If you’ve been following this project’s journey over the last two years, you’ve likely heard us mention my friend Salad. I met this gentleman during my first visit to the Somali mosque, and we quickly grew to become friends. He’s taught me Somali, introduced me to Somali leadership, and opened his home to me many times. Nowadays, not only does he serve as my primary cultural insider for the oft-misunderstood Somali community, but he also volunteers at Table Talk.
One of the important aspects of this project is our focus on leadership development. We seek to amplify the quieted voices of the displaced—something we have learned in particular from Jacob Mau and his Beyond Soundbites podcast (see the bottom of this letter for more on this). If we are to break through cultural barriers, we must learn to listen!
In that pursuit, I was pleased to introduce Salad to Jason Boyett, an author and journalist who hosts a weekly interview podcast focused on the people and stories of Amarillo, Texas. You may remember that I myself was an interviewee last year. As Jason interviewed Salad, I beamed with pride as my friend was honored in this way. I invite you to listen to this week’s episode, a 47-minute interview with Salad Dualle. You can also find Hey Amarillo on iTunes or Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts.
If you can’t spare the time to listen, here are a few notes of interest. Salad discusses starting a trucking business in Amarillo. He laments the construction projects, but praises the city’s growth. He also laughs about how his family back home assumes that it’s only a matter of time before he’ll become a cowboy. More seriously, he reflects on how important it is to teach children about their own culture, a value reflected in their tendency to bring children home to East Africa over the summer. He mentions the frustration his community experiences regarding what he sees as disingenuous educational programs set up to convert Somali people to Christianity. He also discusses the recent mosque attack in New Zealand, and the fearful discussions that have ensued.
Here are a few quotes worth reflecting upon:
Integration is very important. Otherwise there will be always suspicions … If we are apart, and not well integrated, there is always miscommunications, misunderstanding … within the community.
There is a kind of fear from each other, the white Americans, they do not go to the immigrant’s house easily…
From day one when I met Dr. Ryan I liked his agenda. Gradually, now many Somalis are coming to this project. They said, oh Dr. Ryan, we thought that he’s going to interfere about our religion … The language and the other help, nothing is free. He might have some other agenda. Finally, what they have seen that nothing is hidden.
Let me just say that Salad, as well as most Somali people, know that I am a Christian with a personal and vibrant faith—as are many of our volunteers. This is not some secret. I am always eager to share about what I believe, but not as some prerequisite for their involvement. My sincere hope is that Somali Muslims and American Christians can put assumptions aside and meet one another. Fear gives way to love when we take the time to really listen. Learn to listen with me.
Want to Hear More?
Because we believe in the power of the voices and stories of displaced people, we supported a podcast project last Fall called Beyond Soundbites. We’re excited to share it with you! The series calls refugee supporters to an ongoing search for the personhood of refugees, the meaning of home, and the presence of God in stories of displacement. It’s written and produced by Jacob Mau in collaboration with a group called the Refugee Highway Partnership North America. Listen online by clicking here or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play.