For Somali-owned businesses damaged in riots, relief effort takes off


Mowlid Jigre heard gunshots as he left Jigjiga Business Center two days after the killing of George Floyd. He worried the chaos that had swallowed a stretch of East Lake Street less than a mile away would reach Jigjiga soon, and he was right: When he returned the next morning the building had been ransacked.

Jigjiga houses a number of Somali-owned businesses that saw substantial looting in the riots, including Z Dress Fashion, Kollege Koffee, the Somali Museum of Minnesota and Ace Insurance Agency. Jigre, whose father owns Jigjiga, created a GoFundMe page in the days that followed aimed at supporting them, saying he believes the Somali community is integral to the city of Minneapolis and ought to be protected. So far the effort has raised more than $100,000.

When Jigjiga was hit early in the morning May 28, Z Dress Fashion and Kollege Koffee, both owned by Ziyad Abdi, had their windows and doors broken and goods stolen, costing Abdi an estimated $150,000. As his businesses are uninsured and his savings were depleted during the Covid-19 crisis, it’ll take him five to seven years to get his businesses operating at pre-pandemic capacity, he said. While the GoFundMe page won’t make him whole, he appreciates it.

The Somali Museum of Minnesota had all of its windows smashed and many items stolen from its gift shop. These items weren’t run-of-the-mill souvenirs — they were handmade by Somali weaving artists and were uninsured. The damage is particularly stinging because the museum is the only one in the United States exclusively dedicated to Somali history and culture, said Director of Communications and Media Amal Mohamed.

The losses could have been worse. The museum’s staff removed some of its most valuable artifacts before Jigjiga was hit, and those that remained were left unmolested.

Though a major setback for the museum, Mohamed said the damage is relatively insignificant considering Minneapolis’s current climate. “I believe that lives aren’t replaceable, things are,” Mohamed said.

Ace Insurance Agency also had its windows smashed, Jigre said. Its owner could not be reached for comment.

Jigre’s GoFundMe page has received donations from Minneapolis’s Somali community, but also from non-Somali Minneapolitans. It’s even received donations from abroad, which has helped lift Jigre’s spirits, he said.

“At first I was kinda ticked off,” Jigre said. “But the more days that went on, I realized there’s a lot of good people still left. Of course there’s always bad people out there, but I feel like the good people outweigh them by a lot.”

Originally, Jigre was planning to equally distribute donations to businesses, but is now trying to determine how to distribute funds according to the extent of damage each business sustained, he said. He is in the process of looking for more Somali-owned businesses in Minneapolis that need help.

While the riots damaged Jigjiga and the businesses it housed, Jigre, who participated in the protests himself, believes the majority of protestors weren’t trying to damage property, but simply advocate for a better Minneapolis, a cause worth fighting for, he said.

“Don’t look at us like we’re all in the same boat and don’t look at us like we’re supporting the riots — we were supporting George Floyd,” Jigre said. “I feel like Minneapolis came together as a community after George Floyd, and I’m hoping to see change now.”


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