Bridging the gap between cultures

Hamline African Students Association (HASA) zoned in to the overlooked gap between African immigrants and African-Americans.

Madelaine Formica, Reporter

In today’s society, it’s easy to think a lot about the gap between whites and blacks. HASA hosted a panel of four African immigrants to speak and talk about how to bridge the gap between African immigrants and African-Americans.

“I wanted to get different perspectives on stage,” junior Event Coordinator Asmeret Segai said.

Two of the panelists were Somali, one was Kenyan and one was from Sierra Leone.

Three questions were asked by Segai and junior Zinzile Sibanda, public relations for HASA board.

“What are the factors that contribute to the rift between blacks in the African diaspora and what can we do to close that gap?” This question was answered by the four panelists, Ramatu Sesay, Ikram Osman, Saciido Shaie and Sam Imbo.

“I think many things contribute to the rift.” Imbo said, “A big part is lack of communication.”

The panelists continued to talk about Africa and the different religions and customs that each culture has.

“[Africa] is a complex place. Part of the rift is people not knowing,” Imbo said.

The panelists blamed media and ignorance for the division between Africans and African-Americans, stating that there was much about the culture that others don’t know that can lead to potentially harmful stereotypes.

“It’s about the rhetoric that is used. We are not black, we are Somalian. It’s created by the media—it’s created a rift,” Osman said.

Osman continued to say that she sometimes gets caught up on differences.

“Yes we have different cultures, but we are the same. You have to have equality and support each other. Let’s try to support each other,” she said.

The conversation moved to stereotypes in the second question. “Do stereotypes of African immigrants and African-Americans further the gap and understanding between the two?”

All of the panelists seemed to agree about stereotypes and related their own beliefs on it. Many of the audience members snapped in agreement throughout the panelists’ speeches.

“There’s two different types of stereotypes we can talk about: that we have in one another and what stereotypes others have of us,” Osman answered. “I feel that these stereotypes are why we have fear of one another.”

Shaie continued the conversation explaining about watching, as a child, how African-Americans were portrayed in the media.

“Whenever I see a black man walking, I assume he’s going to kill me because of the stereotypes from media,” Shaie said. “When I had the time and opportunity to understand African-Americans, they are the most decent [people].”

Stereotypes have their origins in ignorance about the diversity within Africa, Imbo said.

The audience was able to ask questions in the end, getting to the root of the panel: “What is the difference between blacks and African-Americans?”

“When you say African-American, it has history. It has slavery,” Shaie explained.

Sasey added to this statement saying. “[To be African is] about culture. [Blacks have] history and what they’ve been through.”

Many heads nodded as the conversation continued and perspective for both cultures were put into place.

“You can be black in different ways,” Imbo finished. “There’s a difference between blacks and African-Americans because one needs to know the history.

Buzz over the meeting followed the students who attended. Most of the attendees were African immigrants who are attending Hamline.

One first-year said, “Having a topic like this, especially at Hamline, is great.”

“We, all those on the HASA board, notice[d] there was a gap between Africans and those who were African-American,” Segai said. “We wanted those from different ages and experiences to talk about how to bridge the gap.”

HASA has bi-weekly meetings Thursdays at 4:15 p.m. in GLC. HASA is hosting Pamoja night in Bush Ballroom Oct. 22, and Oct. 25 they’re hosting a class on African Drumming in Anderson.