The results of the 2016 election will go down as the official "wait, WHAT?" day in recent US history. Although the popular vote didn't count in the presidential election, our country was gifted with 14 black politicians eager to make a difference in this country.

The list includes Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American lawmaker in the United States and winner of Minnesota's House race.

Omar fled Somalia with her family during a tumultuous civil war. "The war started when I was 8," the 34 year old revealed in the new issue of PEOPLE. "One night militia tried to break into our home, and the exterior was riddled with bullets. My family left our neighborhood, passing through dead bodies and debris."

Her family then relocated to the Mombasa refugee camp in Kenya where they spent the next four years before being sponsored to move to the United States. Omar recalls arriving in New York before moving to Virginia where she began middle school. "I had missed years of education, so I didn't really speak English…My sisters and I learned by practice, watching TV with the captions on, reading and trying to repeat words back to each other." 

It wasn't until her family moved to Minneapolis where she would embark on her political career during high school. 

"Not a lot of the kids knew how to coexist with people of a different background, so we created a unity and diversity program," Omar said. "We'd have meals together and connect through experiences and stories. I was finally just "Ilhan," not 'that Somali girl'."

That diversity group laid the foundation for Omar's future in community organizing and politics, which she continued to build on by studying political science and international policies at North Dakota State University.

Ilhan Omar sees herself in a lot of Americans that enter the "land of immigrants" for new opportunities and second chances. 

“I believe women and minorities often wait for permission to be invited to something; we need to stop doing that.” 

Photo: Insight News

Her goals while in office include raising the minimum wage from $7.75/hour to $15/hour, closing the opportunity gap, and expanding environmental justice and racial equality.

After holding a city council position in 2013 before getting elected by Minnesota’s District 60B in 2016 Omari knows that her time in the House will be quite the experience under President-elect Donald Trump, but she remains hopeful due to the support of Minnesota. "I find hope in knowing that I belong to a state that has a lot of people who are champions of change and progress; that we will rise up and fight for justice and equality; that ultimately love will trump hate."

And if her state wasn't a reason enough for her to keep fighting, her family keeps her going especially with three kids; son Adnan, 11, daughters Isra, 13, and Ilwad, 4. "They know as kids who are Muslim, Somali, black Americans, that they've always been part of a struggle and that change isn't easy."


May Ilhan Omar's political career serve as a reminder that opportunities aren't always given but must be made in order to receive the change we deserve. She's already an inspiration to many women just for proudly wearing her hijab. We are eager to see the contributions she makes for not only Minnesota but the country as a whole. Congratulations again!

Watch her journey unfold in this video.

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