Somali man brings youths together with basketball, school

Said Mumin's first choice for the naming of his Somali-centered non-profit youth group was "Lead by Example."

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Said Mumin

Said Mumin's first choice for the naming of his Somali-centered non-profit youth group was "Lead by Example."

That trademark, though, had already been picked by another establishment. So the former Rochester John Marshall student settled on "Distant Relatives."

The 32-year-old Somali-born Mumin has made it his mission the last seven years to improve the lives of his "distant relatives," fellow Somalis living in Rochester.

Targeting males in the 10-21 age range — ones Mumin said could easily steer into trouble — his primary way of entering their lives has been coaching and providing them avenues in his favorite sport, basketball.

"I have a good feel for what is going on (among Rochester Somalis)," said Mumin, who with the help of friends also offers these young men tutoring and computer help from a small rented space in Rochester. "I grew up (in Rochester) and I was one of the first Somalis here (arriving from Mogadishu, Somalia in 1991).


"With my experience, I know how easy it is to get in trouble and fall behind. I talk to these kids about the experiences I've had."

One experience Mumin has always immersed himself in since arriving in Rochester, has been to play basketball. A self-professed hoops junky, his love for the sport hasn't waned.

He finds it a perfect avenue to help get across his message of staying physically active and out of trouble.

"They need something that keeps them out of trouble," Mumin said. "You don't want to give them so much free time. Marijuana is huge in Rochester. Nowadays, it is prevalent in the Somali community, too. That is why I run three programs for basketball."

Mumin's programs are broken down by age groups: 10-12 year olds, 13-17 and 18-21. He estimates that 30 young men are involved in "Distant Relatives." Mumin conducts practices with each group about twice a week, year round, gathering at an outdoor basketball court or inside at Zumbro Lutheran Church. They also play a few tournament a year.

Financial assistance

Mumin has tracked down sponsors for his teams. He's also gotten grant money and other donations for "Distant Relatives."

"My whole idea is to try to get the kids focused and help them get in shape while they're at it," said Mumin, who is a warehouse worker. "That, and I want to help them understand the hardship that comes from not getting an education. Right now I'm really trying to focus on the (13-17) age group. It becomes a domino effect, where the next generation looks to the generation before them."


On Sunday, his 10-12 year age group gathered at a southwest Rochester outdoor basketball court. Only four of them made it this time, mostly because of the day's crushing heat and humidity. Mumin had them going through a practice anyway, offering advice as they played 2-on-2.

One of his players is 10-year-old Ridwan Jama. Jama swears by Mumin's work.

He says Mumin has done a lot more than just teach him basketball.

"He keeps me out of trouble," said Jama, who attends Pinewood Elementary. "He tells me that if I steal, I might go to jail. He also helps me with my math and reading.

"In basketball, he's trying to get me better with my left land, in dribbling and with left-handed layups."

Muhammad Haji-Yusuf first came to Mumin as a senior at Rochester Century High School. Haji-Yusuf, who played basketball at Century, had watched members of his class begin to make poor decisions away from school, and was looking for a better way.

In Mumin, he found it. He was quickly drawn to his engaging personality.

"My classmates were doing some crazy stuff that they shouldn't have been doing," Haji-Yusuf said. "Then I met Said, who was very outgoing, told good stories and was very fun. The reason I hooked up with him was because I had been hanging out with the wrong people.


"He helped me to get better at basketball, and built the team around me."

Haji-Yusuf spent this last year going to school at Riverland Community College in Austin, where he was also a member of its basketball team. This coming school year he plans to enroll at St. Mary's College in Winona, where he also plans to play basketball.

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