Transcription - Interview - April 14th, 2019
Interviewers: Shae Harrison, Sydney Francis, Devon Lawton, Severin Meding
Part 1: Done by Severin Meding (Minutes 00:00-17:26)
00:00 -- Requesting permission for publishing the interview
Devon Lawton: Okay, just for the record; could you state your name and ahwhether or not we have permission to publish portions of this interview
00:16 -- Permission
Abdikadir Lugundi: Ahm, my name is Abdikadir and I do give permission to havethis interview published
00:25 -- Question: Birthplace
Hraban Severin Meding: So, where were you born?
00:27 -- Birthplace
AL: Ahm, I was born in Kenya ah in the Kakuma refugee camp
00:39 -- Question: Whereabouts
Sydney Francis: Ahm--, how long were you in a refugee camp before you move youmoved to another location?
00:44 -- Whereabouts
AL: Ahm, well, I came-- they moved you to Nairobi which is [like as] like aholding place until you [like] get transferred to America. So, around-- I came to America when I was five years old, so I lived in refugee camps for about five 00:01:00years [four to five years].
01:05 -- Question: Places of residence
DL: So, where all have you lived?
01:08 -- Places of residence
AL: Ahm--, about my whole life?... I lived in the camp and I stayed in Nigeria,but it was not a full living there; just like, I stayed there for a couple of days until we were ready to go to America. Ahm, [we] first place we came-- I remember my parents told me it was New York--and [kind a] came to Pittsburgh. After that I lived in Lawrenceville actually [around here]. Ahm--, [before] I stayed here for a couple [couple] of years. Ahm-- I was [two] like two years and I moved to Nebraska and I stayed in Omaha in Nebraska. I stayed there for about three years and then came back to Pittsburgh and--that's my life.
01:54 -- Question: Childhood
DL: What was your childhood like?
01:57 - Childhood
AL: Ahm--, I don't remember much of it, but it was more of [like] a mud00:02:00housing--ahm, structured mud housing--ahm--, it was... All the refugee--ahm, refugee camps; you just like kind of make your own housing. So, depending like; most of the people knew how to like make mud houses, and like; work with all that. Ahm--, it was pretty much open. Ahm--there were [like] shops. There were like Sunday School. Ah--Sunday School of light guard; religious and Islamic teachings and there was like a school where they teach you the Alphabet and there was a grading system, but I don't really remember it--all of that much. I remember [like] learning the Alphabet; the ABCs, but nothing past that.
02:54 -- Question: Places of residence in the US
DL: About your home once you arrived in the US?
02:58 -- Places of residence in the US/ Refugee Camp
AL: In the US; ah--, they put us in ah--, nice house--ahm, it had [like] almost00:03:00three different--ah, I want to say stories; [like] three different parts. Ahm--, each family; there was like three--ah, altogether [like] three refugee families. Ahm--, all coming from the Kakuma refugee camp. Ahm--, there were different sections in the refugee camp too. So, people could travel here and there, but most people [you] have certain people speaking a second language, but most people in the refugee camp over the years, they kind of learned each other's language. And most of the languages; Swahili and most of the other languages a pretty similar, but it--ahm--, it was just like that.
03:41 -- Question: Childhood memories
SF: Do you have any favorite childhood memories from that time?
03:45 -- Childhood memories
AL: Yeah--Ahm--, back at home; I remember that my dad took us [like] see [like]the first--kind of [like] took us to--I don't want to say [like] the city, but it was [like]--he took us into Nairobi and there we went to [like] the first movie theater, I guess and they had a TV and they watched Chuck Norris. That's 00:04:00my first time--my first time; my first American actor or person I've ever seen. I've been watching Chuck Norris ever since--So, yeah...Check Norris.
04:20 -- Question: Family traditions
DL: Ahm--, what's your family's ahm--, were your family's traditions?...
04:28 -- Family traditions/ Language Acquisition
AL: Well--, Ahm--, traditionally--my grandmother is [like] the most culturedwith traditions and cultural activities--Ahm--, she stays [like] with here traditions. That including refusing to learn English--Ahm, she wants to keep in here own--[herself] her identity until she dies. Ahm--, my parents have both [like] learned English at very good level [proficient level]. Ahm--, it is more 00:05:00of the reading part. I guess, that will come to the play; I guess most--Ahm, most of the refugees were put into [like] reading programs [like] learn how to read, but it's only until [like] you knew the basics to [like] until [where] they could understand you at [like] a low income job. It wasn't really to-- Or it was kind of--investing in that when you have [like] a lot of kids--, but can you repeat the question again?
05:28 -- Question: Family traditions
DL: Ahm--, just family traditions.
05:30 -- Family/ Community traditions
AL: Yeah--Ahm--, I know birthdays weren't really a thing, but that kind of likebecame part of our traditions once my little sisters started coming--ahm--coming cause'-- and were born out of--in Africa and the rest were born in America and so we [kind of] decided to change tradition to American values because they can't really understand [like] anything and cultural things..Ahm, now things 00:06:00[like] weddings and things that go down. Ahm--, and now you have the whole community together. Usually, there is a lot of gatherings that happen; usually located at someone's home and there is lot of meat and food being cooked--Ahm, everything is pretty much Islamic--Ahm, there is Ramadan and you know; fasting and [you know] every Islamic tradition--yeah.
06:32 -- Question: Important holidays
DL: What would you say, is most important holiday?
06:35 -- Important holidays/ traditions
AL: Is has to be Ramadan. It's the month of fasting. Abstaining [you know] fromdesires. [Kind of] putting yourself into a position of--Ahm--, people who don't have it like you. [You know] you know how it feels to go out not able to eat anytime you want; not be able to do this anytime you want because [you know] but like-- It's also about not stopping us of-- [kind of] realizing that this is 00:07:00what people are going through every day and this is why people do this and also fast--so, [kind of like] realizing [you know] kind of; I don't know; being grateful for [like] your life, I guess - even though if it's not going so well [you know]. Not, not saying to [like] disregard that, but like [you know] have an understanding that you are not in the worst position. So, there is always something better. There is always someone who can take your position with your problems. More of--that sense.
DL: And obviously once you break the fast, that's huge fun--
07:36 -- Traditions
AL: Yeah--once you break the fast--yeah--you realize that you don't need all ofthose desires or you don't need all that much food to [like] really cause' [like] when you [like] fasting and [like] - not fasting - you eat a lot about the same about the same food. Once you realize that [like] a person who fast, has to fast; throughout the whole day they eat the same amount of food. Because once the person breaks that fast at the end they eat [like] a good amount to 00:08:00[like] last them to the next morning.
08:04 -- Question: Food traditions
DL: Any special foods that your family cook through Ramadan?
08:06 -- Food traditions
AL: Yeah, [like] a lot Samosa, Sambusas, depending what people call them--ahm--,rice, lots of fruits, mangoes and watermelons. Those are culturally important and have been around. My dad [like] brings a lot of watermelons like every day during Ramadan. Ahm--, a lot of food; a lot of food is cooked. The majority is rice and chicken. Ahm--, dates or--you eat them before you pray. You kind of [like] use them to break your fast just like how the profit; peace be upon him, but that's usually--
08:43 -- Question: Favorite Food
DL: What's your favorite food?
08:44 -- Favorite Food/ food traditions
AL: I have to say this-- it's this bread. I mean in Arabic it's [like] Naan.People do reference Naan in like a--it's like baked beans--like baked beans [kind of] made into soup. Ahm--, first you [kind of like] bake the beans, dry 00:09:00them up and then you smash them and then you add [you know] kind of make it into this chili sauce, but it's not really like chili sauce. You take it-- you kind of--. you
DL: That sounds really good!
09:12 -- Favorite Food/ food traditions
AL: You kind of make it how you want. Or Samosas [you know] make some veggieSamosas. You can put [like] whatever you want in there. Just like potatoes, you could put them inside. Those are really good. I like chicken. I just like regular beef.
09:24 -- Question: Family structure
SF: How big is your family?
09:26 -- Family structure
AL: Ahm--, I have six sisters. One and my brother. One is married. She is inLansing, Michigan. She goes to Michigan State. Ahm--, my brother should be coming soon. Ahh--, but ahm--
09:44 -- Family structure
AL: Inshallah! very much, but he's--yeah [like] my older brother and my onlybrother and the rest are all younger than me with the oldest being sixteen. Yeah!
10:02 -- Question: Generational differences
SF: How is it? I'm just--I want to know how it is [like] different [like] how do00:10:00you notice the difference between you and your siblings that were born here in America?
10:11 -- Generational differences
AL: Oh--yeah! Ahm--yeah! They don't really no have an understanding of [like]certain things [you know]. I don't want to say privileged, but [like] they don't really get the full picture or like some cultural things and they just don't understand, so they don't really like. They are more Americanized to say, but they still keep their--the language. Even myself, we speak; we speak the language different than our parents speak. We speak it more slang-way--kind of--ahm--adding English and our words together and [like] the parents kind of adjust to it. You see some parents [kind of like] going back and forth [like] the way I talk to my mom. The words I can't say I say in English and then we are 00:11:00going back in forth just to retain the language. I mean, it will be easier to speak to my mom in English. By the same time, I try to retain my language, so I can hopefully teach it to my kids and whoever-- because I don't want to be lost cause' that's one thing that I want to keep this language. Anything else is just [you know] as being taken from me, but languages is probably the most important thing [you know] communication. I think that's where it's at. Ahm--and [like] the difference between--I guess, just they are a little bit more Americanized [you know]--
SF: In like what ways?
11:38 -- Generational differences/ culture
AL: Ahm-- they probably don't like the cultural stuff like thecultural--ahm--ideologies [more say], even including me. I don't really go into that, but I have some understanding that they don't and it's not something you can really explain to them. It's just something that you know for yourself. 00:12:00Let's say like--ahm--they will never be able to understand the hardships my parents went through to get here and [like] they don't; they haven't seen that. They were just being born here and my parents haven't really expressed that to kids because they don't really want that, but once like a parent don't say they won't get the full understanding of that. So, sometimes I feel like--yeah--they like--It's hard to explain, but they don't really understand the value of things. I guess they lost value in things--
12:36 -- Question: Generational differences/ culture
SF: What about [like] the differences you have seen-- You talked about yourgrandma, but between you grandma and your parents. Like, what's the generational divide there?
12:47 -- Generational differences
AL: It's ahm--The divide is not that different in terms of like [you know] theway they operate...,ahm--It's more like how they operated back home [you know] they just kind of adapting it to the American lifestyle [you know] still--You 00:13:00know they are supposed stay with the elders-- they don't like my mother is not in her room, but herself is on the phone just texting or something just with my sisters, but [you know] like my mom, my mom and my grandma bought phones to listen, to go on YouTube to listen or to look at cultural videos from back home, but [like] now with the family back home they can [like] post on YouTube and share videos. So, WhatsApp is pretty popular. So, that's what they use to kind of stay in communication. They kind of send videos. Back then it wasn't like that. It was like long phone calls. Keeping in touch with other family members. The big thing. Other family members call--always like-- [you know] --checking up your grandma. When you wake up every day you were supposed to go to your grandma and say, "good morning!" to her every day before you leave and kind of-- and now 00:14:00it's kind of "don't do that!" And that's what they are really missing cause' culturally that was [kind of] back home-- kind of respect the elders and I see it-- I take [like] it as a certain extent--the respect part, but--yeah.
14:23 -- Question: Connection to family in home country
SM: I think that merges into another question. So, do you still maintainconnections to [like] for example; family back in your country or where you came from--is there--
14:34 -- Connection to people in home country
AL: Yeah--My dad and my brother recently went back to Africa last Summer. My dadis building [like] a house there and he is paying the workers there to get food, so that they would be able to work on the house. I've seen the developments scrutinized. So, they went there for a couple of weeks. My dad traveled through Tanzania, Somalia, went to refugee camps--ahm--and also stayed in the 00:15:00city--ahm--most of the time though, but--because he has family that lives in parts of Nairobi and family that is still in the camps. So, it is different and like--yeah--Kenya is pretty different.
SF: Where is the house at? Where is he building the house at?
AL: It's in Kenya.
SM: Do you specifically have contact to people [like] from Kenya--
15:36 -- Connection to people in home country
AL: I know [like] Facebook is a big thing cause' you have--My dad send overmoney, so that people could [like]--So family members can buy phones, so [like]-- One thing is that you get a lot of calls [like]-- I don't give my phone number out to family members back at home cause' my dad gets phone calls every [like] thirty seconds and he has to like-- He sends over money, but--ahm--I 00:16:00guess they don't have a cultural understanding of boundaries--ahm--So, it's a lot of calls, a lot of requests for money, but sometimes--it's overdoing it--It's like--But yeah Facebook is a way--ahm--Many members are on Facebook--a lot or just WhatsApp--that's like quick call services. They use some type of a phone network over there where you can send a call from Kenya and where you can put money on a phone and they can use it to call people cause' I think they have to go to a certain place to [like] receive a call. So, I don't keep in contact personally [like] here and there [like]. I know they like my stuff on Facebook and I could see what they are doing back home. This is [like] this language and cultural barrier. It's like what really is a difference because I can't really have a full conversation [like] going past a minute in my language talking to 00:17:00another person, unless it's a friend because I don't know how to talk--not to talk, but not formally. There are certain types of words when you talk formally it's really hard. So, it's more of [like]--And you don't really talk back to your elders. It's more of [like] they talk to you and you say "yes" and then you just answer your question--yeah--, but yeah--
Part 2: Done by Devon Lawton (Minutes 17:26-33:01)
Part 3: Done by Shae Harrison (Minutes 33:02-54:21)
DL: What do they do for a living? 33:02
AL: My dad works at Giant Eagle Market District; my mom takes care of kids at myhome and
logs in hours through an agency so it's not like she has to go anywhere. Usuallymy mom stays at home but usually there's other mothers who have kids in the Somali-Bantu community and they have to work so my mom takes care of them. My grandma stays at home too so she helps take care of them too.
DL: Do they enjoy what they do? 33:39
AL: My dad really loves his job and he's been there a long time. He used to befarmer at home so Giant Eagle was a good place for him-- just to be close. Usually he goes out.. Umm yeah I think he really like his job. He's transferred from another Giant Eagle to this one-- the one he's at now over by WalMart [Waterworks]. I'm taking like you guys are from Pittsburgh. My mom likes her job sometimes; you know kids.
SF: Are there other families in the community that you live in now that you knewbefore or how did you come to know the people in your community? 34:27
AL: Yeah most of the people that are in the community I have grown up with and Ihave known them for quite some time. Most of the people in the community that were either around the same age, we all just came to Pittsburgh around the same time. There was a big group of people. They were all kind of split up around the neighborhood but growing up and getting older we all went to the same elementary school and we were all in the same ESL program so we all grew up-- Even when we moved to Nebraska, we still had that connection. Connection is a big thing in the community.I know I could go to another state and find a Somali-Bantu community or I could find somewhere to stay. The last name is a big thing-- so everyone keeps in touch and you always see everyone. With religion and going to the same mosque-- there's not that many-- so it's pretty easy to stay connected. There are some families who live further away but they are still really connected to the community. For instance, my uncle own a shop over in the North Side but he lives over in Sharpsburg but there are many people in the community go to is shop. And Salim's, everyone goes there for meat. You will always see someone. Pittsburgh is like a big small city.
SF: So the idea of community is very interesting and important. So I just wantto know how do you view community and how you see yourself connected to your communities? 37:09
AL: Now I try to reach out to the youth in the community because that's where Ithink it's most at-- Sometimes you have to come to the realization that parents won't really understand where we are coming from. Because they aren't going to school with us every single day and they aren't with us. We have a way different perspective on things. Because you know when your parents tell you things based on what they perceive-- like "don't do this"... or if someone hits you at school they tell you to go to the principal. And what I've seen recently that is a big gap between the elders and the youth is that the parents and elders are really sticking to the cultural side of values while the youth are a little more liberal. It is a very patriarchal culture and very misogynistic. The females are trying to break that [ideal] and I'm trying to break it because I don't like it either. So let's say-- I'm allowed to live on campus [at college] but my sisters would not be able to; they wouldn't be allowed. They would be told that they need to stay at home and help; but I don't really find that excusable. Some parents are not always like that and they want you to go. But there's still that [idea of] taking the daughter away from the home-- early marriages have been a big problem which is something I am trying to advocate for. A lot of girls get married coming out of high school or in high school and then they try to go back to education but it's kinda stopped or halted because now they have too much responsibility. With kids or whatever. So yeah it's been a big cultural gap. We are still trying to maintain our culture but-- And mental health is also a big thing because in our culture that doesn't really exist. Because of the hardships people had to face in coming to America, what you experience should be easier and that's where they have that gap. Because they can't really understand from a point. What they went through, I could never experience but I'm trying to have an understanding to how they think and go through trauma. Because you go through trauma and make this sacrifice for your kids but you don't want to say that to them or put that on them. The kids saying that -- But then the kids are put through [hardships] coming to schools where they can't understand any English and they get made fun of and a lot of other things. You're basically being thrown out into the world and then you have to come home and your parents throw so much at you-- It's hard.
SF: And you said all your sister's are younger than you? 41:00
SF: And one of them is married?
AL: Yeah she's the oldest one of the family. She's like 20--- She kinda just didher own thing. With my family we don't really have those types of problems now because they see me going to college and us advocating for our younger sisters while in other families the older brother still try and keep that tradition just because it's out of fear or because their family members are imposing that. And the little sisters -- sometimes it's unconsciously because of the way I was raised. So [for example] when there are guests at the house, the women are all supposed to go to the kitchen and bring all the food out and there's a separation that they have to go to the other side of the room so the men can talk. And everytime you go to a household and you see that happen it's just subconsciously so you just don't really see it [as a bad thing]. I guess it makes a difference because when you-- so let's say I went to a friend's house for the first time, and I was expecting that-- I would be confused as to why his mom wasn't in the kitchen or bringing us food. It's kinda like a role. So I have to learn to stop thinking like that or forcing that on my little sisters. But it wasn't seen as bad, it was just a cultural thing. But if a man can do it, then they should do it for themselves. But there's usually no mixing of genders to be honest. Men eat with the men and the women eat with the women. There's not really a mix.
DL: Do you think that's been changing at all? 43:39
AL: Yeah most definitely. Not really inside though. Within the household. It's[changing] more so with the younger youth. But they wouldn't meet in the house. They would go somewhere downtown and kinda congregate but they wouldn't do it inside their own communities. Because if you are seen with someone who is not your family, then news travels fast. And that's why I don't like when a person comes to your house every day because things get spread around and they will talk about you right in front of your face. I mean I bet this happens in all cultures.
DL: Do you think education is valued in general in the community? 44:49
AL: To a certain extent and depending on gender. For a man, a big problem why Ithink our community has been stagnant is the dependency and that getting a high school diploma is pretty much it. Somali-Bantus don't usually go past the high school diploma or even get to that point. It's valued to where you need education but they understand it as just finishing high school and getting a job. They understand college but if you go to college that just is a way of benefitting your family and not yourself. And that's one of the sacrifices that I'm willing to make. You know, I didn't really want to go to college but I understood the importance of it To be honest I wouldn't mind just going to work and finding a small apartment for myself but I understand the value of education and what it can mean for my family and for my sisters. Like if I'm going to college, that gives them exposure and an opportunity to follow my path. I want to create a path for them. I'm the only one that got to this point and it would be a shame if I just-- yeah it's just a sacrifice I'm willing to make.
Shae Harrison: So what made you choose Allegheny? 46:45
AL: Money. But Allegheny wasn't my first choice. I wanted to go to a schoolabout 10 minutes away from home and where there's lots of good spots around. It's really close to Ross Park Mall-- La Roche College. And Allegheny sent me a last minute acceptance letter with a lot of money and they made it seem like more money than it was. And La Roche was basically a full-ride so what I did was make a data sheet and compared the two prices. And I told Allegheny that if you can match up, I'd be more than happy to come to Allegheny if they matched La Roche's tuition. And they sent a paper to fill out on how much I wanted to request.
DL: That's smart.
AL: Yeah so they matched what I wanted.
DL: Anymore Questions? Or do you think we can move on to the final thoughts?Okay. So what would you like the American public to know about your experiences as a refugee? 48:07
AL: One thing is just not to look at it as us being victims and not to look atpeople who are coming from another country as victims but you have to look at the successes that they made to get here: they escaped civil war and being killed. You have to look at how they saved their families and how they escaped with no maps or direction. It was basically on instinct. Their survival tactics. You have to look at that and more so not looking at them as victims or those who oppressed. You have to look at their value and not as someone who is invading your home or a stranger. Because they are humans just like everyone else and we all go through things. It could easily happen to you so that's where people should have an understanding.
SF: What are your hopes or fears for the future? 49:35
AL: My hope is that education is implemented into the Somali-Bantu community andinto other communities and I hope that we are known on a national level to where there can be more programs or scholarships for Somali-Bantu -- this is a long-term goal -- students to network. Because it feels like there's little network outside of families.
DL: Is there anything we haven't covered that you'd like to talk about? 50:15
AL: I guess I just wanted to talk about race I think. You can definitely see adifference between the older generation and the younger generation. The younger generation -- through school -- they know about race, they know about everything. But there is still a disconnection that they don't understand what being black means. There more so look at it as being African and foreign rather than relating with the African-American kids which is a big thing. Like with parents, when they are coming to America, there are no educational videos on racism or on slavery or any American history. It's more so, this white man is here to help you...
DL: They focus on the good things not the bad.
AL: Exactly. They don't talk about how to get a job or how to work with moneyand then they are put into predominantly black neighborhoods. What they see on TV also plays a big part and they get this perceived though t-- They don't understand the big systematic oppression that has been happening for hundreds of years. And that's really hard to teach that to parents. Especially in my language because I can't really say the things that I want to say to them. It's very complex. There is no translation to translate what I want to say into my language because some words don't even exist or -- like how we say "institutional racism" -- in my language I have no idea. There's always a big disconnect between the African-American community and the African Community to where they don't really understand each other. But I think it's been getting better throughout time. It's way better from when I was younger. The bridge is closing but they need to focus on how the parents view race because it's very different; It's a very interesting perspective. It's like someone whispering into their ears saying "don't be like them" basically and then they tell their children-- but then their children will have African-American friends and there are African-American kids that grew up in the same neighborhood and the [Somali-Bantu] parents don't want their children to hangout [with them]. It causes a lot of problems. It really doesn't bring the community together.
DL: What would be your final words and/or advice to other generations? 53:30
AL: Stay in school. Don't get married-- there's always time for that. There'snothing wrong with getting married at thirty-four years old and having your life set up. Just make sure to do what's right for you not what's right for the majority group. That gets very dangerous. It's important to take a step back and realize who you are, what you are, and what you can do. And even though it doesn't feel like you are doing the right thing, at the end of the day, it's your decision. You can think for yourself.
Part 4: Done by Sydney Francis Second Tape (0:00-13:55)
AL: Dealing with the whole persecution of the Somali-Bantu community,Somali-Bantu for reference are people who look more like african Americans...darker skin, more coarse hair. Dealing with Somalis they-- don't want to claim their African side. They want to claim the Ottoman Empire, or their heritage back to the Ottoman Empire. But the Ottoman Empire doesn't except them either. So they persecute the Somali-Bantus, it's a long history. The Somalis are usually the upper class-- they have the jobs, education, and wealth in Somalia. The Somali-Bantus' ancestors were slaves. Dealing with the Arab slave trade, most Africans moving from to Tanzania down to Kenya. Or they escaped-- and they moved them from Tanzania to Kenya. That's why they call them Somali-Bantu, because they were enslaved through the Somali, Arab, or Ottoman people. That's also why most of us are Muslim. In Solamila there was a lot of persecution going on. Somali-Bantu people were not given the same opportunities; they usually have to work low skilled jobs under the Somali people. When war broke out there was an attack on the Somali-Bantu people where they were persecuted and killed and raped. Most of them had to Kenya; Kakuma refugee camp. So it's a weird interesting history that's not really brought in American history. Not too many people realize, or they think of Africans as one. But there was a big racial conflict, racial dispute. It's not as bad today, but you can see it. The parents don't see the Somalis he way I see them. I was never able to understand that but you can see it-- here are even some terms in Somalia that are offensive to us, that could be comparable to the N-word. So not too many people know about that part of history.
DL: So marrying Somalis would be--
AL: Hypocritical you'd say.
DL: Could you maybe repeat what you were saying about intermarriage with whitepeople versus with Muslims?(We initially stopped recording, and we started a conversation. Devon is referring to conversations we had that were not recorded.)
AL: It's a very difficult topic. Dealing with intermarriage, culture definitelyplays a big part. Usually culture is like the first...You should marry within your own culture because you already have a set way of doing things. Their way is too foreign or too different to really do. And we don't want to have problems-- set way-- cultural values and ideologies. Another girl already knows what she's getting into. A foreign girl wouldn't really understand what you're going through. She's going to leave you or she won't get the full you. Dealing with marrying outside your religion, it would be more [about] the kids; they won't be fully Muslim. One of the laws-- not the laws but the thing is you have to marry a Muslim man, and a Muslim man can marry a person of the book, meaning Abrahamic religion. But a woman can't marry a Christian man. Even in our culture they, parents kind of disregard that. There is a mixture of religion and culture, which is a big epidemic. Because religion and culture are not the same thing, where parents try to justify culture through religion. They'll say Oh you can't marry a Christian girl, you have to marry Muslim. But a man is able to. So they kind of use the culture to say you can't marry that Christian white girl because she' not apart of your culture and she is not Muslim and the prophet said this, or in the Quran it says... So when kids actually learn about the Quran and say Mom, that's not really what it says, and they have the dispute.
DL: Maybe because we didn't get that either,(referring to unrecordedconversations) the difference between Africans versus African Americans.
AL: The different perception is the way that African parents come intoAmerica..they're always getting help from a white person. I know throughout my coming to America, that's all I've seen with white agency workers or those missionary groups, they're usually Christian white people. We don't really see black people. I don't want to say they don't exist, they're there, but majority of people you see are white. They move into lower income neighborhoods where they see a lot of black people. Thay have a perceived way of seeing things, and that really affects everything. Africans look at African Americans, and they[Africans] don't know that much history about slavery. They see that you came here earlier than us. Why don't you have what the white people have? Why aren't you doing-- and blame it on drugs and what they see on TV. But there is never really a discussion between the two. They don't understand that both of them went through their own slavery. At a certain point, I think there is a big miscommunication, and I think it's disregarded. The way that African Americans, in my opinion, when they see Africans-- I was talking to one of my coworkers at work and he's African American, and he was giving a perspective of how the older generation felt, because the younger youth-- funny tactics or making fun of names, kinda like cliche bullying, not really understanding the similarities between the two. So my coworker was saying black people have been here for a long time and when an African comes in here from another country they can set up a business or whatever they want, the government helps them. We're stuck here, having to go to that shop, but we've been here for a long time, we're not receiving the reparations we were supposed to get. I was telling him like kinda don't see that. We see the white man giving us money and we are establishing ourselves without the help of black people, and that really changes the perspective of things, but it was interesting to hear what he had to say because I never really thought of it that way. It was more so the government helping but that's also a big problem. We're dependent, and that's why the community is very stagnant. A lot of parents coming from Africa lived in more horrible places. Any place in America would be luxury-- low income neighborhood, it doesn't really matter. So when they are stuck in that community it is way better than it was back home. There's running water, there's food there's the basics, so what else? Why am I trying to pay more for just the basics? I go a roof over my head-- and the government giving me money to buy things, so why would I ever leave this? I'm getting everything that I need. But it's really affecting the kids because they are growing up in an environment where they're not really getting exposure, or they have a limited way of thinking. They are not getting exposure to education, or the education is implemented in that neighborhood. Or the access to things they have around their neighborhood is not so good. It affects things, but they don't really see that. They see don't follow them, because you're different. They're doing that because that's them. That's their own culture. But the big thing is more youth are going toward an American lifestyle. Drugs were never a big problem for the youth, but now its like-- and most parents don't understand, they don't really get it. They don't understand why the youth do what they do or why they're hanging out with certain kids. It's a big triangle.
DL: You said before that people's attitudes toward you change when they hearthat you're African versus African American..and different stereotypes too. Can you talk a bot more about that?
AL: My own experience dealing with white people, let's say I'm dressed likethis(hoodie and jeans) and I'm walking around the neighborhood and I'm conversing with someone, they see me as an African American. They stereotypical things about music or community or where I'm from. When I tell them I wasn't actually born here, they're like Oh . They kinda start thinking of other questions to ask that are kinda personal, not too many people realize. Outside of interviews of course, but people ask How was your life back in Africa?That's a personal question, but they don't really see that. They see it as more so, white people going to villages and they're taking pictures, and they're the centerpiece. They see it as they can invade into your personal space or your life. That's how it is on the African part. On the African American side, it's the typical stereotype, lowkey, subliminal things they say. Me I'm kinda living both lives, more so of being black. Africans and African Americans are two people living through a certain history. I think it's the same history, just different parts, different areas.
DL: Can you repeat what you said about white perceptions of Africans versusAfrican Americans and the positive versus the negative.
AL: White perception, they see Africans as working hard, they're escaping war orsomething, and they came here to America for the real American Dream; to work hard, get a job, and they're not being looked at...most white people are not racist toward Africans ut more subliminally devaluing their existence, culture most likely, and it's still a form of racism, because we are black. They are seen more as people that need help. Most agencies will come to communities with African kids or let's create a program for African students. I think they see black people as, for people who don't understand institutional racism or systematic pressure, it's like you put yourself in this position because you do this to yourself. They're the same as you. They're working hard. Why aren't you in that same position? You've been here for longer. Why aren't you advancing to the top? They [African Americans] are not looked at as they need help. We're looked at as we're the ones that need help because we're coming from a different country. Sooner or later we are all entering into the same society.
00:00- 00:24 Permission for publishing interview
00:25-03:45 Discussing childhood and places of residence
04:20- 09:23 Family traditions, religious traditions, traditional food
09:24-14:22 Family: generational differences and culture
14:23- 17:26 Connections to family in home country
33:02- 34:25 What parents do for a living
34:27- 37:00 Connection with other families in the community
37:09- 44:45 Personal views on importance of community, differing perspectivesover generations, gender roles in the culture
44:49- 48:00 Importance of education and personal education experience
48:07- 49:30 What the American public should know
49:35- 50:15 Hopes and fears for the future
50:20- 53:25 Education on race and racism
53:30-54:21 Advice for younger generations and closing remarks
00:00- 02:40 Persecution and history of the Somali-Bantu community
02:42- 05:43 Marriage in regard to differences between race, religion, and culture
05:45- 06:55 Exposure and perception of different races when going through therefugee process
07:03- 09:57 Interaction between Africans and African-Americans
10:00- 13:55 How white people interact Africans and perceptions of Africans vsAfrican Americans