“Authenticity is Activism”

Minnesota State Senator Zaynab Mohamed speaks at Hamline

Alex Bailey, News Reporter

The Women’s Resource Center (WRC) hosted Minnesota State Senator Zaynab Mohamed on March 21, giving students and other community members the opportunity to listen to her speak – and speak with her – in honor of Women’s History Month. 

For Mohamed, getting elected into office was not easy. According to her website, zaynabmohamed.org, Mohamed and her family immigrated from Somalia when she was just nine years old. Her mother worked 16-hour shifts as a factory worker, and her father worked two to three jobs to help support Zaynab and her family. Once they were old enough, Zaynab and her siblings started jobs of their own in order to help pay the bills that were due at the end of the month. 

Since then, she has graduated from the University of Minnesota, and has made history as the youngest, first black and first Somali woman to be elected to the Minnesota senate. 

Mohamed jokingly admitted that she doesn’t usually write her speeches beforehand, but she wanted to be more “intentional and reflective” when speaking to those at the event. 

“I am faced with a lot of issues and people and things that are very impossible for me to handle. Then I realize it’s just me being me that is the radical act. Because that is the thing that most people don’t want to hear and/or see. I don’t think you can find [your authenticity] until you get close to a space which you want to get the hell out of,” Mohamed said. 

Mohamed’s platform includes labor rights and economic justice, healthcare and housing for all, education, environmental justice and criminal justice reform, meaning not a minute of her time is spent without intention. 

“No one teaches you how to advocate for yourself. No one says, ‘when this happens, you go on and do this and this and this,’” Mohamed said. “I had super serious arguments with a colleague of mine…we were just talking about an issue, a bill that couldn’t get through. It was her and I’s bill, and I was like, ‘do you want me to advocate for it harder? You can’t water down the bill.’ And she’s like, ‘then the bill will die, so let’s just take what we can.’ And I’m in the space being like, ‘we’ve been doing that forever. Why should we have to make ourselves small and figure out how to navigate in this system?” 

Not backing down from what she believes in, Mohamed has become known for her unapologetic stance on issues. Members of the audience were encouraged to share pieces of their own story, which resulted in an environment pulsating with the prospects of change for the better. 

To learn more about Zaynab Mohamed and her platform, visit zaynabmohamed.org.