Cultural Orientation Resources Center: The Somali Bantu: Their History and Culture
This introduction to the Somali Bantu, published in cooperation with the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the U.S. Department of State is designed primarily for “service providers and others assisting Somali Bantu refugees” in the United States. It provides excellent background information on the situation from which the refugees came, and offers examples of specific challenges faced by refugees resettling in America.
Somali Bantu Project
Portland State University’s National Somali Bantu Project was partially funded by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, in order to work with Somali Bantu refugees and service providers to make the resettlement and integration process more successful. This extensive website provides a wealth of background information on the culture, history and language of the Bantu populations in Somalia and in the U.S.
Center for Immigration Studies: Out of Africa: Somali Bantu and the Paradigm Shift in Refugee Resettlement
In addition to describing the changes in U.S. refugee policy over the last ten years, this article outlines the process by which various international agencies work together to resettle Somali Bantu refugees, and recommends reforms to improve the U.S. refugee program.
Burlington Free Press: Bantus in Vermont
From 2003 on, hundreds of Somali Bantu refugees began to be resettled all over the U.S., including in Burlington, Vermont. The Burlington Free Press has followed the trials and triumphs of the Bantu in its community with a series of articles, giving readers a glimpse of the lives of these new Americans.
GlobalSecurity.org: Somali Civil War
During the Somali Civil War (from 1988 on), many Bantu fled their land. This article outlines the causes of the war, the factions involved and the on-going aftermath of the conflict.
1. Provide a screening copy of Rain in a Dry Land to your local high school as a resource for use in model United Nations exercises.
2. Volunteer as a tutor for refugee children, a driver for elderly refugees, job training and in a variety of other ways listed on the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants website and the International Rescue Committee’s How You Can Help page.
3. Hold a fundraiser for the institutions in your community that supply transition assistance to new immigrants. Resettlement agencies, case workers, social workers and other volunteers provide a wide range of services for newcomers, including instruction on the basics of daily living and help locating housing, applying for aid, using public transportation, finding clothing and furniture, and much, much more. Visit the Church World Service, Immigration and Refugee Program website to find out about their Tools and Blanket Program, CROP Hunger Walks and more.
4. Become a literacy volunteer or offer to help whatever organization provides literacy tutoring in your town. Limited knowledge of English reduces the employment opportunities available to immigrants. In many communities, literacy volunteers offer free tutoring to immigrants.
5. Help agencies recruit volunteers to help new refugees undergoing resettlement in your community. Some national organizations with local chapters include:
The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society works worldwide to rescue those in peril, reunite families in freedom and enable newcomers to build new lives with hope and prosperity. As a leading resettlement agency in the United States their website offers many resources on resettlement, advocacy and policy.
The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants works to address the needs and rights of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide by advancing fair and humane public policy, facilitating and providing direct professional services and promoting the full participation of migrants in community life. Their website offers national and local news updates, opportunities for participation, and a full listing of affiliates across the country.
Since 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has worked with partners in service, advocacy and education nationwide to bring new hope and new life to America’s newcomers. LIRS resettles refugees, protects unaccompanied refugee and migrant children, advocates for fair and just treatment of asylum seekers, seeks alternatives to detention for those who are incarcerated during their immigration proceedings and stands for unity for families fractured by unfair laws. More information about their programs and services is available on the website.
World Relief works with local evangelical churches to bring hope to suffering people worldwide — through disaster relief, international development work and refugee resettlement. The website offers many resources about refugees and resettlement, including suggestions for getting involved and real-life stories of families undergoing the resettlement process.
6. Research U.S. policy on Somalia, including what the government does to defend human rights, provide humanitarian aid or help stop the violence. A good place to start is the International Organization for Migration website. The site outlines migration as one of the “defining global issues of the early twenty-first century,” and provides a glimpse into the lives of the 192 million people who live outside their place of birth in the world today. Then share your opinions about what the policy should be with your elected political representatives.
7. Survey recent immigrants to find out which everyday things they found most confusing. Use the survey results to create a cultural-orientation program customized to life in your community. Work with social service providers, schools and other stakeholders to implement your program.
Resources: Also on PBS and NPR
POV: Lost Boys of Sudan (2004)
For the last 20 years, civil war has raged in Sudan, killing and displacing millions. “Lost Boys of Sudan” follows two young refugees from the Dinka tribe, Peter and Santino, through their first year in America. Along with 20,000 other boys, they lost their families and wandered hundreds of miles across the desert seeking safety. After a decade in the Kakuma camp, nearly 4,000 “lost boys” have come to the U.S. As Peter and Santino set out to make new lives for themselves in Houston, their struggle asks us to rethink what it means to be an American.
POV: Discovering Dominga (2003)
Living in Iowa, Denese Becker was haunted by memories of her Mayan childhood. A quest for her lost identity in Guatemala turns into a searing journey of political awakening that reveals a genocidal crime and the still-unmet cry for justice from the survivors. The companion website contains first-person accounts of genocidal massacres that occurred in Guatemala in the 1980s and a book excerpt from the Pulitzer Prize winning book, A Problem in Hell by Samantha Power.
Frontline: Ambush in Mogadishu
This Frontline show tells the story of the battle at Mogadishu, Somalia, the most violent U.S. combat firefight since Vietnam. The website interviews various Somalian and American figures about American involvement in Somalia, and provides a chronology of U.S. and U.N. involvement in Somalia. (September 1998)
Online NewsHour: Somalia’s Struggle for Stability
The Online Newshour provides a comprehensive look at the recent conflict in Somalia with in-depth reports, profiles and an archive of related stories. (April 2007)
Online NewsHour: Seeking Refuge
Jim Lehrer of Online NewsHour interviews former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, about the refugee situation in the Balkans and in the rest of the world. (July 22, 1999)
Day to Day: Somali Refugee Helps Create Bantu Dictionary
A Somali refugee in Maine is helping to create the first dictionary for his language. His effort would help preserve the Bantu culture. (January 17, 2007)
All Things Considered: Officials Say School Violating Somali Students’ Rights
Karen Brown reports about an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education found that Springfield, Massachusetts, schools were violating the civil rights of Somali students by failing to provide an adequate education. Ninety students shared a part-time tutor. The district says it is addressing the issues. (March 20, 2006)
Weekend Edition: Bantus Struggle to Stay Afloat in Adopted Town
Karen Brown reports that a federal grant that supported 250 Somali Bantus is running out in Springfield, Massachusetts. Three years after the Bantus arrived, 80 percent of the men have jobs and many children are doing well in school. But virtually all need more public help to make ends meet. (January 1, 2006)
All Things Considered: Bantus Refugees Adjust to New Lives in America
Jennifer Ludden reports, “The Bantus of Somalia are a long way from home. Originally from Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi, they were captured two centuries ago and sold as slaves in Somalia. When that country collapsed into civil war in 1991, thousands of Bantu fled across the border to refugee camps in Kenya. Last year, they began their longest journey yet — across the ocean to America.” (March 20, 2005)
Morning Edition: Somali Refugees Begin Relocation to U.S.
Jennifer Ludden reports, “More than 70 Bantu refugees from Somalia arrive in U.S. cities to begin new lives after a decade-long journey to escape civil war and ethnic strife. The refugees are the first of nearly 12,000 Somali Bantus that the United States plans to resettle over the next three years. (May 23, 2003)