Albasha Hume (left) worked at the Open Cities Health Clinic in St. Paul with Summer Johnson (right). Credit: Summer Johnson

In many ways, Albasha Hume lived privately, despite being a pastor, author, and community advocate. So private, in fact, that though he had his doctorate degree, those close to him didn’t know what exactly that degree was in. 

Hume worked as the men’s health director of Open Cities Health Clinic, a nonprofit community health center in St. Paul that serves disadvantaged communities and provides services regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. 

Originally from Tanzania, Hume died from COVID-19 complications in June.  He was 63 years old. His age, too, was private to many, who thought him much younger.

He is survived by his three children, two of whom are in the United States, one of whom is in Tanzania.

Summer Johnson, the chief of strategic development at Open Cities, said that Hume helped destigmatize taboo health topics for his patients, including HIV prevention, men’s sexual health, and mental health.

“He really wanted to bring awareness to creating healthy, well-rounded lives within the communities that he was navigating,” Johnson said. “People trusted him, people loved him. Patients would seek him out specifically for his services.”

Hume was not one to simply clock in and out, Johnson said he was deeply invested in his work. Hume helped the clinic do outreach work and would table community and social events. 

Johnson said Hume was a recognizable figure at such social events, and people would often come up to say hello or hug him.

Sahan Journal COVID-19 Memorial Project

Here at Sahan Journal, we’ve committed to memorializing the lives of Minnesota’s new Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19. Imagine a photo album with all their faces and names. Flipping through the pages, we’d see our family, friends—and, of course, more. 

We’ve begun creating some version of that album and have documented stories about people from the Hmong, Latino, and East African communities. We’re covering people who have disproportionately suffered through this pandemic, by speaking with people who knew and loved them.

Hume was also known for his sense of humor and could lighten the mood in any setting. He was a regular guest on the podcast “Let’s Talk, Africa” and would joke about the awkwardness of discussing sexual health—while still prioritizing the importance of accessing resources.

“This is a very hard topic to talk about in our community, but how long can we hide behind without talking about it?” Hume said in a 2019 clip.

Hume was also an author and wrote a 2015 book titled “Understanding the Impact of Emigration on Elderly African Immigrants.”

Outside of his work, Hume was a devout Seventh Day Adventist; he served as a pastor at the Mount of Blessings Seventh Day Adventist Church in New Brighton.

“He was kind-hearted, punctual. He was a quiet man, but he knew what to say and what he was expected to do,” said Pastor Nicodemus Nyagaka in an episode of “Let’s Talk, Africa” memorializing Hume.

Nyagaka, the head pastor at Mount of Blessings, said that the children loved whenever Hume taught Sabbath school. He was a man of integrity, one whose roles and impact at the church are irreplaceable, he added.

Occasionally, if children did not have a ride to church, he would provide one. 

Pastor Loveth Aligbe, who serves at the Brooklyn Park Ark of Ministry Covenant, said in the memorial episode that Hume played many roles: a friend, a father, an encourager. He would ensure that people were supported no matter their resources. 

“It didn’t matter your problem, he would help find a solution,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t have insurance, if you just came into the country yesterday, Dr. Albasha would make sure you are taken care of. He made sure everybody lived healthy lives irrespective of your color, your race or your creed.”

Hume was also a novice dancer, at least when at work and trying to get coworkers to smile. Johnson said he would come in dancing to nearly every Friday meeting. 

He showed love through his food, too. Famous among his friends were his beans and rice pilau. Johnson said Hume would always smile and tell coworkers that bananas were the secret to a long life and the credit to his youthful appearance.

With the help of a GoFundMe fundraiser, family members were able to raise money to repatriate Hume’s body back to Tanzania, one of his final wishes. 

 “Let’s keep on having these conversations, and let’s build a network of helping each other to remove stigma, and have someone you trust to be able to talk to,” Hume said on “Let’s Talk, Africa” in 2019. He then smiled for the camera and added that if anyone wanted to contact him or see him in person, he would be more than happy to help.

Here’s how you can contribute

We’ve started finding their stories, but we have a long way to go to memorialize Minnesotans from immigrant communities. We’ve expanded this project to include community contributions. If you’ve lost a family member, a friend, or a coworker to the coronavirus, we can honor them with your help.

1. By filling out the form below, your responses will provide us with the information to write an obituary about your loved one.

2. If you share your contact information at the end of the form, a reporter may reach out to learn more about the story you’ve shared. They will also ask for a photo. This step is entirely voluntary: It’s there to help us find out more for the story. 

3. Our reporters will then catalog these stories on Sahan Journal’s website, where readers can remember those who lost their lives to COVID-19, while also learning about what made their lives special.

Dylan Miettinen is a fourth-year student at the University of Minnesota pursuing majors in journalism, English and sociology of law, criminology and deviance.