Justice, Poetry and Love: Food for the Soul

by Ikram jama 
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I have lived in Ottawa since 1992 and despite the many challenges we face as a community one thing I have always loved about being a part of the Somali community in Ottawa is their spirit of activism. We are not perfect but we are known to come together on local issues, to organize at the grassroots level and to face local problems collectively. However, many of our community meetings are about difficult and sometimes heavy issues.

We often come together to find a solution for a particular challenge or to lobby for certain rights and services. While these gatherings are very useful and make me proud of the way we organize and advocate, I often secretly wished if we could come together and talk about literature, poetry, the good times in the old country and take a break from serious and difficult issues. This is not to say that we don’t gather to have fun at all, people enjoy weddings, and the youth have their own ways of enjoying themselves and the elderly also get together on happy occasions. But what was missing is coming together as a community, young and old, men and women to a cultural event that is relaxing, educating and fun – I wanted similar experiences to the ones I had when I was young. I often went to the National Theatre with my elders and enjoyed a wonderful play and that is where I learned a lot about Somali literature and culture.  So finally I participated in a memorable event thanks to Mohamed Ibraahim Warsame Hadraawi.

Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame (Hadraw) is considered by many to be the greatest living Somali poet.
A fundraising event was organized on November 21st in Ottawa and the guest of honor was Hadraawi. In this event we raised money for a good worthy cause, we collectively participated in a discussion about justice and discrimination in our communities back home, and we enjoyed a great presentation by Hadraawi about some of his work, and a discussion that included Cilmi Boodhari and love.

The mood around the room was relaxed, and you can see shy smiles on the faces of people of all ages when Hadraawi was talking about love. As a participant I was very happy that finally I could see a glimpse of the old days when we were joyful, when every gathering was not about struggle or political disagreements but about poetry, literature and yes love!

I encourage all of us to remember that in these often difficult times of migration, settlement and integration self-care is very important and perhaps we need more nights like the one described here to just take a break from our busy, hectic and issue-filled lives and talk about Cilmi Boodhari. Thank you Hadraawi for all that you did and still do for all of us.

Ikram jama 
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