As Mshale’s new editor, I wanted to start by welcoming the African community and friends of our continent to the newspaper. But I remembered that most of our readers have known the publication longer than I have. Therefore, I’m going to thank you in advance for welcoming me to Mshale and Minneapolis.
My relationship with Mshale began almost accidentally, more than a year and a half ago. I was leaving Foxes, a Kenyan-owned club in Hayward, Calif., when Michael Wanguhu, an acquaintance of mine, handed me a copy of Mshale. Wanguhu, a filmmaker, had been featured in Mshale after the release of his film “Hip-Hop Colony.”
I took to the paper home with me and read it. Even at 2:30 a.m, and after a few drinks, Mshale made sense. I wanted to be part of it. I called Tom Gitaa, the publisher, on the following day and asked to write a story for the issue of January 2006. We have worked together ever since.
What attracted me to Mshale was that the newspaper identified a vacuum and was making tremendous efforts to fill it. We, African immigrants in the United States, go online and read about our relatives and friends in our motherland. We then go to the newsstands of our surrogate country and read about Americans and other immigrants who have established solid communities here. If at all our stories appear in the American media, they perpetuate the stereotypes that portray Africa as land of great suffering, where illiteracy, war, starvation and corruption loom.
Even when stories about those of us in this country appear anywhere, sensational ones get major play. For instance, a story about an African father in the Bronx losing his entire family makes the front pages nationally; the fact that African immigrants are the most educated group in the United States seldom gets mentioned.
There are, however, lessons to be learned from the way the Western press corps cover us. The most important one, in my view, is that we have to take the initiative to tell our story. We are the ones who know and appreciate the merits of our people. That is the vision Gitaa had when he founded this newspaper.
But as we struggle to tell our story, we should be careful not contradict ourselves by engaging in actions that reinforce the negative stereotypes we are so desperately trying to dispel. And, we can’t insist that we only want positive coverage of the African community. Telling our story also requires a commitment to the truth, for to do otherwise would be a great injustice to ourselves.
I am very excited to finally be fully involved in serving the African community in the United States and will work to ensure Mshale promotes better understanding between Africans and the communities they interact with every day. I hereby invite all of you to participate in this process of telling our story.
Edwin O. Okong’o — Editor