On a recent Sunday evening Ilhan Omar’s campaign held a party to celebrate her primary win in August and the lead-up to the general election. Held at an East African restaurant in the heart of Minneapolis’s diverse East Lake Street, in many ways the gathering felt like a typical East African family party. The banquet hall was decked out with white tablecloths and blue ribbons—the colors of the Somali flag. Somali men waited outside the door jawing and catching up with friends and relatives.
The crowd inside, a mix of students, older white liberals and members of local East African communities, was a cross section of Omar’s supporters and the district she hopes to represent in the Minnesota State Legislature. Women looked elegant in their dresses. The men, young and old, were all in suits. Omar, like many of the young women there, had a creative and funky style. Her black and white patterned head-wrap matched a woven scarf hung over her shoulder and the long black beads draped around her neck.