Not everyone is celebrating the result of Tuesday’s presidential election, but Donald Trump wasn’t the night's only winner.
In Minnesota, Ilhan Omar was elected for House District 60B. She will represent an area covering Cedar-Riverside, southeast Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota. She will also represent the East African migrant community that brings not only diversity but also hard work and enterprise to the state. Minnesota is home to over 2,000 businesses owned by entrepreneurs of African origin. The Somali community alone numbers over 70,000. As a former refugee forced to flee Somalia’s civil war as a child, Ilhan Omar knows what it means to start with nothing, build a life, serve a political apprenticeship and make a positive contribution to a community. And then seek election.
Working first as a Community Nutrition Educator with the University of Minnesota, Omar went on to serve as a Child Nutrition Outreach Coordinator and legislative campaign manager, all while raising a young family. Now thirty four years of age, she has worked her way up.
When Donald Trump made a final campaign stop in Minnesota on Sunday, he equated the state’s Somali immigrants with terrorists, telling his audience they had “suffered enough” from this problem. As if this election campaign needed another dose of irony, he was speaking at an airport which is made safe and secure partly by the hard work of the thousand or so Somalis employed there.
Negativity, even hostility, hasn’t deterred Ilhan Omar.
In her victory speech she promised to be a "voice for the marginalized". She promised to bring the voice of young people, women of the East African community and Muslim Americans.
And of young mothers seeking opportunities for themselves and their families. Omar’s husband and three children watched with pride as she savoured a moment she'd worked so hard for. And on a night of bitter disappointment for many women, many ethnic minorities and many who see immigration as a social and economic positive, the words of her ten year old daughter, Adnan, carried greater weight and hope for the future than all the blame and bluster we’ve seen elsewhere in 2016.
“That's my mom. She won.”