Speaking Out Microgrant
Ayeeyo Childcare Center is a Somali-American family’s business. Ayeeyo staff and students expressed a desire to work with Speaking Out to create workshops that use storytelling and acting to center Somali stories, language and culture.
Leyla Suleiman (Minneapolis, MN) Leyla is a first year educator, author in the Crossroads: Somali Youth Anthology, and was a panelist for the Community Partner Fund and is also serving in the immigrant cultural heritage panel. She is Somali.
Hibaq Mohamed (Minneapolis, MN) – Hibaq is an MHC Increase Engagement facilitator, author in the Crossroads: Somali Youth Anthology, and is also serving in the immigrant cultural heritage panel. She is Somali.
Nasra Farah (St. Cloud, MN) – Nasrah is a board member and featured speaker through the activist/advocacy organization #unitecloud. She is Somali.
Minnesota Humanities Center
$850,000 the first year and $850,000 the second year are for a competitive grants program to provide grants to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Minnesota.
(2) Of this amount, $250,000 the first year is for a grant to one or more community organizations that provide arts and cultural heritage programming celebrating Somali heritage.
Our primary goal for this project is to support Ayeeyo children in reconnecting with and retaining Somali cultural tales. Somali people have always passed down tales through the art of oral storytelling. These tales are told not only to entertain but also to teach lessons. Although many of the families whose children attend Ayeeyo may no longer live in Somalia, the center seeks to carry on cultural traditions as well as introduce new experiences. Ayeeyo staff and students expressed a desire to work with Speaking Out to create workshops that use storytelling and acting to center Somali stories, language and culture.
Through this project, both Speaking Out and Ayeeyo have a shared vision of success we want to achieve. We want the children at Ayeeyo to have a deeper understanding of their cultural narrative and identity. For other non-Somali Minnesotans, we want community members to learn more about their neighbors’ history and backgrounds.
Our proposed activities include:
- 20 sessions with 2 teaching artists/session at Ayeeyo which will include children listening to staff and teaching artists tell Somali cultural tales. Then, with support, students will retell them and act them out.
- Children will create their own theatrical retelling and will work with artists to make sets, props and costumes based on the Somali tales they heard.
- Children will share their Somali stories at a community celebration which will be planned in collaboration with Ayeeyo center directors and the children
- We will work with Suad and Raqiya at Ayeeyo to explore and determine who should be invited from the community and if there can be additional performances at local community spaces around the metro area.
For a project like this, success looks messy. Success looks like creating a space where people of many ages come together to listen to each other, to disagree, to find inspiration in art and practice enacting change. We acknowledge that there are varied learning styles and levels of comfort when sharing ideas in front of a crowd and have therefore built in many different ways to participate in this event: watching the show, writing responses to open questions, sharing ideas verbally after the performance, embodying ideas by enacting them, participating in art-making activities as well as more casual discussion with food. Success looks like varied levels of participation by a variety of demographics (age, race, socio-economic status and gender).
Despite the long interruption in delivery of the activities, all of the goals for this grant were met. Through interviewing site staff, we learned that the center felt like our partnership was once again a great success.
Artists visited the center and held sessions that contained theatre and community-building games, storytelling, acting and puppet making. The children and staff loved the games and stories. In addition to telling cultural tales, teaching artists took theatre games and adapted them to Somali culture. For example, a theatre game originally called Grandmother’s Footsteps became Ayeeyo’s Footsteps - Ayeeyo means grandmother in Somali, and elders are revered in Somali culture. The children added chants to the game like, “Ayeeyo sees everything,” and the goal of the game was to reach Ayeeyo first.
We found that some of the students were familiar with different versions of the cultural tales, and welcomed their tellings and sharing of the variations. The children were excited to share the versions that they knew and were proud to be the experts in the room. The sessions culminated in a final celebration with the community where we all shared a Somali meal.