area. We’ve heard many things from our contributors, who kindly shared their stories for this exhibit. Our contributors, like many refugees, faced a host of challenges in their home countries, in refugee camps, and in the United States. They also have come ready to contribute to America, their new home.
This exhibit concludes with modified excerpts from each contributor’s interview, highlighting both the good and the difficult in Utah, including some things they wanted to emphasize to students who would be exploring this exhibit.
Aden: We appreciate we’re part of this community. The pilgrims who came to this country who escaped religious persecution, or wanted to have something better for their lives, that’s the same thing that we wanted. And we wanted to contribute. We wanted to give back. I think, religion shouldn’t divide us. Nationality shouldn’t divide us. We’re all American. This is all our America. I think that’s the message that I wanted people to know, that I think this hatred that is going around, that is not what America is about. America is a beautiful country where everybody can have the freedom to come here, to enjoy the freedom that America offers everyone. You cannot find this freedom anywhere else in the world. I think America is great because of our diversity. We need to embrace our diversity. And I think we can all live side by side. We’re all brothers and sisters, regardless where we came from, and I just need people to know that.
Osman: When I came to Utah, I was struggling for myself to establish myself, to first set the base for the family. After I stopped working two jobs, that’s when I started looking, and said, “yeah. Now I’m settled. What I should give back to the community now?” I do community services. I work the homeless shelter. I help all those homeless people, to motivate them and then just talk to the people individually. Connect with them, and just tell them, “Hey. How someone like me came and make it?” We try, I try make a presence in our community. Make it simple. If you make complicated, and you make yourself look higher, no, just make yourself humble and low. When you’re serving, don’t make arrogant yourself. Make low, very low, very simple. Keep it simple.
Ali: I love my religion. And I support my religion, and best religion, what I believe. I believe my God, and my messenger, Mohammed. And it’s not have any issue in Salt Lake City. Back home, I’m, today, better in the United States, Muslim. Back home, you have difficult right now, because civil war. Some people can shoot you about religion this time back home. Or some people you say, “Oh, you’re praying the wrong way.” Maybe he can shoot you. In America I can pray where I want it. I can go which mosque I wanted. I can say what I wanted to talk. If something doesn’t bother, bad thing. If I have right to talk, I can talk what I want.
Aydrus: It take a long time for the UNHCR to agree that you deserve resettlement. You deserve another chance of living as a human being. Because living in a camp, is life that nobody deserve to—no human being deserve to live in a camp. But because of circumstance, of war, killing, all those stuff, then people decide to live in a camp. Because there’s no where you can go. You can’t go to—if you’re located to go to the camp, then you stay in the camp, because if you go to town, you get arrested, police, and you end up in jail. It’s a lot. Every step that I go through in the camp is a novel. You know? It’s a novel.
Abdirizak: We don’t have like enough low-income housing Utah area, or Salt Lake area. The housing is very challenge. Very challenge. The people, they don’t have enough low-income housing. And then that’s another difficulty we are facing. Not only Somali community, but the entire of the community. That’s where we have to come together and do something. Your hand, you not need to open it all the way. You don’t need to close it all the way. But you have to open partway at least.
Abdulkhaliq: Coming here as a teenager, middle school student, is very tough. And, in the US, there is, let me say in Salt Lake City, or Utah, there is a policy that when you arrive you are placed based on your age. If you come as a fifteen-year-old, and you haven’t learned English at all, or you never went to school, you are still placed in ninth grade or tenth grade. It doesn’t matter if you know how to write, doesn’t matter if you know how to read, if you speak English. So, I think that policy, I could see that in elementary school—if you’re placed in by age. But in high school, I think there should be a policy. I think we need to look and see what is best for the students, not just for the policy or for the state, but what is best for the students, and can we increase more student graduating successfully. I think if we can do that, we will see a lot of increasing graduation and happy students.
Ismael: We are only few people here, and if everybody to live by their own, is not going to be good. So, we decided to put ourself together, even if we are not—we know each other since in Africa, but we are not related, but we see okay, let’s come together and form a community. So, whatever happens is a community thing, not coach Omar, or Ismael, or Haden, no. We need to have it this way. So, we started little by little. We can have more resources for our people. Not even our people, even the Bantus. They need help, and they were using to come to us, and we help them. They’re not Muslim, many of them, I can say maybe 99%. They’re Christian. So, we try to put ourself all over the place.
Yussuf: In school, you see Muslims who will go to school, who will study with you, who will come there, maybe especially our sisters. The girls, young girls, who are going to high school, those who are going to university, they have the hijab [head scarf]. You will find that they are Muslim. So, that means, if you see a woman who is wearing the hijab, she’s trying to be a good person. Because she’s trying to practice modest. So, if you see, be okay with her, she’s not a terrorist, she’s not ISIS, she’s not doing any bad. It’s just for her religion. She want to be a nice person. We all have one vision, and one mission in this world, is to be a good human being, and good, better while obeying the God. Islam tells us we have to obey the law of the country. In USA, we came so now we have to obey the law. We should not be break the law.