Twin Cities Somali advocacy group names new leader

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Minneapolis social studies teacher who once served as a chief of staff to a Somali president has been appointed director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul.

Dahir Mirreh Jibreel, 56, replaces Omar Jamal, who has taken a job with the Permanent Mission of the Somali Republic to the United Nations in New York City.

Jibreel will begin work immediately.

The Somali Justice Advocacy Center is a non-profit organization whose primary role is to advocate for the local Somali community "on a variety of issues," Jibreel said.

He takes over as Minneapolis police continue to investigate last week's triple homicide, in which two of the victims were Somalis and the two suspects arrested over the weekend are believed to be Somalis.

An estimated 50,000 to 75,000 Somalis live in the Twin Cities area, making it home to the largest concentration of Somali immigrants in the U.S.

"We will start our own mission and our own program and our own goals for the organization and we will start fresh," Jibreel said.

Jibreel, a married father of 11 children who lives in Otsego, Minn., is employed by the Lighthouse Academy of Nations charter school in Minneapolis.

Jibreel said he came to the U.S. from Somalia in 1995 and worked as a substitute teacher in Virginia in 1997 before moving to Minneapolis, where he was employed as a social studies teacher at Edison High School through 2004.

Later that year, he returned to East Africa after he was appointed chief of staff to the president for Somalia's interim government.

He returned to Minnesota two years later and worked as a part-time social studies and elementary teacher in Edina before taking his current job.

Jibreel on Monday praised the work of Jamal, 37, who had been director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center since 2005, saying he "has done an excellent job for our community."

Jamal leaves Monday for New York, where he will begin work as first secretary to Somalia's ambassador to the United Nations.

He said he plans on commuting between cities until he can move his family to New York.

"I wish the Somali community the best luck in Minnesota and I hope that tomorrow will always be better," Jamal said. "They have suffered more than their share, both in Somalia and here, in trying to live the American dream. I hope the best days are yet to come for the community."

Richard Meryhew •               612-673-4425         612-673-4425

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