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Somali Independence Day Festival this weekend

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Organization Ka Joog hopes to showcase all the beautiful aspects of Somali culture with a celebration of Somali Independence Day this weekend. The day, filled with food, sports, arts, and entertainment, is aimed both at the Somali community of the Twin Cities, which is the largest in the United States, as well as non-Somalis interested in learning about the culture. 

Ka Joog, which provides educational and cultural opportunities for Somali youth, has been running the Somali Independence Day celebration for three years, after taking over from the Federation of Somali Community in Minnesota. Abdimalik Mohamed, who does communications in addition to working with youth through Ka Joog's 4-H program, says the organization expects as many as 20,000 people to show up for the celebration. 

This weekend marks the 55th independence festival of Somalia, though the celebration happens a bit earlier than the actual anniversary, which is July 1.

"It's our July 4th," Mohamed says. That's because July 1 is during Ramadan, when the majority of the population, who are Muslim, are fasting during the day. 

This Saturday's festival includes a youth sports section and an area dedicated to health and wellness. The general theme of the day is "education and community ties," and there will be plenty of kids' activities such as pony rides. 

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There's also a strong focus on Somali culture, with traditional dancing, music, and art, plus delicious food available from local restaurants. A traditional hut will be on display in the community village. 

"This is our way of showcasing who we are to change the narrative of what people think of Somali people," Mohamed says. "We are very peaceful, very loving. We are very much people that are cultured." 

In addition to welcoming non-Somali people to come and learn about Somali culture, Mohamed says the the festival is also aimed at Somali youth, many of whom have grown up in the United States.

"We want to show them that they come from a very beautiful culture," Mohamed says. Hopefully, the festival helps young Somali people establish a sense of identity and where they come from. "What we are saying is: You are Somali American; you have the the best of both worlds."

IF YOU GO:

Somali Independence Day Festival

Saturday, June 13, from 1 to 8 p.m.

Lake Street between Blaisdell and Grand Avenues