First Somali Elected to Minneapolis City Council

Updated: 11/06/2013 11:42 PM By: Jennie Olson

Abdi Warsame
Abdi Warsame
Photo: Photo:

Walk into Daara Salam Grocery on 16th Avenue South in Minneapolis, and you can feel the excitement.

"That was a very exciting night last night because we made history," said store owner Abdirahman Ali.

Added Ali's nephew, Osman Abdi, "we're proud of him as a community and as East Africans."

They're talking about Abdi Warsame's big win. In a city with thousands of East Africans, Minneapolis now has its first Somali-American city council member.

"It's a small step, I don't want to exaggerate it, but it's a very important small step," explained Ahmed Samatar, a professor of international studies at Macalester College in St. Paul. He also ran for president in Somalia in 2012. He says Warsame's victory is huge for Somali-Americans.

"They can actually participate in an electoral process which is very competitive and win," said Samatar. He says it's also a big win for Minnesotans, who've created a context in which new citizens can participate in politics. "You can win here, and Abdi Warsame is a testament, I think, to that great American creed."

It turns out Samatar isn't the only one thinking along those lines. Warsame hasn't even been sworn in yet, and back at Daara Salam Grocery, at least one voter is already looking to the future.

As Ali put it, "maybe next time you can see the state senator [from a] Somali community and the governor and maybe you see more. And we are very happy to see it."