Two flags waved over the Lake George bandshell on Saturday: one red, white and blue and the other a white star on a light blue background — the flag of Somalia.
The St. Cloud Somali community celebrated its annual independence day at Lake George. July 1 marks the formation of Somalia in 1960. It’s also a chance to recognize the role the Somali community plays in their adopted country.
In St. Cloud, dads held on to the outstretched arms of children as young men sang and danced to Somali music on the stage.
As the younger children ran around the playground and splash pad, teens gathered around the stage wrapped in fabric covered in the Somali flag and the words “Mindimo” and “Nabad.” In Somali, they mean united and peace.
Periodically, politicians would make their pleas for health care and education to the crowd.
The mood was joyful as families posed for photos. The groups were in a much different world than the one that saw Somalia’s beginnings nearly five decades ago.
Back then, Britain withdrew from Somali territory, allowing people to form a new nation in east Africa. For the next several years, the country lived under civilian rule and drafted a constitution, until a coup created an authoritarian state in 1969.
When the regime collapsed in 1991, a civil war broke out. Violence has continued for more than two decades has displaced more than 1 million people.
Other groups in the Twin Cities and other parts of Minnesota planned celebrations which can sometimes last a week. This year, festivities in St. Paul and Minneapolis run though July 9.
Despite the celebrations, local Somalis know friends and family back in Somalia are facing crisis: drought and famine continues to devastate the region. Aid group Save the Children has warned the international community that more than 20,000 children in drought-hit Somalia could starve to death in the coming months without continued international assistance.
The group said the number of cases of severe acute malnutrition has “skyrocketed” in several of the nine Somali districts assessed.
The new survey warns of “famine-like conditions” in parts of the Horn of Africa nation.
The aid group says that without $1.5 billion in assistance, Somalia could face a hunger crisis as severe as the one in 2011, when famine killed more than a quarter-million people. Half of the victims were children.
Thousands have been killed in the latest drought as Somalis struggle with poor rains and a cholera outbreak, with many people trapped in areas controlled by extremist group al-Shabab.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
The Minnesota History Museum is hosing “Xasuuso: Remember 1960,” from 7-9 p.m., Sunday, June 2 in St. Paul.
The event is an educational disucussion of Somali Independence Day and Somali culture and history. It includes a photography exhibit, performances and discussion highlighting memories from Somali and stories of the diaspora.
The program was produced in partnership with Ka Joog and is part of Somali week, a series of events hosted in Minneapolis and St. Paul through July 8.
Ka Joog is a nonprofit group that helps enrich lives of Somali-American youth through arts and education.