Safiya Khalid, who hails from the city of Maine, has been elected to the city council of Lewiston. Maine is US’s whitest state, but it is home to a growing population of Africans who’ve fled their homeland.
Ms Khalid soundly defeated a fellow Democrat on Tuesday to clinch the city council seat in a campaign that was marred in the final days by nasty attacks and threats fueled by social media.
Safiya is not only the first Somali American to be elected to the city council in Maine but also the youngest person ever to get elected to that body.
She, however, shrugged off the attacks and declared that her victory is proof enough that “community organizers beat internet trolls.”
A photo of Khalid flipping off the camera when she was a high school freshman and references to her opponent being taunted were featured in the online attacks, most of which originated outside of Maine.
The hateful messages that poured in from across the country attacked her religion and her skin color, she said. Someone even said she should be stoned while another one shared her home address on a Facebook group.
She was forced to delete the Facebook app from her phone and deactivated her Twitter account because of all the online trolls.
“My reaction was how can people be so mean and full of hate? I was left speechless. It was all about intimidation,” she said.
Khalid wants to be the voice of young people in a state known for being old. She pointed out that Androscoggin County — where Lewiston is the biggest city — is the youngest county in the state. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 21.7 percent of residents are under 18.
Khalid’s political life began in 2017 when she ran for school committee at the age of 20 years old when she was a senior psychology student at the University of Southern Maine.
“I lost that race, but that’s when it all started for me,” said Khalid at an early interview.