Lul Abdulle is the leader of the Portland Somali Women's Association, which operates sewing classes and offers supplies to help give Somali women the ability to generate independent income. This organization offers a way for them to get together and discuss issues that are important to them.
Which community conversation or gathering did you attend?
I attended the one for the Somali community through The Somali American Council of Oregon (SACOO). We talked about a lot, but the first thing was about neighborhood involvement, which is not enough outreach for the City.
The first meeting we did attend through SACOO. The discussion was focused on many topics. Most importantly was knowing your neighbor and ways to engage as an individual and as a family. We agreed that there were not enough outreach activities focused on our community (Somali) from the City or the Office of Community & Civic Life.
What are some of the ways that you have already engaged with Portlanders?
I have engaged through the culturally appropriate workshops we created using small grants we received through neighborhood coalitions (Southeast Uplift, Central Northeast Neighbors, and Southwest Neighbors, Inc.). So we got these grants and then created sewing workshops—an activity that people like to do—during which we would bring a presenter from the city or a health clinic to talk about an issue that is important, such as domestic violence, the criminal justice system and ways to protect our children, and preventative health. That’s how we met Amanda Fritz.
Through our workshops, we participated for the first time with National Night Out and Neighborhood Watch activities, community policing officers and build relationship with Portland Police, and we also did a cultural awareness night about Somali culture by joining other presentations from other ethnic communities.
What do you want to make sure we include, that we don’t miss through this process?
There are a lot of things going on. No one has reached out to us in a culturally appropriate way, not even through schools. We have community-based organizations that have already built relationships and gained trust among our Somali people and city officials. We don’t want you to reach out to us through big organizations that are only open Monday through Fridays, who only make flyers and leaflets. If you want to reach us and include us in your process, reach out in a culturally appropriate way through our community-based organizations.
We need our community-based organizations to be funded and involved before events occur. Reach out where people in Somali community live and reach out through events and activities that people can be part of.
For example, currently everyone is talking about emergency preparedness. We are refugees and we know how to run, but we don’t know what we’re running from, how to swim, or where to run in case of emergencies. This is a very important topic that impact all Portlanders in their daily life. Reconsider your outreach method and include our community-based organizations first for education and training.
I want our voice to be heard from us, not just someone who Googled information. Like right now, you are talking to me, and I am talking to you. You are reaching out one on one and also by a group is better. Today, our children are educated, and they also speak English. We are professionals. No more translators from Google in between.
We also want to hear from you, not from a third party. This assures us that we are here, we've been noticed as part of this community, etc. Do not only reach out whenever there is a problem. Let us see you and know you ahead of time. We'll make positive changes together (City of Portland and Somali community).
What is civic engagement to you?
So far it is not clear to our community what this means because no one has reached out. We don’t know if we’re counted from your side or if we’re just living in your city. So our question to you is, do you notice us? How do you want to reach us? Could we follow up on the focus group you just started and make sure to compensate well the people you are collecting their thoughts, ideas, time, etc.? We also have mouths to feed.
Share your plan before you execute or implement, not at the last minute and after you already decided. We would like to be on the other side of the discussion table.