Big ideas for change has taken root on Norwood Boulevard.
Ahmed Abdulkadir, executive director of the Ogaden Somali Community of Alberta (OSCAR), operates a community centre on 111 Avenue. He’s also one of the partners of the Safety Summit, an alliance of aboriginal, Somali, and community groups who have partnered with Edmonton Police Services and the City of Edmonton.
“[We are] working with mainstream organizations and working with community leagues to break down barriers between neighbours,” said Abdulkadir.
He has brought diverse groups of people together to find common solutions to community problems. So far he has contacted 80 organizations and has the goal of contacting 20 more by the end of the year.
For the past year-and-a-half, he and his organization of 350 members have worked out of a former payday loan office on Norwood Boulevard.
“We celebrate black culture, we talk about the contributions of black Canadians since the inception of Canada, and we talk about how Canada was the first country to free the slaves,” said Abdulkadir. “There were bad things that happened in the past, but we move forward collectively.”
When he’s not at his office, he’s shuttling his three kids to school, coaching soccer, and leading youth basketball programs. He sits on several committees and is involved with Black History Month.
By bringing groups together, he has been able to take on bigger projects than many community organizations can manage.
“We’re already working on so many issues that are affecting the community, whether it’s the safety of downtown communities, or it’s economic development on the north side,” he said.
“We had our Cross Cultural Leaders Summit on Community Economic Development where we brought together regional communities and cultural communities to work on the elimination of racism and the creation of jobs.”
The summit was well attended, with municipal and provincial governments at the table along with agencies and community leaders. Business success stories were told to the forum, and solutions were presented for implementing diverse and inclusive board appointments.
But the work isn’t done, and his next project will involve working with the school board to ensure schools are safe, inclusive, and provide quality education for all students. Abdulkadir said he intends to ensure the board addresses what he calls “the failure of government to change attitudes and mindsets of the community.”
Part of changing perceptions is working with youth so they don’t learn prejudice, to build stronger communities by shaping the adults of tomorrow.
“That is my project for 2017 in the schools: change the attitudes of the youth early, and then we can bring justice to all communities.”
He said he wants to improve the lives of children and ensure we all contribute to making public spaces safe for everyone.
“When I see the needles and the drugs are everywhere in community parks, and no one is picking it up? If it’s not safe for a Somali kid, it’s not safe for a white kid or an aboriginal kid either. It’s our park for God’s sake and we should work together to clean it up.”
With the work he’s already done, it’s fair to say we can expect more from Abdulkadir in the future. Our entire community has been improved by his presence on Norwood Boulevard. He is a positive agent of change.
Header image: Abdul Abdulkadir is a community advocate working to build stronger communities. | Adam Millie