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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.

Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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