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'It's Very Powerful'
By Scott Taylor
LEWISTON, September 10, 2006 – Anthropologist Lacey Gale knew she had more than a promotional piece when she heard the recordings of Somali women talking about their lives in America.
"As we listened, we realized we had something that might help these people, and might give people a richer understanding of the women's lives," said Gale, a researcher at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University.
Gale, photographer Kate Lapides and Fatuma Hussein of the United Somali Women of Maine hope to turn their 15-minute multimedia DVD into a training piece for English-language teachers.
The piece, "Being Somali in Lewiston: Fostering Community Dialogue through Image and Reflection," is a slide show of still photographs of Somali women from Lewiston with excerpts from recorded interviews.
"It's not meant to be a definitive study of the Somali community, but of these particular women and their families," Gale said.
She and Lapides began working on the presentation in June. It was originally meant to be a promotional piece for Hussein's organization, United Somali Women of Maine. It's a local resource center for Somali and Central African immigrants that offers job assistance, skills development and interpreting.
Gale and Lapides had made similar multimedia presentations before, creating one piece in Sierra Leone for the International Rescue Committee.
"It's very powerful," Gale said. "It's very compelling to hear the voices of these women, and I think it humanizes them in a way a standard funding proposal really cannot."
Gale said they finished work on a shorter promotional version of the program last week, but hope to have a longer version ready soon. It's scheduled to be presented Oct. 20 at a conference in Portland for English-language teachers.
"Maybe, after seeing this, English teachers will have a better understanding of these women's lives," Gale said.
One theme is what Americanization means to these women, Gale said. People come into the country with a sense that they can either assimilate and give up their individual identities or they can just stay apart in their own enclave.
"But these women learned that they never really can act the way they did back home," Gale said. "They have to adapt. And so, Americanization becomes taking the best of what you have and what is offered by the new culture and doing what you can."
Source: Sun Journal