Pressure points and identity in America

Last week, I reported on the protest and shootings in Minneapolis. I focused on the ways that Somali immigrants have coped and joined the protest. It’s really made me think about this moment in America: Being an immigrant, Muslim and black—what does it do to someone’s psyche to see so much bad news?

Mohamed Samatar, 23, speaks to a police officer at a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis. He wrote on his Instagram account: “What am I supposed to do when you rage war against the lives you’re supposed to protect and serve?” Credit: Thaiphy Phan-Quang

Mohamed Samatar, a 23-year-old artist and activist in Minneapolis, has decided it’s time to take a break. Last week, a group of white men shot into a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters, wounding five people. Protesters are calling it a hate crime; police and prosecutors not yet said whether they agree.

Read more about Samatar at

I also joined Jon Wiener on KPFK in Los Angeles to explain what’s happening in Minneapolis.

I spent time trailing Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Minnesota. The day after shootings at the protest, he was calling for an end to discrimination on two fronts; he joined Black Lives Matter protests and spoke at a university about the pressures faced by Muslims in the state.

Read more about Hussein at

Hard — really hard — choices for an Iraqi refugee in Turkey

Amer Mohammad has a decision to make.

While refugees are camped out, protesting and demanding safe passage from Turkey to Europe, Amer must decide if he will wait and how long he will wait for an answer about his future. The United Nations and the German embassy, he says, have said it could take years for him to get paperwork to move, and there’s no guarantee he will actually be allowed to go anywhere — let alone where he wants. In the meantime, he is not allowed to legally work in Turkey.

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On Google’s new CEO

Sundar Pichai will become the CEO of Google, as a parent company, Alphabet Inc., is created by Google’s founders.

“I think the fact that we have Indians now at the helm of Google and Microsoft is a statement of how Indians have become part of the fabric of tech in the US,” AnnaLee Saxenian says. Through the 80s and 90s, Indians would be involved in startups but would not get promotions or, worse, would be replaced at the point of new companies receiving major funding. In 1999, less than 10 percent of Silicon Valley startups were created by foreign-born entrepreneurs. Ten years later, more than a quarter have foreign-born founders, she says.

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Minneapolis event: Film and discussion of adoption, migration, identity

I’m on my first panel in Minnesota and looking forward to it!

Panelists at the Nokomis Library screening of the documentary "You Follow"
Panelists at the Nokomis Library screening of the documentary “You Follow”

It’s a screening of a documentary called “You Follow,” a documentary about adoption and identity. It will be followed by a panel discussion of the film as well as migration and culture. I’m looking forward to getting to know this very dynamic group of people. Come join the event at Nokomis Library on August 22. More information here.

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Battling Trolls, Fears, and Other Things that Make Us Not Want to Talk about Immigration

Step/Flickr CC by 2.0
Step/Flickr CC by 2.0

I’ll be at Yale University on November 11 to give a talk and discussion in American Studies.

It’s been two years since I’ve joined Public Radio International to build digital content and find ways to use social media to make news better. On a macro-level, I’ve grown a large network of people who use Twitter and Facebook to do amazing things. There are people using the medium to share stories about their lives in intensely personal and engaging ways. On a day-to-day level, though, this job has also exposed me to enough hate speech to last a lifetime.

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Is Obama really the ‘Deporter-in-Chief’?

For Prerna Lal, how deportation data is parsed and explained is personal. She was once an undocumented immigrant herself, and for her, the deportation statistics represent people’s lives.

“There’s political motivations behind the numbers game,” says Lal. “We can cut the numbers either way, but the fact remains that the actual number of deportations is 2 million. These are people who are hard-working members of our community — mothers, brothers, members of our family.”…

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“We have no ‘Tio Warbucks'”

Here’s how many entrepreneurs start their companies: They begin by financing themselves, burning through savings or working for little pay. Then they go to friends and families for small investments to get up and running. Their third and fourth rounds of funding often come from angel investors or venture capitalists.

Read more on “We have no ‘Tio Warbucks’”…