Time for Ilhan Omer
Film Review by Fred and Mary Ann Brussat (reposted from Spirituality and Practice)
Ilhan Omar can claim many firsts. In 2016, she became the first Somali American elected to legislative office in the United States when she was elected to represent part of Minneapolis in the Minnesota House of Representatives. In 2018, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing all of Minneapolis. She is the first naturalized citizen from Africa to be elected to Congress. One of two Muslims elected that year, she became the first woman to wear a hijab on the floor of Congress.
This documentary follows Ilhan's first venture into politics when she is encouraged by others in the Somali community as well as her husband and three children to get involved. She recruits a mostly young staff to help her win the primary of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor for a seat in the Minnesota state legislature. Her opponents include a male Somali, Mohamud Noor, who previously ran in the primary, and Phyllis Kahn, a 43-year incumbent.
We see Ilhan developing her key talking points and attending numerous meet-and-greets to explain how she can address the justice and environmental issues facing the community. She proves to be an incredibly hard-working campaigner, going door-to-door to introduce herself and meet her potential constituents. Everywhere her youth and enthusiasm are on display.
She is especially popular with immigrants and college students. Her personal story of coming to America after living in a refugee camp makes her a symbol of the immigrant quest for acceptance in the country. Her determination not to be dismissed for being a woman and a Muslim proves to be an inspiration to many watching the campaign.
After the election, her campaign slogan "Time for Ilhan" takes on new meaning as she gains media attention, including a right-wing smear campaign. But she perseveres, learning lessons which seem to be serving her well in 2019 as she deals with more attacks as a U.S. Representative. This documentary gives us a profile of a up-and-coming political star. But perhaps its greatest contribution is showing us the process of political participation, inviting other young people to jump into the fray and help to change the world.