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Supporters gather in solidarity with woman attacked for speaking a foreign language

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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Asma Jama, the woman who was attacked recently for speaking Swahili, had a change of heart Sunday afternoon during a solidarity gathering in her support.

After the Oct. 30 attack at the Coon Rapids Applebee’s that left her with a deep gash in her lower lip and cuts across her face, Jama said she felt unwanted and unsafe in Minnesota, a place she’s called home for 15 years.

But when scores of Minnesotans — including Coon Rapids city officials and social-justice leaders from the Twin Cities — assembled Sunday at the Coon Rapids Center in her support, she said she was reminded that not all Minnesotans are like Jodie Burchard-Risch, the 43-year-old woman who allegedly smashed Jama’s face with a beer mug.

‘Speak English’

On the night of the attack, Jama was chatting in Swahili with her two cousins and four nieces in the restaurant, sitting near Burchard-Risch and her husband. “This is America,” Jama said Burchard-Risch told her and her family. “Speak English.”

Jama, who escaped from the Somali civil war in the early 1990s, came of age in Kenya, and speaks English, Swahili and Somali. She said she turned to the couple and asked, “Why should I speak in English? I’m speaking to my family and I can speak in any language I want.”

Continue reading at MinnPost

Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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St. Cloud immigrants get global news in unusual ways

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400When Mohamed Jama Mohamud dashed through a busy parking lot on a recent afternoon at a small African business hub in north St. Cloud, some shoppers stopped him to ask, “When can you install my box?”

Towering over each person he interacted with, Mohamud gave a soft smile and carefully chose his words as he explained his busy schedule.

Then Mohamud, a bilingual communication support specialist at North Junior High, promised that he would call them over the weekend to install ethnic channels that connect the immigrant communities to their native countries.

For nearly a year and a half now, Mohamud has been involved in providing international television service, which installs foreign-language channels for the swelling St. Cloud immigrant population, many of them from Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Mohamud explained how the process works: “I install the channels on Roku or Android TV streaming boxes, but mostly Roku. When installations are done, I take the boxes to whoever needs the service. And then, I connect it on their TV.”

With customers in St. Cloud, Fargo and Willmar, Mohamud said he charges people about $250 per box, which has as many as 500 channels that carry entertainment programs, movies, sports and news.

“People don’t have to pay a fee every month or every year,” he said. “They just buy the box one time.”

Generally, immigrants maintain strong family ties with their homeland and are eager to learn about the day-to-day politics that affect their loved ones back home.

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)