Courtesy of Somali Youth United
Published 07.03.2014 Edition

Founded in 2004, Somali Youth United (SYU) strengthens and motivates the African youth to ensure they acquire the abilities and skills to participate fully in civic life. The organization brings different sects of the community together to bridge differences and pass on valuable lessons to future generations of new African Americans. Since their founding, they’ve initiated ten programs to influence and empower residents, particularly youth.

Somali American Culture Fest:

Each year, Somali Youth United, a non-profit organization, hosts this cultural event to unite the African refugee communities and the American community together. The aim of SACF is to create a bridge of understanding and break down cultural myths and stereotypes through food, dance, poetry and music.

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There are over 90,000 African immigrant residents in San Diego. Most came as refugees and today, these youth are eager to learn about their own history and why it was necessary for their elders to be uprooted from their native country and relocate in America. Likewise, many native San Diegans are not aware of the local traditions that the African immigrants practice, so in this manner, the event opens up mutual dialogue in a festive atmosphere among all residents while celebrating a historical moment for the Somali community. For the past ten years, Somali Youth United has hosted Somali American Culture Fest, with an emphasis on the culture and traditions of the Somalia people. These young Somali Americans need to be aware of their rich cultural history of arts, community, and traditional values. The Somali American Culture Fest provides this community with a sense of identity and pride, at the same time gives Americans throughout San Diego a new perspective into the diverse African lifestyle of the San Diego Community which includes Somalian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, South Sudanese, and Oromo American communities.

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Currently Somalia is going through a deadly violent war, mainly spurring from tribalism and religious radicals. The organization is aiming to discontinue this level of tension within the Somali community, and prevent it from resurfacing here; which is why the Somali American Cultural Festival is an opportunity for healing, acceptance, and unity while celebrating the Anniversary of Somali independence.
Public officials who recognize the importance of the festival and supported SYU’s efforts include City Councilmember Myrtle Cole, Marti Emerald, David Alvarez, Congresswoman Susan Davis, California State Assembly Speaker John a Perez, Assemblymember Marty Block. Community partners and organization such as Jacobs Center, Neighborhood Unity Foundation, UCSD Health Extension, San Diego Gas and Electric, California Endowment, and Wells Fargo make this wonderful event possible for the San Diego Community.

In its tenth successful year as an awareness-raising event for the San Diego community, over 1500 residents came out to celebrate a diverse African culture day, with traditional performance by the Somali, Somali Bantu, Ethiopian, Eritrean, and South Sudanese communities. Residents of San Diego were able to come out and enjoy a full afternoon of music, poetry, kid’s activities, dance, fashion show on Thursday, June 26, 2014 at the Jacobs Market Street Plaza from 3 pm to 8 pm.

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“Embrace the blending of American and Somali traditional culture. As thousands of Somali American children are born in as citizens of the U. S., it is time to show gratitude to America for giving us the freedom to live and work as equals in this great country.” Abdisalam Farah, President, Somali Youth United.

Photography by Charles Lundi

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