Fadumo Ali believed that Somali-Canadian journalist and activist Hodan Nalayeh had a message of hope and empowerment for women.
She had followed all of Nalayeh’s dispatches about Somalia on TV and social media, and drew inspiration from her frequent hashtag NaagIskaDhig (“be a strong woman”).
After Nalayeh was one of 26 people killed Friday in a terrorist attack by the extremist group al-Shabab, Ali is among many Somali-Americans in the Twin Cities who are determined to carry on Nalayeh’s legacy.
“People like her give us hope that we want to go back home and … develop our country, but always when we have that dream, [terrorists] shatter it,” said Ali, 37, of St. Paul. “I want to tell them one thing: … that is not going to stop us.”
She was one of several dozen people gathered at Safari Restaurant in Minneapolis to honor the memory of Nalayeh, who drew a large following in Minnesota and elsewhere for conveying the positive side of Somalia and presenting stories that went beyond the usual headlines of war and terrorism.
“She was a shining star for our community,” said Salma Barkad, a Minneapolis resident who said she was in her late 20s. “She was a brave woman and we were her audience.”
Her generation, Barkad said, left Somalia when they were young and remembered war and famine. Nalayeh “took that initiative to go home and broadcast the other side of Somalia. That’s what connected me personally with her.”
Siad Ali, Nalayeh’s cousin, said she was a role model.
“The media always reports negative stuff from Africa, unfortunately,” said Ali, director of the Minneapolis Board of Education. “She was doing the opposite of that … she was very much reporting the social life of the people.”
He also noted the significance of her reports being in English, given that many young people in the Somali diaspora are not proficient in their parents’ language.
Yahya Mohamed recalled meeting Nalayeh as a University of Minnesota student several years ago when Nalayeh attended a Shark Tank-style Somali startup pitch competition — she was a media partner through Integration TV, a platform she started that drew a sizable following on YouTube.
“It’s incredibly sad that the people that are really the light of the Somali community are being taken from us,” said Mohamed, a 22 year-old Minneapolis resident.
He added: “For people like myself or other young people that haven’t seen Somalia in a very long time or have never seen it, she was a lens for them to see Somalia.”
Ali said that al-Shabab’s attack would not discourage the community.
“We are going to continue her legacy. … We are not afraid of death,” she said.