Omar Mohamed, Award-Winning Author & Refugee Advocate, Tours Maine Community

Omar Mohamed, the Somali American co-creator of the award-winning graphic novel When Stars Are Scattered and the founder of the nonprofit Refugee Strong will visit Maine to speak to 2,000 middle school students and community members in April 2024. His award-winning book features his childhood and pursuit of education in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya and his nonprofit supports students in that same camp.

Omar Mohamed will speak to middle school students in Portland, South Portland, and Lewiston, Maine on April 22-24, 2024.


The broader Maine community is welcome to meet Omar Mohamed on:

April 22nd at 6PM

Gateway Community Center in Portland, ME

 April 23rd at 6PM

Gateway Community Center in Lewiston, ME

Free copies of When Stars Are Scattered and a Somali-catered meal will be provided to all (while supplies last). No admission fee or registration required.


Want to help spread the word?

Print a poster/flyer for Portland or Lewiston or share the Portland or Lewiston event on social media -or- simply share this blog post!


 

Maine nonprofit I’m Your Neighbor Books has partnered with national and local organizations to give free copies of When Stars Are Scattered to every middle school student Omar Mohamed meets and to the public at Gateway Community Center events (while supplies last).  Popular with readers of all ages and backgrounds, the book is especially beloved to the African Immigrant and New Generation community. The title gives all readers an abiding sense of faith in the power of education to transform a life.

Speaking directly to refugee students, Omar Mohamed recently said:

“Imagine you are one of the stars. Your light is bright and shines for millions of miles. Now open your eyes, and open them wide. Look at your friends sitting all around you. Throughout your life, people may shout ugly words at you. Words like, ‘Go home, refugee!’ or ‘You have no right to be here!’ When you meet these people, tell them to look at the stars, and how they move across the sky. No one tells a star to go home. Tell them, ‘I am a star. I deserve to exist just the same as a star.’ How do I know? Because here I am. I am here. The proof is in the stars.” —Omar Mohamed

Maine is home to 12,000 Somali Americans. The community first arrived in Lewiston in the 1990’s and were the vanguard for the resettlement of African refugees, asylum seekers, and secondary migrants that continues today. In the 30 years Maine has been their home, Somalis have started vibrant families, educational pathways, businesses, nonprofits, and have joined the ranks of local and state government. In 2021, Deqa Dhalac became the first African-born female mayor in America and now serves Maine as a State Representative. A fan of the book, Representative Dhalac is excited that Omar Mohamed will meet with middle schoolers in her South Portland district.

When Stars Are Scattered has been a gift to the Maine Somali community. It has allowed us to revisit memories—both painful and joyful.  It has opened up conversations between our parents and children. And, it has allowed our long-term Maine neighbors to see how resilient and resourceful the Somali community is. Through Omar’s character, we all see Somalis centering kindness and education—even in the hardest of circumstances.” —Deqa Dhalac

Omar Mohamed, a resident of Pennsylvania, runs the nonprofit Refugee Strong to support the students in Dadaab Refugee Camp, the setting of his book and his refugee during the Somali civil war. Refugee Strong aims to empower, inspire, and embolden students living in refugee camps to continue their studies and to achieve their educational dreams. The nonprofit provides resources and support to leverage education for all.

“I lived in Dadaab Refugee camp for over 15 years. I know what it’s like to spend your entire childhood without resources. Now, I’m working to change that for my family, friends, and neighbors.” —Omar Mohamed

I’m Your Neighbor Books  worked with Writers & Artists Across the Country (WAAC) to provide this incredible opportunity. WAAC is a consortium of children’s book industry professionals who are building a nationwide network to facilitate author and artist visits in underserved K-12 schools. Author and artist visits can change children’s lives, yet they rarely occur outside independent schools or well-resourced public school districts. WAAC knows firsthand that personal interaction between children and creators fosters literacy, promotes empathy, and enriches global citizenship. Data supports the results: By introducing under-resourced students to authors we create engaged readers; by supplying them with free books we strengthen education. Feedback from students, educators and authors, shows these visits result in students who feel empowered in their identity, voice, and the importance of their own stories.

Additional and astonishing support has also come from Black Owned Maine/Good Shepherd, Maine Humanities Council, First Book, Gateway Community Services, New York Life Foundation, Lesher Family Foundation, The Ruby & Hart Foundation, Gideon Asen, Brann & Isaacson, and AudioFile Magazine.