LEWISTON – A group of local Somalis is throwing a big party Friday night to celebrate their culture and give others an opportunity to learn about them.

Organized by the African Immigrants Association, the event will feature Somali music, dancing and food. It is being held in the gym at Lewiston High School, and everyone is invited, free of charge.

“We wanted to do something to show Americans our culture and let them integrate,” said Said Mohamud, a member of the African Immigrants Association.

The celebration is one of the group’s first projects.

Formed to help local immigrants with everything from finding housing to starting their own day cares, the African Immigrants Association hopes to build connections between Somalis and others in the Lewiston-Auburn community.

They planned the party for Friday, in part to celebrate Somalia’s independence days.

The northern and southern parts of Somalia used to be separate, each under the rule of a different country.

The north gained its independence from Britain on June 26, 1960. On July 1 of that same year, the south broke away from Italy, and the two halves joined as one country, Mohamud said.

The Somalis who live in Lewiston and Auburn come from both the north and south, and Friday’s party will celebrate both of their histories.

The African Immigrants Association hopes that the celebration also will give Somali families an opportunity to get out of the house and have fun. Since many Somali families are very large, it is hard for parents to go out to dinner or to the movies.

“This is a way for them to come together to dance and eat, have a good time,” Mohamud said.

He hopes to make the celebration an annual event.

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