Detroit Diaries: Showcasing the Community’s Strengths

As a journalist of color, finding the right person to interview can be a challenge. All of us have our own journeys of growth while we are seeking subjects and a great story to share with the public. As a person who comes from a background that fits a lot of the stereotypical reporting about the Bangladeshi community in the Hamtramck/Greater Detroit area, my job to find stories that do not fit the mold is even more important.

Part of a series of essays by journalists in the Feet in 2 Worlds food journalism fellowship at WDET.

Mommy and Me classes are a support to the community

As a journalist I am looking to shine a light on the Bangladeshi community, and how it affects the larger public. What is it that makes this community co-exist and fit-into the larger population? Who are the children who are rising from this community and what are their stories? How are their stories similar and different from their parents and forefathers? What does the Bangladeshi culture have to teach the American culture?  Newsrooms need to hire more people of color from the communities they come from to understand the community and highlight the positives of those communities.

For example, the fact that Bangladeshi people living in Hamtramck have either left poverty or still live in poverty may be true. However, that does not tell the stories of the struggles, challenges and the ways that the community is growing in number, expertise and educational achievement. It does not highlight the strong women and men who come from this community, leaving behind a rich culture engrossed in traditions of family values while they seek to find their individual identities as Bangladeshi Americans.

The narrative of “those poor Bangladeshis in Hamtramck,” or “the clothes and grocery shop owners” does not include the students who are traveling far and wide to pursue opportunities that were taboo in the past. They are pursuing different fields and giving back to the community while climbing the socioeconomic ladder.

There are also a growing number of entrepreneurs who do not line up Conant and Caniff Streets in Hamtramck, but rather are cooking up a storm in their own kitchens. In the process these entrepreneurs have pursued their dreams and aspirations without opening Bangladeshi clothing shops, restaurants and groceries.

These entrepreneurs are bakers, calligraphers and painters, make-up artists, and consultants. Some are former teachers and professionals who choose to stay home and raise their children to become successful members of society. A diverse group of teachers and professionals turned stay-at-home mothers created this Muslim-themed Mommy & Me group to cater to kids up to 5-years-old and to support each other. Some of these parents tuck their children into bed then go to work creating crafts, writing and providing other essential services to the community.

I am looking for more women to share their stories. In a space where men are usually at the forefront of the media, we need more women to come forward. As a female journalist I aim to gain more insight into the stories that are simply untold because there is no one to tell them.

There is a buzz happening in the community and for us to see, hear and embrace it, we have to keep our eyes and ears open. We have to keep an open mind about sharing our stories of triumph, rather than of the limitations and failures.

Support for the fellowship comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) and through matching gifts from station donors, The International Association of Culinary Professionals’ foundation, The Culinary Trust, and its Growing Leaders Food Writing program. The Food Writing Program is funded with the support of the Boston Foundation.

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation, The Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The J.M. Kaplan Fund, an anonymous donor and readers like you.

AboutNargis Rahman
Nargis Rahman is a Bangladeshi-American Muslim writer and a mother of three. She is passionate about community journalism in the Greater Detroit area and about giving American Muslims and people of color a voice in today’s media. A former journalism fellow for Feet in 2 Worlds/WDET 101.9 FM, her work has appeared in Haute Hijab, Eater, Detroiter Magazine, The Muslim Observer and others.