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Said Salah Ahmed

Said Salah Ahmed

Award-Winning Author, Playwright and Teacher

Born: Somalia
Heritage: Somali

Education is what makes the difference. To succeed in your education you have to do one thing. That is reading, read to understand. You will not succeed in life unless you put together effective learning with quality. Continue learning and learning!

Said Salah Ahmed

Award-Winning Author, Playwright and Teacher

My name is Said Salah-Ahmed. I was born in the northeast of Somalia where the high mountains slope down to the Red Sea. Before schooling, I was nomadic. I watched the goats and sheep. I sailed with my father on his dhow. He wanted me to be a sea captain. I called myself General SS Ahmed.

When I was six I enrolled in the first elementary school in Somalia. As a child I was selected to act in plays written by my teacher. When I was eleven I started writing poetry because of the rough times.

I traveled 120 miles with a camel caravan to get to middle school. When I was in 8th grade, the assistant principal caught me teaching in an empty classroom. I started teaching 4th and then 6th graders. I wrote plays and more poetry.

My high school was the teacher training center. I taught there for five years.

After that, in 1968, I attended the College of Education for four years. I was a biology major. I was known to people of my country as a poet and playwright. I wrote one of the famous plays in Somalia with my colleagues. When we wrote a second play, one of the writers was thrown in jail. We were censored and harassed. That is what made the play famous.

I was principal of a high school. Then I was the principal of a teacher training school in Mogadishu. I was responsible to support the art, the student organizations and the teacher organizations. I wrote textbooks, plays, films and magazine articles. I did broadcasting. I was a voice for teachers and children. Teaching was my profession.

In December 1990 the Civil War started. Everything fell apart. I had to flee my country. I traveled south on top of a milk truck for 500 miles. I walked 500 miles on the boundary between Somalia and Kenya with my family. My brother-in-law was shot for no reason. I buried him and kept walking. In the Utanga Camp I established the largest school in a refugee camp at the time. I began teaching students. I wrote and directed a radio play for the BBC. The play aired for 17 weeks. It was about Somali peace and reconciliation.

In 1966 I came to Sanford as a bilingual teacher and still I am here. In my class I teach the book I wrote. This year I started a second job to teach at the University of Minnesota. Now Somali students can take my class as their second language instead of French or Spanish.

In 1979 I was awarded my nation’s bronze medal for my educational, cultural and artistic work. My song, “Midwife” was voted one of the top four in The United Nations International Year of the Child Children’s Song Contest. In 2005 I was awarded the Virginia McKnight Binger award for Human Service. These are some of my successes. Now I am an international speaker. I am a teacher at Sanford and a teacher for the world.


Hey! Hey! Maha-Dah-Ta!

Honoring Said Salah Ahmed

Hey! Hey! Maha-Dah-Ta!
(Honoring Said Salah Ahmed)

My name is Said Salah-Ahmed,
and I am Somali.
I’m, a poet, I’m a dreamer,
I’m a student, I’m a teacher
From the northeast of Somalia,
near the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden
My father was a Captain
on a dhow, he hauled cargo
Wanted me to sail with him
And so I did as a child,
age of six, I did travel
Out to sea, often said,
call me General SS Ahmed
When I went away to school
Hey hey Maha-dah-ta
Peace and justice here to stay

Sixty miles far from home,
on a camel I did go
Since my Dad, out to sea,
I arrived, no money
Someone appeared, laid money down,
when my dad came back town
Paid them back, trusted me,
this I do believe
Take refuge in Allah
This was back ,in British rule,
I would, act in school
In the plays my teacher wrote,
with words filled with hope
Set my people free
Hey hey Maha-dah-ta
Peace and justice here to stay

From Amoud Teacher Center
to LaFoole Somali College
Wrote a play, without fail,
where a colleague sent to jail
Saying things they didn’t like,
what’s wrong to them
for me was right

Tried to stop us, looking back ,
we were censored and harassed
For saying what everyone knew
From Civil War to broken hearts,
everything fell apart
Some were shot thrown in a hole,
to Mombasa we did go
To the Refugee Camp
Hey hey Maha-dah-ta
Peace and justice here to stay

Without work, not much clothing,
medicine, people moaning
Voices calling in the dark,
first the flood, then the spark
What you see in my face,
never can be replaced
Without peace who can heal,
nor reconcile what they feel
In a world gone mad
Without verse, without faith,
what will come of the human race
Don’t give up, don’t despair,
God & Allah always there
On your life journey
Hey hey Maha-dah-ta
Peace and justice here to stay

Music by Larry Long. Words by Larry Long with the 7th Grade “Panthers” Section, Sanford Middle School, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

© Larry Long 2009 / BMI