Homebound After 26 Years Away

On July 10th, 2019, I  stepped onto a plane to visit the land of my birth after being away from it for 26 years. 

My final leg of the trip was to travel from Addis Ababa to Mogadishu, and I  could hardly contain myself. This was also the shortest of my trips, so it was going to be over very quickly. I was so nervous, but I was also so excited. I  could hardly stay in my seat. When I saw a glimpse of the outline of the Somali coastline, I became undone. I rambled in English and Somali to my seatmate continuously asking,” Is that Somalia? Are we there already? Is that really Somalia?”

When we touched down, like any airplane, it took us awhile to get out, but when we did, the heat slapped me in the face. But I  didn’t even mind. I was at Aden Adde Airport. I was standing on Somali soil. It was unbelievable to me. I could hardly hide my excitement. My usual permanent smile was even more evident today. 

Finally in Somalia

Everyone who assisted us spoke in Somali. I  had never thought that I would be back in my homeland being assisted by Somali people speaking in Somali. It was surreal. 

I still remember how I felt when I saw so many Somali people in one place. I had never before seen that many Somali people in one place. It was the most surreal experience. Everywhere I heard Somali people speaking in Somali. It felt like I was in a dream. 

I still remember vividly how I felt when I touched down on Aden Adde Airport. Anigoo dan waan kala badbatay. OHMYGOODNESS. “I am really in Somalia. My feet are actually touching Somali soil. Am I dreaming? Am I really in the land of my birth? The land of my father’s and my mother’s birth? The land where my foremothers and forefathers were born and bred in? Oh my goodness! I am in Somalia!”

I was a rambling mess. I was smiling and talking so much- yes even more than I usually did. Everywhere I looked were Somali people. Every word I heard was Somali. I was asked for my passport in Somali. I was asked for my visa money in Somali. Speaking of that, though, because I had an American passport I had to get in the,”Ajnabi/Foreigner,” line – much to my dismay.

When I was getting my bag, the person assisting me was speaking Somali. I was so shocked. What did I expect? That’s it. I DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT. So everything was shocking. I was like a newborn baby experiencing everything for the first time.

Benadir Municipality with the one and only Dr. Hodan Ali


Casualties of the Truth

Not too long ago, I saw a post on Facebook which gave me a lot to ponder about.
Someone shared a reddit post about a young Somali man, a college student, who fell in love with an African American woman and presented the idea of marrying her to his Somali parents, who in turn threatened him with disownment, and isolation from his younger siblings if he went through with marrying this woman. Religion wasn’t the issue as the young woman converted to Islam. It was her ethnicity that was the issue. His Somali parents did not want him to marry an African American woman.

Based on my own experience of being in a relationship with an African American man, and having a child with him, and thus being disowned and isolated from my own siblings, this obviously hit very close to home.
As I read what his parents said to him about this young woman, I thought about what my father said about my own relationship and about my child ; his granchild. I struggle still with having a relationship with my father because of things said and done that caused our relationship to be broken, and incredibly difficult to repair.

As I relived fighting for my own child’s mental and emotional wellbeing in 1) a country with a historical and current race problem and 2) in an insular immigrant community with its own prejudices, and bigotry, I did what I do when I need to process things: I write about it.

And although, I have written about personal things before, this one gave me a hard time. I struggled with writing about this in a way that adequately honors my child, his personal story and identity but also challenges these archaic notions of who is a better and more superior human? How do I dismantle the,”them vs us,” mentality, this tribal mentality that exists among all humans for some reason? And how do I do it with while protecting my child?

I am still working on it, because I really don’t have the answers.

The Trauma of Dhaqan Celis

One day, I’ma tell y’all my dhaqan celis (direct translation: return to culture .A situation where children, born and or bred in Americas or European countries, are sent to their parents native land, or a close country if the native land is not a functioning state due to civil war, etc) story. ( Obviously, it didn’t work…hehehehe)
But on the real, though, it really wasn’t a joke. It was one of the most traumatic and defining experiences of my life.
Recovering from that has been a battle, and a half and I’m still not there.
Most Somali parents punish their kids with,”dhaqan celis.” Most of us haven’t lived in Somalia, or Kenya, ever or for a long time. So imagine being dumped in China or somewhere you don’t know the language, culture, or anything during adolescence, an already turbulent time?
The decent ones, usually mothers, go with their kids.
Some of us who have no mothers, or mothers who care, are dumped in a foreign country by ourselves and left to our own devices of how to deal with it, and numb the pain. Somehow.
Every day, I wonder, how I’m still alive. How I’m still fighting. How I’m still here.
Then I remember, I have a child to live for. He is my saving grace.
Damn. This is sending me back memory lane. I’m already experiencing second-hand PTSD from last night’s documentary about the horror “rehab center” in Eastleigh.
Anyways, I’ll tell y’all when I get my thoughts in order, and after speaking to a therapist. Whenever I go to dark places, the depression hits me tenfold, and I’m not able to function at all.
I just have too much on my plate right now to be incapacitated. Is there ever a time you’re ready to be incapacitated,tho? Not really. 
I’ve realized with our suffocating ceeb/xishood (shame) culture, there must be so many of us walking around as shells not ever able to process the trauma.
I can’t count the number of times, I’ve been told,”caadi iska dhig. Waxaas mar hore ayay dhacday. Iska iloow.” ( Act normal. That happened a long time ago. Forget about it). 
What part of,”one of the most traumatic and defining experiences,” do people not understand? You can’t fucking forget it. It’s always there. The pain is always there, and it never leaves you. You learn to live with it and somehow function as a “normal” human being that fulfills their responsibilities.
But some days, it just creeps up on you, and just destroys you for a few days/ maybe weeks, until you’re able to crawl, and then walk again.
I think I’m really tired of the silence surrounding so many social ills. I’m tired of it, and I don’t want to participate in the silence. Some days, I tell myself,” what good is it for you to talk about this? It messes you up, and you’re kaput for a few weeks. ” But I tell myself,” there must be someone also struggling with this. Someone, like me, who doesn’t have a mother or any family members who care about their pain. ” I want to reach that person to let them know,”I care. I’ve been there. I know how it feels.”
Someday, I’m going to have to dissect what is to be the only child of a woman who’s missing and no one knows wherever she is; whether she is dead or alive. Someday, I’ll have to confront how that part of my identity really shaped my life and the things that have happened to me.
Right now, I’m going to admit that that was one of the key reasons why I was sacrificed and dumped in a foreign land alone.

Fetishization, Revenge Porn, And Habo Ifka’s Talk to the Ladies

Any ajnabi who talks about how much they love Somali women should send alarm bells ringing in anyone’s head. That’s not love – that’s fetishization. Somali women are not a monolith.
This reminds me of a video I watched about Asian women talking about white men pursuing Asian women because they think they are,”docile and submissive.”
That’s my same suspicions about ajnabi who talk about their love of Somali women. I don’t know what you heard, but GTFOH all the way with your myopic view of us.
I’ve been hearing of one in particular who is preying on Somali women on social media, seducing them, and sharing intimate conversations and images with none other than Somali men . Btw, those Somali men are the weakest link in Somalinimo.
Part of me knows why those men gleefully revel in those images/videos. They believe any Somali women who has been with an ajnabi is tarnished goods i.e no longer valuable etc… They basically dehumanize us, so anything that happens to us is whatever to them.
I hope something terrible befalls on them, and I don’t care if that’s unkind of me. Your warped thinking is wrong and hurts women in many ways.
You know, I never thought I would be the one to say this; me who likes to see the best in people, and give everyone the benefit of doubt, but I’ve grown out of the naivete, and stupidity. I didn’t have a mother or a mother figure in my life so I had to learn everything the hard way, but basically, ladies, YOU CAN’T TRUST THESE MEN.
Let me tell you something.
Ladies, it’s a hard world out there for a woman. We’re sexualized and desexualized at the same time. You’re supposed to act like you’re not a sexual being, but apparently put out seriously behind a closed door (how f* sway?!) Our bodies are not even our own in this world. They’re constantly micromanaged, trespassed upon, and violated. Sometimes, I wonder what women really own in this world. It’s psychologically traumatizing to be on edge all the time. You can’t trust these men but, if you’re straight, at the same time you’re supposed to have romantic partnerships with them, marry them, have children with them, but still watch your back even when you’re married to them, coz marriage is not even enough for them to see us as human beings.
That’s enough to drive a person mad.
I have no answers, but just a suggestion. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit. Own your body, and continuously challenge anyone who even *tries* to trespass. Challenge everyone, even your loved ones. This warped thinking starts at home. At home, you’re taught what a,”good woman,” is supposed to be, and that a, “bad woman,” deserves all the bad things that happen to her. But we’re not taught the hierarchies in the world that devalue and dehumanize a person. We’re not taught about the ways women are continuously disrespected and dehumanized in society. They tell you the “qualities” of a good woman, but they don’t tell you that their love and respect for you is conditional, and you’re always one step away from being considered worthless, after all the basis for all of it is that,”you are but a woman.”
Remember that,”good girls,” the next time you want to slut-shame another girl. They don’t love you either. You’re only in their good graces (for now), because you follow the rules set by patriarchy to keep you in your place. You can stay there, forever at their whims, or you can fight along with us for ALL women to be free, and have autonomy over own bodies and destiny.
Also, DON’T TRUST THESE MEN and go out and flourish in this world!

Our Fault


What happened to the sweet nothings 

We graciously showered each other with? 

When did we lose all hope 

And decide to give up so easily? 


The hallways are empty 

There’s no laughter here anymore 

What did they say? 

Love don’t live here no mo’ 


The kids are gone 

Our distraction 

Now we must face each other 

Shed the fake smiles 

And façade of busy-ness  

It’s just us, babe 


Now what? 


It’s our fault 

No one is blameless 

We’ve avoided each other  

For years 

Hiding behind rearing children 

And raising a family  

That we forgot to love each other  


And now we’re here 

Face to face 

Middle age  

Fleeting youth  

Secure finances 

Time galore 

But empty hearts 


It’s our fault 

We didn’t nurture our love 

The way we nurtured our children 

Now we’re two strangers 

Bunking together 

Sleeping back to back 

Wishing we were anywhere 

But here  


Yet so far apart  


Can we cross this ocean? 

Will you swim towards me? 

Even a little? 

I’m willing to try 

Are you? 


English is my preferred language

Sometimes dadkayga have a hard time accepting that for some of us Somali is no longer our first language.
At this point in the game, I’m 31 years old, and have been out of Somalia for 25+ years, and have been forced to learn other languages to survive and live. I think in English, and I dream in English. English is, at this point, my language. The way I can express myself in English, I am not able to in Somali. The different words I know in English to convey something, I probably only know one word in Somali that can convey or come close to conveying that same meaning.
So what do we do when we, as Somali Diasporans, want to discuss social issues in our immigrant community? We typically express ourselves in the language that we excel in, especially when many of us know that language, and we know that they will understand what we are saying, and where we are coming from. Many of us who were either born or bred in the West speak the language of our adopted countries more than our native tongue. For those who are born and bred in the West, is Somali even their native tongue?
I, too, am sad about the fact that our language isn’t being retained by us, but every day we are overwhelmed with the business of LIVING. The language that we do our work in, speak to our neighbors with, speak to our teachers (and students in my case) with, the language that we do our groceries in, pay our bills in, get directions in….do all our business of living in, is the language that our tongue is going to prefer. Does that make one a traitor? Does that make me,”mid dhaqankeeda iyo luuqadeeda tuurtay?” I think that’s an unfair statement considering that what I’m doing is natural. It’s adaptation. It’s a survival mechanism. It’s evolutionary.
Many times, a well-meaning brother or sister will tell me,” walaal waxaan ka sii fiicnaan lahayd inaad luuqadeena dhibkeena ku sheegtay siday gaalada noo ogaan.” “It would be better if you talked about our issues in our language so that these other peple don’t know about our problems. ” Excuse me? First of all, they have issues too, and every day they talk about those issues in English, a language that you and I understand. They don’t stop and think,”What if those immigrants judge us for the problems in our society?” They don’t. So why are you preventing me from speaking about issues near and dear to my heart in a language that I speak well and can express the issues with clarity to other Diasporans because THEY are my preferred audience? If I’m speaking about Somali issues, I’m speaking to Somalis. That’s it.
I have gone to several Somali events and it is evident that the preferred language of communication is English. We’ve reached a consensus that this is a language that many of us speak, and have adopted as our preferred language. It is okay. There is no shame in that.
I was just thinking about this as time and again someone shamed me about my preference for speaking in English about a particular issue in our community. However circumstances I may have acquired this language, this is my preferred language of communication now. Yes, I work with Somalis, and I do make an honest attempt to learn and speak Somali, but unless I’m in a country where the majority of people speak Somali, my tongue is not going to prefer Somali. It will resort to English even when I’m speaking Somali especially markuu hadalka iga dhumo. (when I lose my words )
Ah, I already hear some of you saying,”waaba lazy inantu?” (She is so lazy) LOOOL. I very well may be (Cue Gucci Mane in court ). However, there’s a limited amount of time in the day, and survival is more of a priority than relearning a language that is not a prerequisite for my survival right now. I personally try because I am interested in studying and learning about my heritage.
Sometimes, I can’t help but also think that people are purposely trying to derail the conversation because the topics at hand are uncomfortable and put us, as Somali people, in a very negative light. The thing is, though, that communities all over the world have issues that they’re actively working on. If you’ve been paying attention, and reading the news, blog sites, social media, you know the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket, so let people save themselves in the language they know best!
Anyway, drop me a note, if you have comments and/or questions.

I’ve done a good thing for ME

I have done something good for myself that’s alleviating some stress off of me, and making me feel as though I’m working towards something.
Usually, I’m old school when it comes to writing. Think composition notebooks, and pencil kind of girl, you know, hand to brain connection and all that good stuff.
But then I would have notebooks upon notebooks, if I was lucky, or loose papers upon loose papers, if I was unlucky, everywhere full of writings, and thoughts, that I’m simply too lazy to type out on the computer. I fully admit. (Stop judging me! I got a lot going on!)
So I’ve just been writing on word documents, and saving it (this is KEY! Also, saving as I go to avoid despair from the computer crashing, and losing all my work!).
In two weeks, I have 14 documents saved averaging 600-1500 words per each document.
Ok, granted, some are just free flowing thoughts, but imagine all those in notebooks/loose papers that I would never type out!
You know what that is?

Be an Artist or Be an Activist – Pick One

I was speaking to my cousin yesterday about the kind of art that I tend to make: morbid, sad, melancholic, etc., and how I didn’t know how to reconcile that with the kind of activism I’m passionate about.

Is it a self-fulfilling prophesy to say,”I’m actually a sad person, and thus I like to make art for the sad, broken soul?”  I write about some pretty morbid stuff, and I don’t shy away from uncomfortable topics, or from writing in detail about traumatic events.

Some people may call it trauma porn. I call it catharsis. We each have our own ways of healing.

When I started this sexual assault awareness campaign, I didn’t think about my own personal work. I only thought,”I’m sure there are people who are struggling in our community, which loves to sweep everything under the rug and pretend that nothing bad happens,  and maybe I could provide an outlet for people to share their stories, so others can KNOW this actually does happen in our community.” Before a problem can be solved, we must first acknowledge that it exists. We’re struggling with that part, and this was an attempt to bring that to light. Sexual misconduct/abuse does occur in our community, and its often goes unnoticed because the victims, often female, are shamed into silence.

Whilst doing that, I also get back to the business of writing, because that’s my spirit. I write to get everything out. I write especially when I’m sad, but I realize now that I lied when I said I do my best work when emotionally distraught. I haven’t been able to produce any work that I’m proud of this week, because there has been a dark cloud over me, and all my demons are home. Especially one big Shaytaan who has a way of throwing me off and making me crumble, no matter how much time passes, and no matter how much I think I’ve built myself up.

So since I’ve been unable to write anything new, I looked at some old work to share, and they’re all morbid, sad, taking the worst way out, etc., and I thought, “I can’t share this! I don’t want people to be sad, or think of suicide as a way out, and especially if they’re already there, I don’t want anything that I write pushing them over the edge!”

How much are we responsible as artists for what other people take from our work?

Do I have to make a choice? Do I have to choose between artistry which keeps me alive, and activism which also ignites my soul? If so, how do I make that choice?

Do I choose art, because without it I cannot live, and step back from the arena of activism?

How do I as a loudly outspoken person step back from activism that is personal to me as a woman, and as a global citizen?

Somali Americans, is July 4th our true holiday?  


July 4th  – America’s independence from Britain. Damn those Brits, btw, they’ve literally colonized half of the world. How many countries are celebrating their, “independence from Britain?”

Somali Americans, is this our true holiday?

Wait. Hear me out.

Many of us have been in this country for a long time. Some of us were born here. The Somali state collapsed in 1991. We’ve spent our most formative years here. We went to school here, and some of us have moved on to have children here. Our lives here are cemented, our connection to Somalia minimal. Many of us are citizens and have promised to renounce any other citizenry. Did we lie?

I am also one of those people who are nostalgic for Somalia, but most times reality sets in. What is there for me in Somalia? Myself, a self-proclaimed loud mouth heathen who has so much to say about culture, religion, and society? What would I do there? What would I do in a country whose President and officials have to be guarded by AMISOM, soldiers sent from other African nations, and life is cheap? You could say the wrong thing, or look defiantly at a police officer, and there goes your precious life. Gone in a flash. Where many of the things we take for granted here, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association to name a few, are nonexistent.

A land where your only protection is your clan, and your genitals; if you have the right ones.

But America is testing my patience and love for it right now. This is supposed to be the greatest country in the world. Many flock to this country from all over the world. The land of the free. But how free am I when I’m worried about my black son being gunned down by those who have sworn an oath to protect and serve? How free am I when Donald Trump is the POTUS making us officially the laughing stock of the world? How free am I when I’m worried about my visibly Muslim sisters and cousins? How free am I when immigrant children are separated from their parents and locked up in cages?

Both seem pretty bleak, right?

Personally, I don’t know MY connection to July 4th. None of my ancestors were here then, and people who looked like me, black people, were enslaved. There was no independence for them. However, my experience as an immigrant is different from African Americans whose history in this country goes back generations, and it’s not a good history. But I do know that it can be worse.

As I ruminate on these things, I think of how do we move forward?

Can I recognize that yes this country has a sordid history when it comes to minorities, and even currently with Trump’s immigration policy, AND still love this country as it has given me, an immigrant, a chance at life? Is it tone deaf to say,”I love this flawed nation. It has given a chance at life. God bless these United States?” I cannot just flatly say this is a terrible country. Period. It isn’t for me,  because I wouldn’t trade America for my homeland, and neither would many other Somali Americans, if they’re 100% honest. Even those deported to Somalia say they feel they are in a foreign country in Somalia than when they were in America.





She took the tube out of a thin, small black bag and looked at it for a moment. It had a beautiful woman with milky white skin on it. She opened the cap, turned it around and pushed it back onto the top to break the seal, and out came this white cream. She had a piece of a mirror that she borrowed, well stole, from the girl next door, and she stared at herself, squinting her eyes, as it was rather difficult to see through the cracks of the glass. She placed a little bit of the cream on the tip of her index finger, and placed dots on her cheeks, chin, nose and forehead, and using round motions applied it all around her face. She looked to see if it made a difference. It didn’t. Yet.

Nayaa, did you cook the anjero?” her mother screamed from her room. She jumped up from where she was seated and ran outside to set up the charcoal stove.  She placed a few charcoals underneath it, doused a little gasoline on top of them, threw a lit match in, and started fanning immediately. She was running short on time. The boys would be up soon.

“Yes, hooyo, I’m still cooking it,” as if she didn’t just start. The fumes from the stove irritated her eyes. She started to rub then, but now her eyes were burning. She tried to open them with no luck. She couldn’t see anything, and tears were coming out of her eyes. Frustrated, she reached around for some water, but couldn’t find anything. She stood up to look for some, knocked the gasoline on her dress, and bumped into the charcoal stove, lighting herself on fire. She dropped onto the sand, and started rolling, screaming for her mother, “Hooyo, help me! Hooyo, help! I’m on fire, Help!!!” Her eyes were burning, and in between rubbing her eyes, and rolling to stop the fire, sheer panic started to envelop her. Then utter darkness enclosed in on her as she closed her eyes. Is this how death feels? Am I really dying?, she thought.

Her mother, unsure of what to do, reacted on instinct and threw water on her daughter. The girl screamed in terror, but the fire was extinguished. Then silence.

“What happened, nayaa? Can’t you cook a simple anjero breakfast without setting yourself on fire?” She screamed at her unresponsive daughter.  She squatted down next to her daughter and nudged her little bit with her index finger to get a response from her. “Hoda, wake up! What is going on with you? Wake up!!”  No response. She jumped up as sudden realization hit her, and ran to the neighbors, screaming, and crying, “I need a doctor! Someone get a doctor! My daughter! Someone help me!!!”

“Nadia, what’s going on? “said Aisha, her neighbor. “What has happened to Hoda?”

“She ‘s dead! Someone help me! She’s dead!” cried Hoda’s mother. “Please, call someone for me! Please!” She fell down on her knees raising her hands up in the air in prayer,” Ya Allah, why?? What has caused this to happen? Please make her well! “she wailed on, as her neighbors ran to Hoda.  Aisha’s husband, who was a physician, was home and instantly felt for a pulse. It was faint. He covered her, picked her up and ran to the car. There wasn’t an ambulance in the small town, so he had to drive her to the nearest hospital which was 25 kilometers away.

The Diana cream was still in the bedroom.  In it was the promise of lighter skin. She’d be a fair beauty. Men would come from afar, begging for her hand in marriage, and pay her mother so much money in dowry. Songs would be made about her, she would be renamed caddeey , and her soon bulging blue veins, appearing underneath her light skin, would be a wonder and amazement to them.  Her prince charming would come from America, or England, and take her from this miserable life of waking up at 5am to make anjero for her five brothers whom her mother favored. She would show her. Her old man skipped town a long time ago and left her mother with all six kids of theirs. She had to quit school to cook and clean after the boys. After all, she was but a girl.

Hoda was in the back of the car feeling numb as her body was throbbing with pain. She lay still, and her eyes were closed. The wind was howling outside and swooshing the trees back and forth. It was actually a rather sweet melody and it lulled her to sleep. The birds were chirping and instead of darkness, she saw light and felt as though she was being carried away.  Her breathing slowed down, and she took her last breath while thinking of her mother; how she ignored her presence all the time other than yelling at her to take the boys to school, or to clean up after them once they ate, and how she never showed her any love and affection as a mother. She would often remind Hoda how she looked like that useless tool of a father of hers. She was going to show her… She was going to be great. She would be the one Hooyo would be so proud of and love the most.


There was so promise in her plans, but they started with Diana, and ended with Diana.