Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time.
- Lyndon B. Johnson
The people known as the Somali Bantu have endured centuries of discrimination and violence, and during the recent war in Somalia, the Bantu were again the victims of violence in that country. Of the roughly 20,000 Somali Bantu refugees in Africa and Yemen, some 5,000 found refuge in Tanzania. In 1999, the United States Government offered the remaining 12,000 Somali Bantu refugees in Kenya the protection they had been seeking for over 10 years. The refugees are being settled in over 50 cities in 38 states. Many of those refugees have made their way to Roanoke, Virginia. MobileEast had the pleasure of recording conversations between Rahmo Isse and her mother Rukia Hussein, who are both Somali Bantu, and Saadiya Guhad and her sister Faduma who are Somali.
Rahmo conducted her interview with Rukia in the Maay (“Mai”) language. They talked about the war, Rukia’s memories of life in Somalia before the war and the journey to America. Saadiya and Faduma talked about meeting each other for the first time in Kenya. They talked about which of them takes after which parent. Faduma favors her father in her personality while Saadiya is more like her mother. The sisters also talked, in both English and Somali, about what it is like being Muslim in the United States and some of the stereotypes some Americans have about Africa. All of the participants came to us through the Refugee and Immigration Services of Virginia and were accompanied by Laura Boutwell who works with RIS and who, along with Faduma, coordinates Imani Nailah, a weekly after school program for middle and high school refugee youth.