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The Ohio State Somali Student Association is hosting the first annual Somali Student Association National Conference this weekend.

The conference kicked off Friday night with a series of performances held in the Ohio Union including a fashion show, music and dance performances, poetry readings and a video sent from the Somali ambassador to the United States, Ahmed Isse Awad. The conference brought together SSA representatives from as many as 10 cities across the U.S. and Canada, as well as a collection of non-college students.

“We stemmed from feelings of disconnect between our community and between the youth,”said Suad Osman, president of the OSU SSA and third-year in neuroscience “We all have similar goals, we’re all wanting to help our community, but seeing this disconnect is definitely disheartening.”

Osman said the conference was a way to gather the Somali people in the United States and Canada together to start to bridge that disconnect.

“When you look throughout the world, starting with Somalia, the drought, the threat of war that’s been present for three decades, and so forth and so on, although there is great hope right now the work is remaining the same. It’s waiting for your generation,” said Abukar Arman, a Somali political analyst, writer and former diplomat. “You’re the generation that we’re counting on. And when I say that I’m not just talking about Somalia. Challenges are here, also, being in the United States.”

That Somali generation of young college students put on a performance that celebrated Somali culture, language and unity.

The first performance was the poet Edil Yousuf, president of the SSA at Mills College in Oakland, California. Yousef’s poem was followed by a comedic skit and a statement from Awad, the Somali Ambassador to the U.S.

“The youth is the future of Somalia, the future of everywhere and we encourage your initiative and we congratulate you,” Awad said.

The opening night also featured a fashion show with a mix between modern and traditional clothes from Somalia, said Hafsa Abdullahi, OSU SSA committee member and first-year in public health.

There was also a presentation from Urur Dhex-Dhexaad Ah, or Community In-Between, a community art project designed to engage and showcase the Columbus Somali community that also has a female empowerment component, according to their Facebook page.

“We, over the past few years, have interviewed and photographed over 15 people and, from those stories have created an exhibit and written a book, both of which are coming out in August,” said Ruth Smith, program coordinator of the Online Master’s in Art Education at OSU.

Both Hassan and Smith wrote the book, “Community In-Between / Urur Dhex-Dhexaad Ah: Portraits of Somali-Americans in Columbus.”

Other performances included Mohamed Warsame, otherwise known as Chowder the Poet, and the Somali Museum of Minnesota Dance Troupe, both of which brought the crowd to their feet to cheer or dance.

The final group to cross the stage in the Union was representatives from each Somali student association from across the U.S. and Canada.

“We hope tonight we were able to showcase the diversity of our unique Somali-American culture,” said Hamze Ahmed, vice president of the OSU SSA and third-year in public affairs. “I think we accomplished that tonight.”

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