West Bank Athletic Club Microgrant
Soccer is important to Somali culture and the most popular sport in Somalia. The proposed activity is our 11th annual Thanksgiving tournament. In order to make the popular tournament a more holistic community event, we will incorporate Somali singers and poets into the soccer tournament program.
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.
The goals of West Bank Athletic Club’s programming and our year-round tournaments are:
- Provide a platform for Somali youth to build teamwork and feel a sense of belonging and purpose
- Build the knowledge, skills, values and motivation of Somali youth to make a difference in civic life
- Strengthen our community by facilitating community connections and social cohesion
- Celebrate Somali culture and increase understanding across cultures
West Bank Athletic Club aims to help more youth in our community feel a sense of belonging, have opportunities to build leadership and other skills, and have the support they need to succeed. We hope that through soccer and soccer tournaments, we can build community connections both within and between communities and cultures.
As proposed, we hosted a 7-day soccer tournament that engaged 16 teams of Somali youth from Minnesota and across the country. Our application proposed a Thanksgiving (2019) tournament that would incorporate Somali poets and singers. Because of the short timeline in proximity of fund notification, we adjusted the dates of our proposed project to take place in Spring, 2020 by hosting a Spring break tournament. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and facility closures, we had to push the funded project to Summer 2020 so we could access open facilities and host activities outside. We thus hosted a tournament from August 3rd through 9th, 2020. The tournament hosted 16 teams from the following states:
8 - Minnesota,
2- Lewiston, Maine
1- Denver, CO
1- Syracuse, New York
2- Grand Forks, ND
1- Seattle, WA
1- Louisville, Kentucky
There were approximately 30 players per team, totaling 480 young people. We hosted 31 games over seven days. The tournament took place at six Different Locations including Kennedy High School in Bloomington, Jefferson High School in Bloomington, Como Park in St. Paul, and fields in Woodbury, at Fort Snelling, and in Minnetonka. We also hosted a Somali DJ who played Somali songs for two days during the tournament and a Somali singer, Hussein Shaqi, who performed to closeout the tournament.
The tournament provided an opportunity for teams to connect with each other and with other Somali and non-Somali youth throughout the state and the county, in particular during a time when individuals and youth are struggling with isolation. After stay at home orders, young people are looking more than ever for community and connections. The tournament and Festival provided a safe way to do that (because it was primarily outdoors, not in close quarters, and without a large audience). The youth were able to engage with and celebrate Somali culture by playing soccer and experiencing Somali music.
Covid-19 made it difficult if not impossible - and unsafe - to engage Somali and non-Somali audience members. The project did build understanding across cultures among others involved, including Coaches, referees, staff of the various venues, and the players. We are also seeing the participating teams in our regular tournaments diversify from exclusively Somali youth to include youth from other racial and ethnic backgrounds.