Why am I in the United States? I am Somali, but am I really an American, Somali American, Somali British or none of those? These are some of the questions Somali youth in the United States and the United Kingdom struggle with in their lives. Sheeko is an oral history project documenting the lives of Somali youth, their migration experiences and how they define their identities. This project emerged out of a web archive, Minnesota 2.0, which documents how Hmong, Mexican, and Somali youth use Facebook to talk about identity and migration. [https://sites.google.com/a/umn.edu/mn20/]. Somali students at the University of Minnesota initiated Sheeko to document the experiences of Somali youth.
We read many stories about Somali youth in the news, but rarely do Somali youth control the way they are represented. A major goal of this project was for Somali youth to speak for themselves. By sharing our stories, Sheeko team members and narrators are involved in the writing of our own histories. Sheeko is the first archive of Somali youth stories created by Somali youth.
This first stage of Sheeko focuses on Somali youth communities in the United States and the United Kingdom. We gathered stories in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) and in London. The majority of the participants were between the ages of 18-25. We spoke with many Somali youth attending nearby universities and colleges.
Each interview was fascinating and felt more like a conversation than an academic interview. We were interested in capturing a variety of stories about Somali youth experiences. We asked Somali youth about their journeys from Somalia and their early lives. We discussed several themes including memories of their childhood, fleeing the violence in Somalia, resettlement in Kenya or another foreign country, traveling to the West, attempting to transition to another country, education in the West, Islam, and future aspirations for their lives.
Sheeko team members traveled to London in Summer 2011 to interview more people. London is home to the oldest Somali diasporic community, and it was important for us to learn about their narratives. Along with interviews, the team met with community organizations and attended community events in London. If you would like to learn more about these interviews please contact team members.
We created this website to reach a global audience and Somali youth around the world. We hope these stories will provide a better understanding of the lives of Somali youth. We hope other Somali youth find these videos to be useful as they encounter similar experiences in their own lives. We hope this website provides more insight into our lives and encourages more discussions with Somali youth.
The clips on the Sheeko website provide only a glimpse of the range of topics we discussed in the interviews. Each narrator provides great insight into the complexities of life as a Somali youth. We hope this project generates more attention about the importance of documenting the lives of immigrant youth and Somali youth in particular. Every community should be invested in documenting their history.
These are themes captured from the project: