Hana Samawe is an MA Mathematics Education student at UCL. This article originally appeared in The Pen, The Aziz’s Foundation’s scholars blog:
I am Black. I am Somali. I am a Muslim. I am a Woman.
The complexities of having a multi-faceted identity which can be summed under one title — “Somali Woman” — are many.
As a young child, I was no stranger to exploring Somali culture. My parents felt it was important to instil a strong sense of identity in me and my siblings. It wasn’t rare for us to learn about their experiences of the Civil War in 1991 that eventually led to the formation of Somaliland. Through these conversations, I learnt more of my language, proverbs, traditions and customs.
However, nothing quite compares to visiting a land which belongs to you, a land which is your home. I was fortunate to visit Somaliland a handful of times as I was growing up and even as an adult. These visits, whilst brief at times, deepened my sense of identity, strengthened my confidence and self-esteem and brought me comfort and security.
Black History Month is a month where Blackness is more celebrated, honoured and represented. In primary school, I vividly remember October notably being the month where we felt pride in learning about famous Black individuals, such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Mary-Jane Seacole.
But what about the more contemporary Black successes living in my time?
Living in the UK, Black British people are largely misrepresented or ignored in the global conversation of Black change makers. Even more so, within the Black British community, Somalis are often overlooked. The Somali community have regularly been a victim to negative representation in the media. This is no secret. The social exclusion was rife because, although we were categorised as Black and Muslim, we would never see a poster Somali person as a representation for either categories.
Instead, Somalis were painted with negative connotations such as piracy, knife crime, violence, poverty and unemployment. All this added fuel to the unconscious and conscious biases towards Somalis. As a teenager, my only role model who I identified with the most on many aspects was my older cousin, Amina. Even though she was only a year older than me, I truly felt like she inspired me and gave me a path to follow. This was opposite to the image the media was painting of Somali people. Even more imminent to me now as an adult is the importance of representation as this provides a more inclusive vision to follow.
However, this piece is about erasing those biases and bringing to light the excellent accomplishments of Somalis in respect of Black History Month.
Let’s talk about some of the excellent achievements members of the Somali community have been a part of. Let’s celebrate their trail-blazing efforts, their creativity and their work ethic in various fields.
Sports; Sir Mo Farah CBE (need I say more?), Ramla Ali, a gold medalist boxer and Jawahir Roble, a remarkable referee.
Councillors and MPs such as Hibaq Jama, Rakhia Ismail and Magid Magid.
In entertainment and media, Chunkz, Rageh Omaar and Maya Jama.
In the writing field, Warsan Shire, a famous poet, Nadira Mohamoud, an author and Hibaq Farah, an upcoming journalist for the Guardian.
This is just a handful and there are countless more. This is for those young Somali children and teenagers who need a role model. The young children who yearn for some sort of direction.
Undoubtedly, representation matters — representation encourages motivation and representation stimulates drive and aspirations.