Celebrating Black History Month 2021: Five questions with Abdulkadir Sheikhusein from Bristol Somali Forum

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Celebrating Black History Month 2021 we speak to an inspiring group we’ve recently awarded a grant. Find out what Bristol Somali Forum is doing for Black History Month, some of the challenges the community has faced during the pandemic, plus what makes Abdulkadir proud.

“Key figures of our community do volunteer here in Bristol and back home. I am proud of their immense contribution to our city.”

-Abdulkadir Sheikhusein Chair Bristol Somali Forum

Bristol Somali Forum (BSF) brings together active Somali community groups and voluntary organisations in Bristol and across the South West, on an inclusive basis to enable them to plan and co-ordinate representation and address relevant community issues. They also work to articulate community views on local policy matters and the development of appropriate services for the Somali community in Bristol as a whole.

Five questions with Abdulkadir Sheikhusein Chair of Bristol Somali Forum

By Charlene Lawrence,  Engagement Officer at Quartet Community Foundation

1) For those who may not have heard of you before, tell us a bit about your organisation?

“Bristol Somali Forum is an umbrella organisation that represents and promotes the united voice of our community.”

2) How has the pandemic affected your organisation and the people you support?

“Covid-19 has not been kind to us as an organisation as well as a community. Sadly, we have lost community members. Also a member of our management team contracted the virus during the pandemic.  Besides that, we could not do most of the work we had planned to do. This was a setback.

“Although we have finally adapted, the impact was still negative. For example, we have stopped all the work we were doing in the prisons (prison visits).

“On the other hand, I believe we – our volunteers – have done a brilliant job when it comes to the Covid-19 community response. We have undertaken a number of strategies to mitigate the impact of the virus by simplifying government guidelines which were difficult and confusing.

“In addition, we have been delivering food parcels to vulnerable people (Somalis and non-Somalis), conducting foot patrols for places where members of our community were gathering and we produce leaflets and video sketches in order to encourage members of our community to stay at home.

“Apart from that, we have done some work around mental health issues as well as community cohesion and Islamophobia. Why? Covid impacted mental wellbeing and it has caused fear and anxiety among the community. Because Covid disproportionally affected BAME people, people started to blame them that they are responsible for spreading the virus.

“Further, we have set up online sessions to support completing the various grant applications for anyone self-employed .”

3) This year’s theme for Black History Month is ‘Proud to be’, what is your proudest achievement both personally and for the organisation?

“There are a number of things we are proud of as an organisation.

“We are proud that we represent one of the most active communities in Bristol.

“Key figures of our community do volunteer here in Bristol and back home. I am proud of their immense contribution to our city.”

 4) Who or what inspires your work?

“Putting a big smile on the faces of those who are less fortunate and making a difference in their lives is a source of inspiration for me.”

5) What will your organisation be doing to celebrate Black History Month?

“In relation to Black History Month, we are organising the Somali Festival and Culture 2021 in Bristol.

“The festival promotes the best of Somali culture and arts with a mix of events including an artefacts exhibition, poetry, literature, folklore, dance, music, and youth discussions. The ultimate goal of the event is not only to celebrate Black History Month but also to bring together key figures of the community, local talents, and scholars/writers/ educators of Somali heritage who came from other parts of the world.

“During the festival, there will be discussions around the concept of the “intergenerational gap” in terms of culture and identity, especially the difference of opinions between older and younger generations.

“This is not a Somali-ONLY event. The festival is open for the wider Bristolians and that is why we invited key figures of other communities, service providers, and all our partners.”

Quartet grants helping support Black History Month

We recently awarded Bristol Somali Forum a grant of £4,040 towards the organisation of a three day Somali Festival and Culture event as part of this year’s Black History Month.

Quartet Community Foundation would like to thank Abdulkadir Sheikhusein of Bristol Somali Forum for helping us celebrate Black History Month, and for sharing these insights.