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NEWSWEEK: A Dying American Town is Revived by Somalis

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The Refugees Who Saved Lewiston

A dying Maine mill town gets a fresh burst of energy.




Barely a decade ago, Lewiston, Maine, was dying. The once bustling mill town's population had been shrinking since the 1970s; most jobs had vanished long before, and residents (those who hadn't already fled) called the decaying center of town "the combat zone." That was before a family of Somali refugees discovered Lewiston in 2001 and began spreading the word to immigrant friends and relatives that housing was cheap and it looked like a good place to build new lives and raise children in peace. Since then, the place has been transformed. Per capita income has soared, and crime rates have dropped. In 2004, Inc. magazine named Lewiston one of the best places to do business in America, and in 2007, it was named an "All-America City" by the National Civic League, the first time any town in Maine had received that honor in roughly 40 years. "No one could have dreamed this," says Chip Morrison, the local Chamber of Commerce president. "Not even me, and I'm an optimist."



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Libaax, niyada maa la iksu dhisaa, niyahow rabsho socoto weeye Soomaalidu



That was good read, I think one other example is also San Diago, Somalis transformed that city as well but no one menioned it.



We would hear Somalis running for American Presidence in the future.

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Good read indeed, I remember reading those whites complaining about somali's years ago, now they should be thanking somali's for transforming their city.


if one somali family moves to a city and it's good, within months, the place is filled with somali's.

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Nuune, dhibka jooji. Atleast this time we are not "ruining" towns. :D


Somalis in Lewiston, Maine



Members of Lewiston's Somali community gathered last summer for the opening of the Red Sea Restaurant. Photo by Keith Ludden.





Jose Leiva/Sun Journal A group of teens from the Somali Community in Lewiston will participating in a Somali fashion show featuring some of their traditional dress pictured from left front, Hawo Abdille 18, Muna Hussein 16 back from left Kaltuma Janay 16 ,Hibaq Mohamed 16, Shamis Yonis 16 and Mulki Yonis 18.

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More pictures from the Somalis in Lewiston, Maine















LEWISTON - To show the difference between a hijab (head covering) and a jilbab (coat) and why they wear them, a group of Edward Little and Lewiston high school students are hosting a Somali fashion show.


The show is to help bridge community cultures with something everyone, especially females, can relate to - fashion.


The show is titled "Fashions from the Horn of Africa" and will be held May 16 at the Great Falls Performing Arts Center in Auburn. Helping the girls put the show together is Cara Gaumont, outreach coordinator with the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence.


The teens will model and explain what they wear, which ranges from traditional to modern to ultrafeminine special occasion outfits. During an editorial board meeting with the Sun Journal, nine high school students said their style of dress reflects their individuality, religion and pride in being a Muslim.


"We wear it because it's part of our religion. It's also who we are," said Muna Hussein, 17. "It shows us as individual persons."


Some assume Somali girls and women are forced to cover up in a male-dominated culture. "It's not like that," Hussein insisted. Some wear hijabs, some don't. It's an individual choice, she said. "The ones who do, it's part of their religion."


Wearing an olive green hijab that matched her stylish sweater, Naimo Abdirahman, 17, said she dresses the way she does "because I want to. My mom is not forcing me. ... It makes me happy. I can look at myself and say I'm a Muslim girl."


The style is tradition, said Mulki Yoni, 18. "It's something we grew up wearing, basically. You cover your hair, you wear a skirt." She agreed it's up to individual females to decide what to wear.


The girls pointed out they wear hijabs in different ways that give them unique looks. With some, necks and hair are completely covered, others partially. Some completely cover their arms, others wear short sleeves. Their outfits represented a mix of the modern and traditional: hijabs with collegiate sweatshirts over skirts, pretty tops in blue and prints with matching skirts, hijabs over fashionable shirts and blue jeans.


Some people don't understand their dress "and have problems with it," said Kaltuma Janay, 16.


At her high school recently, another girl was ordered to take her bandanna off her head. That girl asked why Janay could wear a hijab in school while she had to take off her bandanna.


"She asked how it was different," Janay said. "We explained this is part of our religion. She understood it later on, but there's a lot of people who don't come up to you and make assumptions," Janay said. "Hopefully by doing this fashion show they will know why we wear it."


The girls explained their Somali culture and Muslim religion are connected, that they literally wear some of their religious beliefs. While western girls show off their figures with today's fashion, Muslim women believe in modesty, the girls said.


The most conservative dress allows only hands and faces to be exposed. Their outer beauty remains hidden so when interacting with people, what others focus on is not their looks, but them as individuals.


The Muslim belief is that a woman's neck and hair "is part of your beauty. Nobody's allowed to see your beauty besides our husband," Janay said. "It's something that's yours."


Skirts are musts for Somali females, she said. The culture teaches that "women should look different than a man."


Many Somali parents are strict and insist on a certain conduct and dress until a certain age. Once a girl reaches 15 or 16, what to wear is typically her call, the girls said.


"There's no point if someone's making you," Janay said. "We believe that God knows how you're thinking. He knows if you're wearing it for yourself or someone else," she said. It's important to understand and want to wear the style, she added.


Walking in a crowd, a Somali female will be automatically picked out. How they look gives them a sense of ethnic pride, said Shamis Yonis, 16. "Everyone can tell you're a Muslim."


Suggested donations to attend the May 16 show will be $2 to $5. Proceeds will benefit the United Somali Women of Maine, a local nonprofit organization that helps immigrant women in the community.


For more information, e-mail culturalfashionshow@gmail, or phone Cara Gaumont at 753-6676.


Those who want to learn what the Center for Prevention of Hate Violence does are invited to a presentation at the Androscoggin Chamber of Commerce at 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, at 415 Lisbon St., Lewiston.

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Mashallah this news makes me happy walahi, even more then that I love the pictures of the sisters all together with graceful smiles and pride. Kudos to reer Maine. ;)

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It’s a positive review of the Somali community.I remember once a conservative radio station in Atlanta telling his listeners that most of the Somalis who moved up there to Lewiston were from Atlanta and Minnesota and that they are like ants invading every corner where there is a welfare!

From personal observation of a close family friend who moved up there with their kids it seems like their kids are doing well and attending now great northern Universities like Smith College and University of Chicago! I think for those people who have kids it’s a great place to let your kids attend high school there and apply to this well respected Colleges in the north!

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This is a good news and communities such as these tend to produce higher achiever because let's face it we have competitive edges...And when you are brought up in a small community, everyone knows everyone else directly or indirectly, you are always pitted against your peers therefore more like to similar in their pursuit.


Ps. Libaax does it still seem though more girls are standing out in lewiston maine than boys!!

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Isn't this city the same city that their so called "mayor" discouraged Somalis to move in?

I beleive so


Good news for us all

hope we can make positive changes to everywhere we inhabit including our Motherland



AP) Hundreds of people marched Sunday in support of Somali immigrants in Maine's second-largest city, where the mayor earlier this month asked Somalis in an open letter to discourage friends and relatives from moving there for fear of straining the city's services.


Police said about 250 people participated in a five-block walk from a Methodist church to a mosque where many of Lewiston's Somalis worship. Some gave speeches expressing solidarity with the new arrivals.


"We are one people, we are one community," said Mohammed Abdi, a Somali elder. The United States "is a country made up of immigrants, and one immigrant group came before another. And the Somalis just happened to come ... now."


Abdi was one of several local Somali leaders who met with Mayor Larry Raymond on Friday following Raymond's release of an open letter in which he warned of a strain on resources if more Somalis move to the city of 36,000.


The letter said Lewiston, where more than 1,000 Somalis have settled in 18 months, cannot continue receiving newcomers "without negative results for all."


"We have been overwhelmed and have responded valiantly. Now we need breathing room. Our city is maxed-out financially, physically and emotionally," he wrote.


City officials estimate that about half of the 412 Somali adults living in Lewiston have found work, but some are receiving public assistance.


Somali elders called Raymond an "ill-informed leader" and said he should have sought a private meeting with them instead.


The mayor said in a statement Friday that his letter was misunderstood. He added that he was particularly troubled that Somalis viewed the letter as an attempt to foment tension.


Two protesters stood along the march route Sunday, one holding a sign that said, "How long will it take before Lewiston is like Somalia?"


But Adbi said the long-term Lewiston residents who marched in solidarity with the Somalis outnumbered the immigrants 3 to 1.

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