Mukhtar Ibrahim didn’t imagine the communities he covers would be at the epicenter of protests sweeping the nation when he founded a startup news website in Minnesota last year.
But in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, Ibrahim and his small staff at the Sahan Journal have been on the front lines. The nonprofit news site is dedicated to covering immigrants and refugees in Minnesota. And Ibrahim says in recent days they’ve been pushing to cover important angles many national media stories have missed, like why a growing number of young Somalis are joining the protests in Minneapolis and what happened after the city’s only Spanish-language radio station burned down.
The 32-year-old editor and executive director spoke with CNN this week about what his team is seeing on the streets of Minneapolis. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Minnesota is known for having a large Somali immigrant community. How have they been impacted by George Floyd’s death and by the protests, and how have you seen Somali immigrants responding?
A: The Somalis are also black and they’ve been disproportionately affected by the police activities. And if you go to the protests, they are more highly visible than before. The younger generation clearly came out this time. Probably they have more interactions with the police than their parents or they can relate more with the African American experience than their parents. I used to cover protests before. And this is completely different. I saw a lot of young Somalis participating, especially young females, wearing the hijab and all that.
We talked to a lot of people who say they are afraid of the police. When they see a police officer, they tense up. And those experiences show the lack of trust between the black community and the police. And it doesn’t matter whether you are a new immigrant or whether you were born here or whether your parents fled from civil war it’s almost the same experience as the African American community.