Somali woman’s passion for media helps her community
Somali immigrant Basra Mohamed has a deep passion for her Somali community. She is a part of it. She often works with a host of Somali groups on community projects. And she has been involved in community work in one way or another since she moved to Columbus from Dallas in 2003.
So, why is Mohamed in the media business, and not a community organizer?
Because her other passion is the media. She expressed the view that the media plays an important role in any community’s effort to thrive, be informed and be involved.
“I started this media service so I can help the community, because I see the need. I see there’s no newspaper or radio or newsletter that they can read,” said Mohamed, in an interview with the Call & Post, last week.
But Mohamed isn’t really saying there’s no newspaper in Columbus. There’s of course the Columbus Dispatch, and others. What she meant was that most folks in her community don’t read the Dispatch largely because it doesn’t report the kind of news interested to them.
“So I started these media services so that I can help the people, get them the information firsthand about what’s going on in their community,” said Mohamed. She spoke about the ‘culture shock’ that often greets newly arrived Somalis overwhelmed by the process of adjusting to their new society.
Somalis, understandably, are habitually preoccupied with the depressing and tormenting conflict ravaging their already battered homeland. Of course, Mohamed is tormented by that, too. But at the same time, she often reminds her fellow Somalis about the importance of being a part of their ‘second home’ that is now Columbus.
Mohamed’s panoply of media services operates under the umbrella moniker ‘Danjir,’ which means “looking after the community’s interest.” It includes a radio program, a phone program, an online newspaper, and print media, Danjir News, which she closed down last year to focus more on the online news reporting.
So much of what Danjir Media Services is looking to accomplish is fueled by Mohamed’s belief that the Somali community being an integral part of this society ought to be more involved by accessing community resources to improve their families.
But to do that, she maintained that an effective media presence must be a part of the equation, to identify and funnel these resources to the community much more effectively.
“They don’t even know the resources that are available to them for free,” said Mohamed, who also underscored the importance of educating community service providers to be more effective in providing culturally-sensitive services to the community.
The seed of Mohamed’s mission was planted back in Dallas where she worked with Somali refugees and immigrants. When she moved to Columbus, she saw “the same need here,” but expressed shock that there was no newspaper, no TV, no nothing” in terms of media services for the Somali community.
Yet, Columbus, with an estimated “45,000 Somalis,” is home to the second largest Somali community in the nation behind only Minneapolis.
“Immediately that’s when I started Danjir” in 2004, incorporating a community radio program in 2007. It wasn’t easy , she conceded, recalling that she and her partners paid for the first edition of ‘Danjir news’ newspaper out of their pocket. It was bi-lingual, with stories reported in English and Somali.
Danjir radio airs every Saturday and Sunday at 6 p.m.
“We are excited,” said Mohamed, who said she models the pursuit of her passion for the media and community after successes in Minneapolis.
“I like us to be like the people in Minnesota,” where she said the Somali community has a flourishing media presence with newspapers, Radio and TV programs to keep the community plugged into the system.
Mohamed, who came to the United States in 1996, said that her ultimate goal is to establish a TV program for the Somali community in Central Ohio. She would not say precisely when she plans to roll that out, but noted, “It’s in the works.”
Meanwhile, the conflict in Somalia, which started in 1991 after the ouster of strongman Siad Barre from power, continues to shred the country into rubbles of despair, and continues to displace many as refugees fleeing to Kenya, the United States and elsewhere.
At the height of the conflict, a stampede of warlords scrimmaging for power littered the scene of a ruptured country carved up into hostile clan-based fiefdoms.