Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Somali Communities in Colorado

During a speaking engagement in Denver this week, a couple of Somali communities in the state of Colorado were brought to my attention.  While I try to follow the Somali diaspora, these communities were not known to me. 

A small number of Somalis began arriving in Fort Morgan, about 80 miles northeast of Denver in 2005.  Most of them came to take advantage of jobs at the Cargill meat packing operation, tough and unpleasant work that many Americans are unwilling to do.  The word got out that jobs were plentiful and the community was mostly welcoming.  Today, there are between 1,000 and 1,200 Somalis living in Fort Morgan, a town of about 11,000 people.  As a result, Somalis now account for about 10 percent of the population. 

Al Jazeera published a nice piece on 6 October 2013 titled "Colorado: It Takes a Village to Settle Immigrants from Africa" by Donna Bryson.  Al Jazeera did a photo spread on 27 September 2013 titled "Photos: The Somalis of Fort Morgan, Colorado."  The Fort Morgan Times published an article on 27 June 2013 titled "Agencies in Morgan County to Consider More Refugee Issues" by Dan Barker that looks at the new immigrant community from a home town perspective. 

A separate Somali Bantu community estimated to number 540 has settled in Denver where they are engaged in farming.  Confluence Denver published a fascinating piece on 15 May 2013 titled "Bantu Urban Farm Marries Somali Tradition with Sustainable Farming in Denver" by Chris Meehan.  One of the projects is an innovative urban farm that reconnects the Bantu with the land where they bring their traditional farming techniques to the US while being taught sustainable farming techniques for the Colorado climate. 

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