Here is Clarkston
Right as I step out of the large white passenger van with my fellow Journalism students, I look up to see a Somalian man wearing glasses and exposing a toothy grin. He stands waving at us on the balcony on the second floor of a large, bland building complex that sports mostly various medical facilities.
As the man continues to wave at us for an uncomfortably long period of time, my professor informs us that this beaming gentleman was Hussien Mohamed — the co-founder and director of Sagal Radio based in Clarkston, Georgia.
Before moving into Sagal, an introduction of Clarkston is crucial.
"'Clarkston, where is Clarkston?'" asked this city’s mayor, Emanuel Ransom, mimicking ignorant passersby, while speaking to the group of journalism students later that day. "People come right through this city and never even know it is here."
It’s true. I didn’t know Clarkston was here.
As I live comfortably in my Emory home, away from the actual problems in Georgia, here is Clarkston.
Here is a town that used to be majority white and is now a third foreign-born. Here is a city that was once a gathering spot for Klu Klux Klan cross burnings that now houses refugees who own 85 percent of the city's businesses. Here is a place that, after being handpicked by the government as suitable for an immigrant refuge area, is in a twisting struggle to adapt to the rapidly growing new American population.
Here is a story about a diverse and evolving culture that nobody at Emory knows but should.
Mohamed’s Sagal radio lies at the core of this story. As a station committed to building the immigrant community through education and engagement, they broadcast content about every little aspect of daily American life including instruction about pool safety, tobacco, street crossings, fire escapes, deodorant and flushing the toilet.
As I sat in the cramped office space that was tucked off to the side of the building complex and listened to Mohamed describe Sagal radio’s role in Clarkston, the notion that this city was only 15 minutes away from Emory was particularly intriguing. This story seems greatly significant to the new America we live in and yet, from right next door, I had no idea.
And I can properly assume that anyone back at campus would not know that this culture existed.
It is doubtful that Clarkston is alone. Do we know about any of the communities surrounding us? If Clarkston is so significant, imagine the rest of this state that we are missing out on.
The trip to Sagal radio was a reminder of Emory’s obscured view of the Georgian community.
As we sit in our classrooms, cultures blossom right outside our door; cultures that we rarely visit and sometimes rarely acknowledge. While these thriving and rich stories are worth our time, they don’t enter our college experience, limiting our view of the world around us.
Ransom was right. But not only do foreigners not know Clarkston is here, those living 15 minutes away have no idea that Clarkston is here.
But Clarkston is here and, boy, it is changing.