What we’re reading (& listening to) this week: Somaliland, Umebinyuo’s poetry, Sinkane’s album, & more

Women in Somaliland, wearing the colors of the Somaliland flag. (Wikimedia)
Women in Somaliland, wearing the colors of the Somaliland flag. (Wikimedia)

The self-declared independent nation of Somaliland has submitted a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State and the secretary of Homeland Security asking for an exemption from President Donald Trump’s executive order that banned entrance to the U.S. by migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries as well as refugees. According to a government press release, Somaliland’s foreign minister argues in the letter that Somaliland doesn’t suffer from the “deteriorating conditions… due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States.” While we recognize Somaliland’s interest in safeguarding the travel and opportunities available to its citizens, this isn’t a great way to make friends with your neighbors.

The uncertainty caused by President Trump’s executive order has had a really dangerous impact on asylum seekers. The New York Times reported on a surge in people crossing the border from Minnesota into Manitoba and then filing for asylum. These asylum seekers are walking for hours in the middle of the night — when winter temperatures are far below freezing. A reporter for the Canadian news agency CBC met one such asylum seeker, a Somali man who said he had been walking for 21 hours.

Our reading recommendation for the week is Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s Questions for Ada. Umebinyuo is a poet and author, born and raised in Lagos. Questions for Ada is her first published collection of poetry. The poems are an ongoing exploration of the narrator’s self and her relationship to her personal and collective history. So it seemed especially fitting for Black History Month.

Our featured music this week came from Sinkane, a Brooklyn-based artist with roots in SudanOkayAfrica says his new album Life and Livin’ It is “an elegantly executed pop album about determination, self-preservation, and positivity in the face of adversity.” We’re big fans of Sinkane — who just a few weeks ago curated a wonderful Weekend Music Break for Africa is a Country featuring Sudanese artists. We thought his song U’huh was especially fitting for an episode during Black History Month, as the music video incorporates powerful historical imagery:

Jidenna also released an album this past week: The Chief. Jidenna’s aesthetic features Nigerian influences and his videos feature contemporary issues. See for example his video for Chief Don’t Run:

There are a few things we didn’t cover in this week’s episode, but we thought you might find interesting:

  • IRIN News does a deep dive on “the hidden price for Congo’s conflict-free minerals.” We’ll be interviewing Dr. Laura Seay (aka @texasinafrica) in a few weeks time to go in-depth on this topic. In the meanwhile, check out a paper she wrote on the issue for the Center for Global Development.
  • Finally, we just can’t even with this tweet on a recent meeting between the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia meeting the country’s new president:


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