EDMONTON – People in Alberta’s Somali community will hear their own stories in their own voices on a Somali-language television news program airing Sundays, says the show’s host.
The half-hour Omni television show, called Somalis in Alberta, started in September. Organizers hope to expand the Somali-language program to an hour-long show, said Jaamac, 38, who does not use a last name. Somalis in Alberta is looking for a venue that could hold 60 to 80 people for a talk-show format, said Jaamac, who also hosts a radio show on CJSR called Somalis in Edmonton.
“It’s a kind of identity. Having your own radio and your own TV in the city means you live here. And it’s important for people to tell their story rather than hearing it from someone else,” Jaamac said. “The mainstream media covers (the community) mainly only when there’s a crisis, when there’s something negative happening … So telling successes and showcasing our own stories is something Somali media can do much better than the other media. Seeing ourselves talking about our own issues will be much more helpful.”
About six years ago, Edmonton’s Somali community was rocked by a string of murders that were in the news.
In January, three cousins from Edmonton’s Somali-Canadian community were reportedly killed while fighting overseas for ISIS last fall.
And a week ago, Edmonton police announced they are working with Somali-Canadians and other local Muslim groups to protect against terrorist attacks after a video from Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabaab threatened West Edmonton Mall.
Edmonton’s Somali community organized an event Sunday afternoon at the Central Lions Seniors Recreation Centre, 11113 113 St., to raise funds to support the new TV show and to celebrate the Somali radio show’s 10th anniversary.
Organizers hoped to raise about $20,000 for the Somalis in Alberta TV show, Jaamac said.
“In terms of the TV, this is the only Alberta-wide African TV, and this is the only Somali TV in Edmonton and Alberta,” Jaamac said. “And the radio, we are the only community-based show in the city.”
About 20,000 Somali Canadians live in Edmonton, and close to 35,000 in Alberta, said Jibril Ibrahim, president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton. There are about 200,000 Somalis living in Canada, he said.
The society recently conducted a year-long research project and one of its findings was that Somali youth saw negative images of themselves portrayed in the media, Ibrahim.
“So one of the things we are planning to do is to showcase the good things that a lot of youth are doing, in terms of going to school and so on,” Ibrahim said. “So this kind of media could be used to increase the portrait of the successful youth and use that as a means of motivating other youth as well.”
Alberta’s Somali community has grown rapidly because of a strong economy that attracts workers, Bashir Ahmed, executive director of the Somali Canadian Education and Rural Development Organization.
Jaamac, who hosts the TV and radio shows as a volunteer, has been pushing for a long time to create a Somali TV show to connect the community, Ahmed said.
“He’s a great guy and he persisted,” Ahmed said. “We are very pleased now to have this kind of community TV.”
Somalis in Alberta airs Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on Omni TV and is rebroadcast Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. and Thursdays at 8:30 a.m.