A Somali migrant story about diversity in the workplace
“I had very little recollection of my homeland because I left at such a young age. As I got older I felt like I was battling with myself as I tried to carve my identity; I navigated this crisis by embedding myself in the British culture in whatever way I could, while learning about my home culture from my family who fed me films, music, and poetry by Somali and African artists.
“The supermodel Iman was the only person in my childhood that looked like me—at least when it came to popular culture and successful role models. Growing up in the United Kingdom, I didn’t see many Somalis outside of the stereotypical roles, in mainstream movies, TV shows, commercials, or on billboards.
“I’m lucky that London is multicultural, but I still felt like an outsider and an imposter in some work environments. After a lot of hard work, I now find myself at the decision-making table as a creative and a consultant. It helped tremendously to be surrounded by good people—of various colors, creeds, and backgrounds—who spent hours to help me. Without this support mechanism, I wouldn’t be where I am. So I pay it forward: I have to recognize when other outsiders, other people like me, need help and to pull them up to spaces that they are having difficulty getting into.
“I’m setting up a production company with creatives from different backgrounds and cultures. I want to produce the stories of those, like me, who are seeking to see themselves in popular culture and society. It’s my chance to change the conversation—not for me, but for the next generation in my family or that stranger who just needs to see a person who looks like her is making things happen, so she knows that her voice matters too.”
Race matters. As immigrants and people of color, how do we challenge inequities and discrimination, stay true to our identities, and build a more inclusive world?