Young Somalis raise $5,000 for drought relief at Seattle fundraiser

Representing the colors of the Somali flag, a team dressed in blue competes on stage to the amusement of the audience. The youth-organized event raised money for drought relief in Somalia. (Photo by Damme Getachew.)

For us. By us.

I’m thinking of Solange’s song “F.U.B.U.” as I watch more than 250 young Somalis and East African allies at the Rainier Arts Center last Saturday. Loud music — a mix of hip-hop, R&B and Somali — burst out of the speakers and fill the dimly lit auditorium as people come together to raise money for the devastating drought in Somalia.

In March, the drought’s severity made headlines when more than a hundred people died in just 2 days. In response, the Seattle Somali community organized an emergency fundraiser last month.

But Saturday’s event had a distinct atmosphere of youth.

“Somali Wild n’ Out 206,” a take-off of Nick Cannon’s MTV show, pit two teams against each other in improvisational comedy games onstage in front of the audience. Representing the colors of the Somali flag, the Blue Squad and the White Squad battled on stage to the amusement of the audience.

In a night of fun and games, the crowd raised funds that will directly support efforts to fight the water crisis in Somalia.

Somali Wild n’ Out events have taken place across the globe over the past few months, including in Minnesota and London. Seattle’s event was organized by local Somali youth and publicized through social media. The planning committee hoped to raise $6,000 to $10,000. More than $5,000 was raised from the sale of tickets alone.

Main international sponsor Horn of Hope helped make the event possible along with local and international business support, including from Wild Ciyaal, Wear Somali and Kingdom Barber Shop.

Event organizer Ahlaam Ibraahim said that it was important to work with a trusted organization like Horn of Hope to allay fears that the money raised will get to those who need it.

Ibraahim met Anisa Liban, co-founder of Horn of Hope, at a conference in Ohio. Ibraahim connected to Liban’s leadership as a fellow young, Somali woman. Wild n’ Out 206 is the first of many collaborations the local organizers plan to have with Horn of Hope.

“We wanted someone we could trust and Horn of Hope has been doing this work since 2014,” Ibraahim said.

Another distinct feature to this youth-organized show was the fluidity between Somali and American culture.

One game called for competitors to translate Somali proverbs. In the dancing competition, Somali music played first, then a throwback song by Ice Cube came on, which riled up the crowd from front to the back. In another game, contestants held a mouth-full of water as the opposite team tried to make them laugh, often using jokes requiring some level of Somali proficiency.

Organizers of Wild n’ Out 206 told me it was important for Seattle’s Somali youth to put together their own event to help those back home.

“Most of the people at Wild n’ Out probably haven’t been to Somalia,” Ibraahim said. “Young Somalis’ understanding of the drought is different than their parents who’ve grown up there.”

It was dark by the time we all exited the theater. After two hours of unrestrained laughter and celebration, I marveled at the warmth radiating from everyone’s faces.

To paraphrase Solange, this one’s for us.

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that there were more than three business sponsors of the event.