WBAC Summer Festival
WBAC, a Somali youth/young adult soccer organization founded in 2008, and GMCC, a 116-year old interfaith and multicultural nonprofit organization, joined forces in June 2022 to present the WBAC Summer Festival.
WBAC Summer Festival was an exciting new collaboration. What had been an annual soccer tournament for 11 years expanded to include an international artist-in-residence and a variety of culturally-specific arts activities for youth and families. Our artist-in-residence traveled from Djibouti for his first ever appearance in North America.
GMCC presents WBAC Summer Festival
The growth of WBAC’s annual soccer tournament outpaced the organization’s capacity to support it. Understanding its importance in our community, GMCC provided infrastructure and capacity to not only continue but expand the event: This masterful collaboration expanded the soccer tournament into a comprehensive cultural heritage festival that included Somali arts and cultural activities featuring international Somali artist-in-residence. This community event was filled with opportunities for communities to join together, celebrate, and share cultural heritage.
Almost all living Somali artists sing to backing tracks in lieu of live instruments. This is due in part to the destructive impact of civil war and the related destruction of instruments and recordings, censorship of Somali artists, and dissolution of music education. As part of the residency, we curated a band for our featured artist so they were able to perform songs with live instrumentation. As such, the residency will gave audiences an unprecedented chance to experience live Somali music. The live music performances took place at Ted Mann concert hall on June 25th and First Avenue Mainroom July 1st (Somali Independence Day). The residency also included a workshop series for Somali youth to engage in music, poetry, and engage with local musicians. Local community youth leaders also lead cultural activities in the lobby prior to the June 25th performance.
WBAC Summer Festival has significant reach as measured by both audience and exposure through press outlets and social media platforms. Television stations Somali TV Minnesota (viewership of about 50,000); Somali Television Network (viewership of about 50,000); and Universal Somali TV (viewership of about 300,000) cover and report on the Festival. Voice of America covers daily Festival activities, disseminating content through both television and radio with a total reach of 200,000. All these media outlets post their content to YouTube and social media platforms in addition to broadcasting on their stations. KALY Somali American Radio advertises and covers the Festival to a listenership of about 80,000. MN United FC, Minnesota’s professional soccer team, has also provided in-kind e-newsletter ads, in-stadium announcements, and social media posts targeting their constituents. The Snapchat profile Somali Aduunka “snaps” the Festival to their 200,000 followers. WBAC also posts content across our own media platforms including Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. To date, we have focused social media efforts on Snapchat, where we have 12,000 followers.
After isolation and lack of community gathering due to COVID-19, our communities are seeking venues for celebration and community connection. The WBAC Summer Festival built and will continue to build community and facilitate intergenerational connections through engaging youth, families, and elders. We hope you will support this important celebration of Somali culture and community bonding
Thank you to our 2022 sponsors!
About West Bank Athletic Club
West Bank Athletic Club (WBAC) is a Somali youth development organization founded in 2008 by Ahmed Ismail, known in our community as “Coach Ahmed” or simply “Coach.” Throughout its history, WBAC has served young people ages 5-24 from the Cedar Riverside (or West Bank) neighborhood and across the Twin Cities with year-round programming that supports 21st-century skills including leadership development, teamwork, discipline, responsibility, and respect for others, primarily through soccer.
WBAC has included as many as five teams in any given year and hosted an average of six annual tournaments, serving over 1,500 young players annually. WBAC has long provided a platform for young Somalis to find community and build relationships.
The annual WBAC Summer Festival, now in its 12th year, brings hundreds of young players and thousands of audience members from around the country to the Twin Cities for a week-long soccer tournament. This tournament has long been a venue for celebration and community gathering for thousands of Somalis.
During his time as Executive Director of WBAC, Coach has managed nearly 100 tournaments, including several outside of the metro area due to interest and demand from outstate partners, demonstrating broad reach and impact.
The History of WBAC Summer Festival
The WBAC Summer Festival was launched in 2009 with 12 teams of boys and young men ages 16-24: Six from Minnesota and six from other parts of the U.S., including Atlanta, GA; Columbus, OH; Seattle, WA; and Salt Lake City, UT. The Festival always takes place at the end of June to coincide with Somali Independence Day on July 1st. The first Festival attracted approximately 3,000spectators. Over the past decade, the Festival’s popularity has increased significantly as measured by the number of teams applying to participate, audience members, impressions across social media platforms, and press coverage. What’s more, two Festival alums have been recruited by MLS (Major League Soccer) teams: One player from Ohio now plays with New York City FC and another from Vermont now plays with San Jose Earthquakes.
The 2019 Festival had 16 teams from all over the country representing 10 different states: 400 young players ages 16-24 participated in 31 total games. In 2019, we also piloted the expansion of the Festival to include the arts: We hosted Somali artists from Minnesota, London, and Toronto including UK-based rapper, spoken word artist, social entrepreneur, and motivational speaker Jamala Osman; Toronto-based spoken word artist and singer Hanad Bandz; and local artist DJ Fowzi. The artists performed Somali songs and spoken word at half time and in between games on a stage at the park adjacent to the tournament stadium. The arts activities successfully increased participation in the Festival and allowed non-Somalis to experience and better understand Somali culture.