It is about time immigrant leaders in the state of Maine start embracing music and cultural integration.

It is common these days for people to group themselves in faith or culture and stay together tightly for safety reasons, particularly in the past few years under Trump’s leadership. While I think that is not a bad thing, it would be healthier if communities integrate, share meals, learn about each other’s sarcasms, music and sports. I think it will not do any harm to learn about jazz, rock, gospel, classical, hip hop. The immigrant leaders in the state of Maine should start embracing this and know that some of this music was introduced into America by immigrants. We can do the same for future generations of immigrants by integrating our music.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

There is always an advantage in learning other cultures while retaining yours as firmly as you can. The young people in our immigrant communities seem to not have an interest in our traditional music and have adopted popular music played in the United States. The reason is, there are not music events organized by immigrant leaders or nonprofits that take place across the state. It is time to lead by example. I sense there is a disconnect that is starting between the different generations of immigrants in Maine. The old generation won’t even bother listening to foreign music, while the young won’t bother listening to their traditional music. What we can do is integrate them.

There is an advantage in getting out and listening to all kinds of music and seeing what you like. In the seven years I have lived in the United States, I started liking salsa and jazz. When I brought this back into my community to see if we can have a conversation to make our dances and music as popular, there was not much enthusiasm from the leaders, but a lot of interest from the young people.

Some of the advantages we have in this country is the abundance of everything: music, sports, food and cultures. You can go to a live concert and watch a performance. You can get a ticket and watch the local baseball team play. Or you can meet a local musician in the coffee shop next to you and become friends with them. Americans often like to help when asked, and musicians I have come to know are willing to teach voluntarily. And they are also willing to learn about our music. With this we can start integrating.

It is often stereotyped that we only play soccer of all the sports and that we only listen to music from our home country. We are more than this. I would love to see a Somali man in the baseball league or African music played on the radio and on the television. While it is OK to stick to your traditional music and sports, it is worth encouraging other music and integrating that into our own. If we were able to diversify our food and have Americans and other communities eat at our restaurants, why can’t we also do the same for the music?

For the immigrant nonprofits and immigrant leaders, the communities you serve across Maine don’t only need mental health services or interpreters. They want your leadership in the entertainment areas as well. Let people have fun gathering at parks in the warmer summer days and listen to a mix of music. Let them meet the local musicians and decide for themselves. These communities are more than a group of people who need help and services from the leaders and the state. They are capable of anything. Some members of the immigrant community are artists of extraordinary ability. Some were popular and renowned musicians back home. But they are limited to the immigrant communities; other communities we live with don’t know about them. We need their talents as well as their advice in diversifying music.

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