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A Liberian Refugee and a Sudanese Woman Make U.S. Election History

Wilmot Collins, and Mazhir Salih made history on Tuesday after winning public office in Montana and Iowa, respectively.

Wilmot Collins, a 54 child-protection specialist, who arrived in the United States from 23 years ago as a refugee from Liberia was elected mayor of Helena, Montana on Tuesday. According to the Huffington Post, Collins is the state's first black mayor.


Despite Montana being a largely conservative state with a history of contentious laws relating to refugee populations, Collins managed to win while running on a progressive platform which focused on issues like teen and veteran homelessness, and working towards securing access to clean water, reports The Root.

In an interview with PRI from last year, the newly elected mayor, spoke about the racial discrimination he faced in his early years in the city, which is 93 percent white—his house was once vandalized and marked with the words "KKK" and "Go Back To Africa—and shared how he was able to overcome such obstacles, help open minds, and leave a lasting impact on the community.

"I think the people of Montana are very accepting and welcoming, but the problems we have is that without information, we tend to stick to what we hear. That is, if we do not educate the public on what refugees are about, they will stick to whatever bigotry they hear."

"That's why they tried burning my car," he says. "That's why the marked my home 'KKK,' 'Go back to Africa' — because they didn't know me. Today, I don't think they can say that. I know in my own small way, I've enriched the
community. Talk to my students, talk to my former students, talk to my military mates, talk to my co-workers."

Tuesday's elections saw a number of diverse, Democratic candidates win public office.

Sudanese newcomer, Mazhir Salih won a council seat in Iowa City, and is believed to be the first Sudanese woman to hold public office in the country, and the first Muslim woman to serve on the Iowa City Council.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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