Diversity Led Me to Becoming a Bangladeshi American Muslim Journalist

Detroit Diaries chronicles the experiences of Feet in 2 Worlds Food Journalism Fellows at WDET in Detroit.

I wanted to become a journalist since I was in 7th grade. As a young child my mother said I used to scribble in notebooks, long before I could write full sentences. I had fascinating stories in my mind about being locked in a mall after hours, and superheroes fighting off villains.

In Florida, where our family lived for eight years, there was a lot of hype to read and write well. We had the Tropicana Speech Contest in third grade, where we gave a speech in front of our peers and were graded on the ability to tell a great story.  At the time I wrote about my family’s home and family in Bangladesh.

My sister and I were the only Bangladeshi students in our elementary school. But we grew up in a diverse neighborhood. We had the African-American church family, three Latino families, a Pakistani family, a Turkish family and us. We all looked out for each other.

Fast forward to March 2000. My family moved to Hamtramck, Michigan, a city which is 2.1 sq. miles, and surrounded by Detroit. For the first time I saw other people who looked like me, who were born in Bangladesh like me, spoke the same native language, and many who also shared the same Islamic faith. The Hamtramck School District boasted having over 80 spoken languages the year we moved to town. The population included people from Bangladesh, Yemen, Bosnia, Poland, Pakistan, India, Albania, you name it. I was able to fully embrace who I was, and pursue opportunities I may not have been able to otherwise as a minority.

I was led to writing. I wrote for the high school newspaper and I was a part of the school yearbook committee. However, because I came from a low-income South Asian family,  I was encouraged to pursue a medical or engineering degree which would yield high financial security in the long-run.  I enrolled in pre-engineering camps throughout my middle and high school years, and later applied to Wayne State University as “undecided engineering.”  The summer before I started college, I attended the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program as a pre-trial to engineering courses. I remember walking away from that experience focused on writing.

I went to the academic office and changed my major to journalism. I realized I always wanted to write and I chose to follow my passion. Writing allowed me to learn about different people and help others by sharing information. I joined the Wayne State University student newspaper and the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity, which equipped me with tools to further pursue journalism.

I also wanted to expand what it means to be a Bangladeshi woman. I want to show that Bangladeshi women are not only mothers, daughters, sisters or wives, but they can also be the gatekeepers of society.

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.