More than 500 people gathered in Minneapolis' Loring Park on Sunday to chat and enjoy free Somali food as part of Sambusa Sunday, an event organized by the Coalition of Somali American Leaders to thank Minnesotans for their support in the days since the election of Donald Trump as president, which has been frightening for many Somali-Americans.
"We wanted to extend … our appreciation to the average Minnesotan who reinforced the oneness of Minnesota," said Hamse Warfa, who helped launch the group.
"We organized this event because of what happened Tuesday night with the election results," said Asad Aliweyd, executive director of the New American Academy, one of eight organizations comprising the Coalition of Somali American Leaders. "The Somali community has had a lot of racism, a lot of negative things at schools, in the workplace."
Minnesota and other states have seen dozens of incidents of anti-immigrant and racist expression since last Tuesday, with the Southern Poverty Law Center reporting that it has tallied more than 200 such reports nationally.
Jibril Afyare, president of the Somali American Citizens League, said he's explained to older Somalis that they will not be deported. Sunday's event "will reassure the community we are one," Afyare said.
The event was also supported by the Minneapolis Foundation. R.T. Rybak, former Minneapolis mayor and the foundation's executive director, helped hand out hundreds of sambusas, fried meat- or vegetable-filled pastries. Attendees also drank complimentary chai tea. "It's not a political statement, it's a statement of who we are as people," Rybak said of the event.
Sambusa Sunday took shape Friday when Somali leaders met with Minneapolis Foundation members. There was "deep concern" about the future, Rybak said, but also "deep gratitude" for the support Minnesotans have shown so far.
Word spread on Facebook, where 2,300 people expressed interest in the event.
Thousands of Minnesotans opposed Trump's election Thursday night in a protest that included blocking Interstate 94 in Minneapolis. They shouted messages such as "Refugees are welcome here."
Minnesotans have also sent supportive e-mails and volunteered to help Somali organizations, Warfa said.
Cathy Engel came to Loring Park from Maplewood because she was "saddened and scared" about the election results.
Since last week, she's made a point to say hello to some Somali men who gather in a coffee shop near her house, and she said they responded warmly.
Nick Voss was at the anti-Trump protest Thursday night and showed up Sunday to "show support rather than just dissent."
"It will be interesting to see if these kinds of events continue because I think they're really important," he said. "They're kind of another way for us to vote."