Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar, State Representative in Minnesota and former Director of Policy and Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network

In February of 2014, Omar was attacked to the point of a concussion by several men at a Democratic caucus that became violent. "Being attacked wasn’t a deterrent for me. I don’t think I looked at it as a thing where I needed to step back or distance myself from this process. Every single election cycle I make a request of people who have dealt with this system that has been oppressive for a lot of minority communities for over 100 years: I ask them to believe in the system and to work and make the effort in changing it, because things are changeable in this country. Our democracy allows us to be active and to be full participants and to make the process work for us. And so for me to say that because this one thing happened to me that I am going to step back is sort of doing disservice and being hypocritical. And that wasn’t something I was interested in... My daughter, who was 11 years old at the time, said to me, 'Mommy, it’s really important that you go back to work tomorrow morning, and that you actually arrive super early, with all your scars and everything, and people get to see you, and that they don’t get to win. They don’t get to have control over you." Despite her own pain and concern, her daughter's advice made her reflect. "She was right: what message do I send to my daughter and to a lot of the other young women who are often afraid of getting involved in politics – especially in communities where there is patriarchy? Yes, I’m hurt, and I’m in pain, but I need to go and be brave for them."

Ilhan's family fled Somalia for a Kenyan refugee camp during a 1991 civil war, later settling in Minneapolis when she was a young teen. She is now the first female Somali-American Muslim legislator in the United States. 

 

Karen Kelley

Karen Kelley

Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay