United ReSisters

group of Somali refugee women posing for photoThe United ReSisters is a community organization that started in 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It is focused on building a better community for female immigrants and refugees. The group was established by Diana Delbecchi as an answer to the need for a safe and creative space for these young women. In its early years the group served as a place for members to build strong relationships with other women in the community, increase their knowledge and support for higher education goals, and to create art as a pathway for personal growth and storytelling. The group’s intention is to shine a light on the growing presence of Somali youth in Green Bay and elevate their voices and stories to create change.

A Resettlement Journey

This beautiful 48×48 mural was painted by a group of young Somali women who traveled great distances to join the Green Bay community. This piece pays tribute to their Somali identity while telling the story of their travels through various countries to arrive here in the United States.

In 2019, the United ReSisters wrote and published a book titled The First Winter which details their experiences as refugees and their journeys to the United States through a a collection of their trailblazing stories, conversations, lists, letters, poems,  and reflections.

Click here to learn more and order a copy of The First Winter.

Click the titles to the right to view excerpts from the book.

mural of Somali woman with hands around her
A Resettlement Journey

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Green Bay

Green Bay
By Najm Kasim

I moved here just four years ago, but I feel like I’ve been here all my life. At first we kept moving. Not only cities, but homes.

We lived in shelters. I never felt settled. I felt like I didn’t have a home. When we moved to Green Bay, I knew I wanted to live the rest of my life here. Even though they don’t understand me or the hijab I’m wearing, Green Bay still tries.

When I first came to Green Bay, it was summer. I didn’t know anybody. I felt odd and lonely. Because I wear a hijab and don’t speak English very well, I used to think that I’d never talk to anyone. I knew my life would be hard here. There were not many Somali or Muslim people. I had expected more, expected to make many friends. I thought I would find a friend who spoke the same language. But here, I had to make friends in English.

Now I am the one who is making others understand: who I am, where I come from, and what the hijab means to me. I explain and explain. Repeat. Again and again. But I am getting somewhere. Green Bay is my home now. It is peace. It is quiet. It is small, but it doesn’t matter. It is a real hometown.

Being Hijabi (Or, Wearing a Scarf)

Being Hijabi (Or, Wearing a Scarf)
By Nada Kasim

Being hijabi is one of the first things people notice about me. Some think that I am having a bad hair day, while others think I don’t have hair at all. Some think I’m forced to wear hijab. Others assume that I am opinionated and religious, close to God.

Or maybe I am dumb, as if my scarf didn’t just cover my hair but also my brain. Others think that I must be a good, honest person. But the truth is that I just feel comfortable wearing hijab and it is something I choose to do.

Here’s what I think: I am what I am from inside and wearing a scarf or not wearing one doesn’t change me.

A Letter to my Former Neighbors in Mogadishu, Somalia

A Letter to my Former Neighbors in Mogadishu, Somalia
By Najma Hussein

Dear Neighbors,

This is Najma, the girl who used to live three blocks from your house in Mogadishu. There are many things I wish I could tell you. I hope you guys remember me. I hope, too, that every one of you is doing well.

Our house was right next to the Ahlam store. It had a gate wall and was brown with blue doors facing the road. We used to play in the beautiful garden and eat watermelon from the garden when we came home from school. Remember me now? I’m the sister of Ayan, Najib and Mowlid. Remember how we used to gather in our house on Eid days and decorate the gate walls with new curtains and sparkly lights?

I wish I could tell you this in person, but I can’t because I’m far away. I went to Ethiopia to complete my sponsorship to the United States. Alhamdulillah* it went well, and we waited for two years. We were alone there, just me and my three siblings. We couldn’t attend school because we were not allowed without proof of our educational backgrounds.

We moved to America on December 1, 2016. Reunited with our family, we rebuilt our memories. I started school again. Life became more meaningful to me.

There are so many things challenging me here, like the weather, the language, and the way I look. It was winter when I arrived and I was like, “What!?I’ve never seen this thing before!” It was snow. Everyone laughed at me because of the way I said this. English was difficult for me, since I had never spoken with a native speaker before, but I followed along and did well.

1 thought on “United ReSisters”

  1. It is wonderful to get to hear these voices of fellow Wisconsinites! I am glad that we have women of Somali heritage in the state and enjoyed reading the letters.

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