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  • The Guardian

'It's mindblowing': historic wins for two Somali-Americans amid ugly smears

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

Safiya Khalid and Nadia Mohamed, ages 23, came to the US as refugees, and won city council seats in Lewiston, Maine, and in St Louis Park, Minnesota

Amanda Holpuch | Monday, November 11th, 2019

[...] Nadia Mohamed, who like Khalid is 23 and a former refugee from Somalia, was also recovering from the onslaught of international attention she received after winning a seat on the city council in St Louis Park, Minnesota.

Mohamed asked her brother to see what people were saying online this week – which included a conspiracy that she doesn’t speak English (she does, perfectly) – but avoided examining the social media reaction herself. “It’s not worth my time,” Mohamed said, reveling instead in how great it felt to have won the election.

After living in countries where the majority of people were black until she was 10, it took some time for Mohamed to get used to being somewhere where her race, ethnicity and Muslim faith put her into boxes she hadn’t realized existed before.

“It didn’t sit well with me that I felt like a visitor, so I started doing community engagement,” Mohamed said.

For the past three years, she has been working on the St Louis Park police department’s Multicultural Advisory Committee (Mac) to improve relations between different communities in the city.

It was through this community-building work that she met Thom Miller, whose seat she is taking on the city council. Mohamed said Miller asked her for help to find a more diverse candidate to take his seat on the all-white city council. Mohamed spent two weeks thinking about people who could be a good fit until it clicked: she could run.

“I went back with 1,001 questions,” Mohamed said. “I’m like: ‘Listen, I’m thinking of running, but am I too young? I am still in school – is that going to get in the middle of my education? What’s going to happen?’”

She said Miller told her to relax and focus on the community.

With the same energy and enthusiasm she used while hosting Iftar dinners to help community members better understand Islam, Mohamed began knocking on doors, asking people what they wanted from their city council.

“It really gave me a sense of home,” Mohamed said. “I have pretty much knocked on every door in the city.”



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