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  • Aug 26, 2013

ASI STATEMENT ON THE PASSING OF HUSSEIN SAMATAR

MINNEAPOLIS — The American Swedish Institute’s President and CEO Bruce Karstadt issued the following statement in response to the passing of the African Development Center’s founder Hussein Samatar:

“Hussein Samatar represented a new community of immigrants who came to Minneapolis in search of the same dreams as those of our Swedish immigrant ancestors when they made a journey to Minnesota a century ago.   What is often untold is that Minnesota wasn’t the only destination for many Somalis – they also went to Sweden. With the Somali community living in both countries, it was natural for the African Development Center and the American Swedish Institute to collaborate, particularly with respect to facilitating leadership exchanges to learn more about the experiences of Somalis in Sweden in contrast to those in Minnesota.  A key concern for these delegations was how to stimulate employment and entrepreneurship among immigrants from Somalia in an effort to improve lives.  There was no greater leader in this effort than Hussein Samatar. He will be missed.”

BACKGROUND

In 2005, Dr. Benny Carlson, a professor at Lund University in Sweden came to Minneapolis for the purpose of conducting research about the Somali-American community in the Twin Cities. After his visit, Carlson authored a book about the successful businesses and malls run by Somali-Americans in Minnesota entitled Somalis in Minneapolis – a Dynamic Deal.

In 2007,  Carlson helped organize a Somali-American tour of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, where Hussein Samatar and Nimo Farahfrom the African Development Center (ADC) and Robert Lilligrenfrom the City of Minneapolis toured Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö to meet with Swedish officials, to share their experience from Minnesota, and compare it to the Swedish one. In 2010, 22 officials from nine Swedish municipalities again came to Minneapolis for a study tour.

The purpose of these study trips was to help Swedish officials who were seeking inspiration and “tools” that could help Sweden respond to its recent influx of Somali refugees.  A key question was how they could stimulate employment and entrepreneurship among the immigrants from Somalia.  And there was no better example of how best to do this than Minneapolis – and Hussein Samatar was a key figure in all of this.  And the American Swedish Institute (ASI) was among those institutions which played a key role in connecting Somalis in both countries with their respective public officials. 

ASI awarded a Malmberg Fellowship to Benny Carlson in 2008.  He returned to ASI that year and as part of that visit, the Story Swap Program began, in which Swedish-Americans and Somali-Americans met at ASI to share their experiences, food and culture.   

The American Swedish Institute, founded in 1929, serves as a gathering place for people to share stories and experiences around universal themes of tradition, migration, craft and the arts, all informed by enduring ties to Sweden.

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