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Mark Zuckerberg has his first Iftar dinner with a group of Somali refugees in Minneapolis

June 23, 2017 lawson james 0 Comments

Tonight I had my first Iftar dinner with a group of Somali refugees in Minneapolis- Mark Zuckerberg.

 Mark Zuckerberg has his first Iftar dinner with a group of Somali refugees in Minneapolis
 Mark Zuckerberg has his first Iftar dinner with a group of Somali refugees in Minneapolis
As a refugee, you often don't get to choose which country you end up in. When I asked one man, who had spent 26 years in a refugee camp, whether America now felt like home, he gave a simple and profound answer:
"Home is where you are free to do what you want. Yes, this feels like home."

There are few places in the world he felt comfortable to be who he is: the country he was born, and our country that values freedom.
What a beautiful tribute to America.

Thanks to my hosts for being so gracious at the very end of Ramadan. I left impressed by your strength and resilience to build a new life in an unfamiliar place, and you are a powerful reminder of why this country is so great.

While I'm in Chicago discussing our new mission of building community and bringing the world closer together, I spent some time on the South Side talking to recent grads of Urban Prep Academy.
Mark Zuckerberg talking to recent grads of Urban Prep Academy
Mark Zuckerberg talking to recent grads of Urban Prep Academy
Urban Prep is a good school in a tough neighborhood. Every student who graduates has been accepted to a four-year college or university. The students graduate with a strong sense of discipline and respect.

But in just the first six months of this year, more than 1,500 people have been shot in Chicago. Two Urban Prep students were shot and killed this school year alone -- one while trying to break up a fight. The students told me they don't go a single day without hearing a gunshot in their neighborhood.

Every student I talked to knew someone in a gang. When I asked why this was, they told me they don't have normal community pillars -- places to go like a YMCA and role models like community leaders. Without these, gangs provide some of these social structures. One student told me: "if you can't find love in the house, you can find it on the streets."

I asked the students how easy it is to get access to guns and how much you'd have to pay. They said all you have to do is go up the hill to the railroad tracks where people steal them off passing trains. Drugs are easily accessible as well, and someone told me cartels are selling as much as $1 billion of heroin in Chicago alone.
Mark Zuckerberg talking to recent grads of Urban Prep Academy
Mark Zuckerberg talking to recent grads of Urban Prep Academy
Some students expressed they felt the police were more of a threat to them than a help, even if they stay out of trouble. One student told me he'll tape his driver's license to his steering wheel so he never has to reach into his pocket if he's pulled over. He's scared of getting shot.

At a basic level, a lot of what we talked about came back to community and themes I've seen around the country -- how important it is, and what happens when it breaks down.
A few students told me that when everyone you know is struggling, it's harder to care about each other. You start to wonder why someone else has something that your child needs, and it's tempting to just take it.

Communities like Urban Prep give people a sense that they're part of something bigger than themselves, that they are not alone, that they have something better ahead to work for. The students I met told me their friends in gangs would love to trade places with them -- because they have an opportunity to get out.

Mark Zuckerberg talking to recent grads of Urban Prep Academy
Mark Zuckerberg talking to recent grads of Urban Prep Academy
To bring the world closer together, we have to build communities that keep people safe. Some neighborhoods in Chicago have a long way to go, but the students I met today give me hope. We're going to do everything we can to help more people build communities like their school.

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