For over 40 years Larry Long worked in communities throughout the United States honoring over one-thousand elders through his program Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song.
Two years ago his alma mater, St. Louis Park Schools, contracted Larry to assist in integrating Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song into their curriculum.
One of the elders they honored was Nadia Mohamed, subsequently elected mayor of St. Louis Park, becoming the first elected Somali American immigrant in the US to serve as mayor in any state.
Here is a portion of the words she shared with 4th grade students in the St. Louis Park Schools. In response, the students then honored Ms. Mohamed and other community elders with a song and celebration.
“I am Somalian American. That means I come from Africa. I’ve been here for about 15 years. I graduated from the high school, and I have a twin brother, which is a pretty cool thing. I have a little brother, a little sister, and one older brother. So in total we are a family of seven including my two parents. . .We all grew up in St. Louis Park. . . it was pretty difficult for me because there wasn’t a lot of kids that looked like me. And there weren’t kids that were dressed like me. When I say dressed like me, as you guys can tell, I wear a longer skirt, right? And I wear a hijab. . . or a scarf.
There are a lot of times where I didn’t feel like the things that were being done around me were right. So, I think I waited up until like college to start talking. That’s when I found my voice, I started going to community events. I actually went to Susan Lindgren. . .to their parent-teacher committee. . I had conversations with them about how to be more inclusive with their students, with parents of color, and just kind of having those conversations and going to those community events, my voice got louder and louder and louder. Then I won a human rights award from the city, which is just basically saying that you fight for, or you advocate for human rights. Right?
After I won the human rights award, the council member before me reached out. . . you should run for office. . . at the time, I think the only person of color . . . in a position of an elected official was Barak Obama. . .
So, when you come from a different country, especially from Somalia, it is so different from America, right? Our grocery stores are like fresh markets. Everything is outside. Our fruits are outside, our meats. Everything is just fresh. There’s no like frozen stuff. I don’t know if you guys know this, but the main reason why a lot of people moved away from Somalia, because there was a war that broke out.
There was no school systems set up. There was no health system set up, a lot of the things that we had that made us a successful country, we lost during the war. So, a lot of people were like my children, needing a better future. They need to get an education. They need to do better than I am. I can’t keep being afraid for my life.
Be kind to yourself as much as you are kind to others. And truly and actually believe in yourself that you can quite literally do anything.”