First Somali-American woman elected to state legislature to speak at OWU


Minnesota State Rep. Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American, Muslim woman in the United States to be elected to a state legislature, will discuss November’s U.S. elections and their implications, when she speaks March 21 at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Omar’s free presentation will begin at 7 p.m. March 21 in Room 301 of Merrick Hall, 65 S. Sandusky St., Delaware. Her talk represents Ohio Wesleyan’s 2017 Butler A. Jones Lecture on Race and Society.

Omar was elected Nov. 8 to serve as Minnesota’s state representative for District 60B. Her family, refugees from the civil war in Somalia, moved to the United States from Kenya when Omar was 12. Today, she describes herself as an “experienced policy analyst, progressive DFL (Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party) activist, coalition builder, and humanitarian.”

Previously, she has served as the director of policy initiatives at Women Organizing Women, where she worked to empower East African women to take civic leadership roles in their communities. As a state representative, Omar’s key issues include “raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, closing the opportunity gap, and fighting for environmental justice and racial equity.”

In a Nov. 17 interview with The New Yorker’s Rozina Ali, Omar said: “My district is one of the most diverse in the nation. People are afraid. There is an air of sadness and anxiety. As leaders, all we can do is reassure people that we are not going to waver in our fight for them, in our advocacy for progressive values.”

During the interview with The New Yorker, Omar also said Donald Trump’s election as president left her feeling “betrayed.”

“I’m still in dismay that a message of hate and divisiveness is going to be the leading voice of our nation,” she said told Ali. “We have to do the work of reminding people what it is they are invested in, and draw a clear picture of what it means for people to elect people like me and Kamala Harris (the second black woman and first American-Indian woman elected to the U.S. Senate), and elect someone like Donald Trump.”

Omar holds degrees in business administration, political science, and international studies. She completed a Policy Fellowship at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Ohio Wesleyan’s Butler A. Jones Lectureship on Race and Society was established in 1995 in honor of Jones, Ph.D., a former sociology/anthropology faculty member. In contributing to the quest for equality among races, Jones submitted 10 briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in cases involving equal treatment of all citizens.

He also completed background research for the 1940 Carnegie-Myrdal Study of African Americans. In addition, Jones was heavily involved in the field of sociology and committed to the development of other scholars and professionals. Learn more at

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