Two Somali-Americans are vying for seats within the Maine legislature

If elected in November 2022, Mana Abdi of Lewiston and Deqa Dhalac of South Portland can be the primary Somali-Americans within the Maine House of Representatives.

AUGUSTA, Maine – For 26-year-old Mana Abdi, Lewiston has turn out to be a dwelling away from dwelling. She moved right here from Kansas greater than ten years in the past in 2009. Before that, her household lived in Kenya, the place they’d moved from Somalia to flee the civil warfare. It is a narrative that doesn’t lack adversity.

Abdi stated that when her household arrived in Kansas, she was most likely 11 or 12 years previous — primarily within the fifth grade. But she had not acquired correct education in Africa, and nobody in her household knew the right way to converse English. The tradition shock was additionally jarring, coming from a really “homogeneous” place like Kenya, as Abdi put it.

“It was really dark and very muted, if you will, because you can’t talk to anybody and you’re stuck with the four people you came with,” Abdi stated of the transfer.

She stated she discovered English throughout her first summer time within the United States, due to some pleasant neighbors who provided to tutor her.

“I took full advantage of it,” Abdi stated. “Like, every single hour I could possibly put in, I just studied every single day and was taught every single day.”

Abdi stated that when she returned to high school in the autumn, she may maintain a first rate dialog with fellow college students and academics. Still, there have been challenges.

She stated she was certainly one of the one college students of shade at the college in Kansas, and described it as a “boot camp” for Maine. She stated she additionally did not discover Maine faculties to be notably welcoming to immigrant college students.

It was her personal drive that introduced her to the University of Maine at Farmington, the place she graduated with a level in Political Science and International Global Studies in 2018.

Abdi stated she initially deliberate to main in biology, however modified her thoughts when she realized how she may make an influence in coverage work.

She stated that rising up, she typically needed to converse for her mom, who spent plenty of time sick within the hospital.

“You have to quickly learn self-advocacy really quickly,” Abdi stated. “One way or another, the system will force you to learn to speak for yourself and potentially those around you—especially if you’re someone who picked up the language fairly quickly.”

This November, Abdi will run for the Maine House District 95 seat. Last month, her Republican opponent dropped out of the race, that means she is now working unopposed.

While she would not take that standing as a right, she stated she’s excited in regards to the alternative to serve her group and work on points she cares about — like local weather change, training, well being care and housing.

“I think I owe [it to] them to appear as me, as prepared, as well versed in matters, and [with] just as much knowledge [as] I can win,” Abdi stated.

South Portland Mayor Deqa Dhalac can be working for a seat within the Maine House as a Democrat after making historical past earlier this yr by changing into the primary Somali-American mayor within the nation.

Mana Abdi (L) of Lewiston and Deqa Dhalac (R) of South Portland, two Mainers vying for seats within the Maine Legislature in November.

She cares about related points to Abdi and stated she thinks illustration is significant to make sure individuals’s wants are met.

“We need people like myself who represent a whole different community to sit in the state legislature so that we can represent all communities in our state,” Dhalac stated.

She stated she can be fascinated with altering the narrative that some individuals have about immigrants.

“Some people think we’re just here to collect welfare. We’re not. We’re not here to collect welfare,” Dhalac stated, later including, “We’re here to contribute to the economy, to work and to raise our children in a safe place.”

Dhalac stated she is impressed by younger Mainers like Abdi who’re getting into the political scene.

“Somebody needs to tell these young women, ‘You can do this,'” Dhalac stated. “If I can do it as an old lady who is an immigrant, who has an accent, who wears a hijab, who is black — if I can do it, it will be easy for you to do it.”

Current Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ryan Fecteau, is nicely versed within the candidacies of Abdi and Dhalac. He stated he understands the necessity for variety in one other method — via his household’s French-Canadian roots.

“My family came to Maine from Quebec in 1964,” stated Speaker Fecteau. “My father and my grandparents moved here to work in the textile mills right here in Biddeford.”

Speaker Fecteau stated Mainers face challenges collectively, no matter race, faith or ethnic background.

“These elections — the historic nature of them — will show Mainers across the state that we are stronger when we work together. We are stronger when we support each other. We are stronger when we embrace our differences,” Fecteau stated.

NEWS CENTER Maine additionally reached out to the Maine GOP Multicultural Community Center for remark. In an announcement, chairman Suheir Alaskari wrote:

“Mainers want change right now — regardless of their background. That’s the most important thing we’re hearing. We’re also talking to so many members of the community who feel they’re being ignored. Our outreach is empowering people to have a voice in the political process, and we welcome anyone who wants to come to the Multi-Cultural Center on Munjoy Hill. We offer job assistance and information about how American politics works, we help people register to vote, and more. We have seen wonderful interest and support from the local community and want to invite everyone to come along. From our perspective, it’s about people from all backgrounds working to improve their communities and their homeland of choice.”

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