Minnesota is home to over 100,000 (est.) Muslim people from various backgrounds and traditions. While some are emerging as social, political, and business leaders, the majority of Somali Muslims suffer from various experiences of oppression, including 63% poverty rate, racism and Islamophobia, health inequality and unemployment. These experiences create unhealthy and unsustainable living conditions. This situation needed the ummah (ummah is Arabic for community).
The Beginning of the Ummah Project
In response to these experiences of oppression, a young refugee Somali American Muslim woman named Saciido Shaie cofounded a nonprofit organization called Somali Youth Action of Minnesota in 2007 (renamed “Ummah Project”). The Ummah Project formed an interfaith and multicultural leadership board whose initial work was to understand the real causes of ill-health, discrimination and violence here in Minnesota.
What we have learned
From our initial work, we learned that there are very few health and justice programs or resources in Minnesota that are culturally and religiously appropriate for Somali Muslim communities. For example, there are no health and wellness facilities consistent with Islamic ethics, nor are there enough community centers or programs that empower Somali Muslims.
- Minnesota is home to over 100,000 (est.) Muslim people from various backgrounds and traditions. While some are emerging as social, political and business leaders, the majority of Muslims in Minnesota suffer from experiences of oppression including 63% poverty rate, last in health and wellness demographics, racism and Islamophobia and unemployment. These experiences create unhealthy conditions, especially as it relates to ill-health, discrimination and violence.
In response to these experiences of oppression, a young refugee Somali American Muslim woman named Saciido Shaie co-founded a non-profit organization called Somali Youth Action of Minnesota in 2007 (renamed “Ummah Project”). The growing injustices as well as the increasing violence, ill-health and disappearances of Muslim youth needed a community response. The Ummah Project (ummah is Arabic for community) formed an interfaith leadership board whose initial work was to listen to grassroots people to determine the real causes of ill-health, discrimination and violence here in Minnesota. At the same time, the City of Minneapolis issued their 2008 “Blueprint for Action: Preventing Youth Violence in Minneapolis” and the Department of Homeland Security increased their counter-terrorism in Minneapolis.
From their initial work, the Ummah Project learned that there are very few health and justice programs or resources in Minnesota that are culturally and religiously appropriate for Muslim communities. For example, there are no health and wellness facilities consistent with Islamic ethics, nor are there enough community centers welcoming to Muslim people. This can sometimes force people to choose between practicing their religion and healthy living. In response to these findings, the Ummah Project worked closely with Muslim and non-Muslim leaders, and with grant money from LISC, Mortenson Construction and Perkins and Will Architect, created blueprints and cost estimates for building a truly unique Health and Recreation Center in Minneapolis that would be consistent with Islamic ethics and inviting to Muslims and non-Muslims. This Ummah Center would be a place of empowerment for Muslim and non-Muslim people to increase health and recreation, build social relationships, access educational resources, find jobs and, in general, be a symbol of Minnesota as a just and welcoming place for Muslim people. For example, the Ummah Center would have gender-specific pools and facilities so that Muslim women can exercise in a female-only environment, building their health and autonomy. The response from community members, non-profit organizations, city, state and federal leaders about the Ummah Center has been extremely positive; unfortunately, with the recent 2009 Recession and high poverty and unemployment rates in Muslim communities, the Ummah Center has yet to be built. The blueprints and estimated costs appear on this website.
In addition to raising money for the Ummah Center, the Ummah Project is involved in a number of current programs and initiatives while in partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota. For example, in 2015, the Ummah Project has partnered with the City of Minneapolis to create a Somali Youth Future Leaders program designed to build knowledge, skills and social power for Somali youth. Currently, Saciido Shaie is a member of the Minnesota Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, the Minneapolis Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission and sits on the steering committee for the Parent Leadership for Child Safety and Permanency with the Minnesota Department of Human Services and Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota. Through these trusting relationships and many others, we look forward to building new programs in line with the mission and values of the Ummah Project and the Ummah Center. We invite you to join with us as well.
- Perkins and Will Architect: donation of $32,000 for design plans for Muslim Youth and Recreation Center (MYRC)
- Mortenson Construction: donation of $25,000 for budget estimates for MYRC
- Established working relationships with the mayor’s office, local mosques, local and national Somali and Muslim organizations and Keith Ellison’s office.
- LISC: granted $5,000 to hire a “WEBSITE” Builder
- Hired Stylefish , a Web-site developer organization to build a Website for Ummah Wellness Project
- Solomon Porch as a Fiscal Agent
- Ramadan Dinner collaborating with the U Of M Muslim Student Association
- Henna Fundraising at MCTC Muslim Student Association
- Ummah Wellness Center Introduction night with Rep. Keith Ellison and members of the Somali Community and other non-profit organizations
- Engaging in Somali youth Organizations such as KAJOOG and SYL
- introducing the project to the States Cultural Ethnic Communities Leadership Council: http://www.dhs.state.mn.us/CulturalEthnicLeadershipCouncil
- Adding the council’s recommendations to the Commissioner of the DHS to create a gender specific fitness programs for the Somali/Muslim population of the state of Minnesota
- Apr 22, 2015 H. F. No. 2086: 2015 - 2016 Regular Session:Short Description: Ummah Project, Inc. funding provided for a workforce development, crime prevention, and leadership skill building pilot program for Somali youth; and money appropriated.
- On Mar 25, 2015 in the Senate: MN - SF1978: UMMAH Project, Inc.workforce development, crime prevention and leadership skill building program appropriation
- An amendment sponsored by Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls) to appropriate $200,000 to the UMMAH Project, Inc. for Somali youth development and crime prevention.It was added to the Omnibus Jobs and Energy Bill
- Collaborated with City of Minneapolis in creation of a SYFL (SOMALI YOUTH FUTURE LEADERS)project
- SALAM PROJECT in collaboration with CMRS
- Perkins and Will Architect: donation of $32,000 for design plans for Ummah Center
- Mortenson Construction: donation of $25,000 for budget estimates for Ummah Center
- 2015: Partnership Grant with the Minnesota Department of Health, the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Community and Technical College Foundation to establish the Somali Youth Future Leaders program for 8 Somali youth (18-24)
- 2016: Partnership Grant with Community Mediation and Restorative Services to establish the Somali American Leaders and Mediators (SALAM) program for 10 Somali youth (18-25)