BACKGROUND FOR MY LEADERSHIP JOURNEY
My learning journey of leadership started long ago and is intertwined with my life's journey, is currently defined, and shaped by the Western context of belonging to the culture of no power as an adult, and my formative years that were spend in a homogeneous Somalia, where I was part of the culture of power and privilege within the context of Somalia. In Somalia, the only country in Sub-Sahara Africa, that has one language, one religion, and mainly one ethnic group, has suffered and survives under the constant assault of global cultures of power. These assaults and invasions manifested themselves over the centuries through colonization of native lands and cultures, by stripping identities of native peoples and dividing and ruling them. The colonial powers suppressed and dismantled native systems of governance models, then imposed a system that projects the superiority of the cultures of power, and primed native lands and peoples for extraction of natural resources for the benefit of culture of power. The education models in Somalia included the English System and the Italian System. The English under which I was educated, only talks about the history and greatness of Europeans and their contributions to humanity. The Colonial Education Models portray native cultures and communities as backward and primitive, in need of rescuing from their own ways of life. These Western Education Models prepare native children to aspire to become Westerners, travel to Western Lands, and pursue lifestyles conjured through Western Education. Today, if you look around, you will see large groups of people leaving the continents of Africa, Asia, and South America and are on mass migration, through any which way possible, legal or illegal means to get to Western Lands, in pursuit of safety for their families and a meaningful lifestyle. Most of these refugees or "migrants" as some would call them, are going to their former colonial master countries. The so called "Third World Countries" are fleeing conflicts, economic deprivation, and/or dictatorial regimes. These conditions are in many cases, the direct result of Western and Eastern powers' direct involvement or through the so called International Organizations, like IMF and World Bank.
MY JOURNEY TO THE WESTERN WORLD
My Learning Journey started when I was born to a nomadic East African Family with 400 heads of cattle, who roomed around the region with a portable Somali traditional home. My family moved freely and constantly throughout East Africa, in search of grazing and water for their herd. This lifestyle of moving large herd of cattle constantly was very compatible/sustainable in the semi-arid region of East Africa, allowing the environment to regenerate, and sustain large nomadic families. This lifestyle continued, until Western Cultures encroached through creating artificial boarders and conflicts that divided tribes and ethnic groups into enemies and different nationalities. Many Western resource exploration companies like Sinclair Oil Corporation of Kansas came to Somalia and plowed throughout the Somali countryside with unpaved roads, in search of oil and other natural resources. These activities disrupted and in many cases stopped the nomadic lifestyle, including my own family's way of life. My father passes passed away when I was two years old, then when I reached five, my mother could no longer sustain our nomadic way of life. We moved to the Somali capital city of Mogadishu and started city life from scratch. At the age of ten, I moved in with my eldest brother's family who had middle to upper class living in Somali standards. After completing Agricultural Institute, I worked for United Nation's Agricultural Project in a Refugee camp in North Western Somalia for two years, and then decided to come to the United States to continue my education in 1982.
LEADERSHIP THROUGH MANAGING AGGRESSION AND EXCLUSION
When I arrived in the United States, I came to the realization and discovery that I am a black man, a Muslim and an immigrant in this Country, each of which carry it's own layer of social exclusion. Coming from a nomadic culture, where my identity was the dominant culture, these new realities did not phase me, and after all, my plan was to get my education, and go back to my beloved Somalia. After a number of years in the United States, my Somalia started to fall apart, and Somalis started to trickle into the United States. I got together with other Somali community members in Washington DC Metro Area, discusses how we best support new Somalis arriving in the area after fleeing from the instability in Somalia. We have set up a non-profit called The Organization for Somali Affairs. The non-profit served new arrivals, helping them find housing, connecting them to services, including free legal help to help for asylum, and get legal status. From that time on, until today. I been engaged in equity work for under served communities through nonprofits. My observations over the years through my public service and advocating for my own seven children, three of which are now adults include: Racism, negativism, class-ism, sexism, etc are alive and well. they are expressed through daily social biases, implicit and explicit, micro and macro aggression, and create systemic cruelty in our systems. These cruel systemic exclusions are carried out by every day ordinary people, who were taught by our systems how provide access to education, healthcare, jobs, housing, social services, and etc, based on the person's skin color, economics, gender, disability, and etc. The very depressing reality is that if you are a equity leader anywhere in our United States, all you have to do is look around you and observe how we deliver services, based on identity. I have observed for example; That some teachers grade my children's school work, quizzes, and test, based on their identity and name, rather than the content of their work. I taught my children long time ago, to self advocate, challenge, and email those teachers, but cc me as well. I currently have three from 6th-9th grades, and I receive email through cc once or twice a month. I also learned that if you go deeper than the well known identity based in-equities, you will discover even harsher realities for the most vulnerable in society. I came to the realization that children with disabilities who also happen to be black cannot escape our cruel systems and face more punishment and expulsion than their counterparts in school. Leaders must learn to observe, expose , and address in-equities that were systemically normalized, and carried out by everyday ordinary please of all identities. My learning journey will continue until the end of my life and I continue to learn new ways of uncovering and exposing injustice and do what I can as an individual. This practice allows me to go to bed at night with a clear conscious.