Samia Abdullah’s about done with the photo ops for politicians at Brannon Hill, the dilapidated condominium complex just outside of Clarkston that I wrote about a few months ago for VICE. It’s not that attention wasn’t warranted, said Abdullah, who helps organize refugees around Clarkston. The Brannon Hill community – mostly Somali, mostly poor, beset by crime in buildings held together by duct tape and the power of positive thinking – plainly needs help.
But while DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester showing up with television crews once a week might put the local Crip set off their crack grind, it doesn’t repair a roof. And free range anti-immigration zealot Phil Kent just pisses people off wherever he shows up.
Kent attributed the crime problem at Brannon Hill to “Somali gangs” in an interview with the BBC about Brannon Hill last month. In fact, the gangs are largely all-Americans, a set of the Rollin’ 100s Neighborhood Crip Gang led by crack dealers from Memphis.
After roughly 10 months of reporting, I noted that detail in the story – a detail I learned at some personal expense and verified at some small personal risk. Kent walked in a couple of weeks after VICE ran it, talked to some people and then spouted off. The truth, it seems, doesn’t raise the ire of folks looking for a reason to target refugees quite as much, though. Evoking images of Somali pirates in your back yard is much scarier.
We’re in a mood to be scared right now. Mass murderers and Donald Trump have seen to that. Trump’s call for all Muslims to be barred entry to the United States comes with some Georgia elected officials endorsing that idea right along with about two-thirds of the Republican primary electorate.
Never mind how scared Republicans might be of immigrants, the Somali community is frightened of all the attention being paid to them, said Guled Abdilahi, a software engineer and Somali community activist. “They’re calling me really late, asking me what’s going on. Text messages. Email. Calls at work about Nancy Jester, wondering about folks coming there. That’s all I can think about.”
How Brannon Hill has reacted to all of this attention might be instructive. They’re organizing, they’re breaking old habits to do so, and they may be on the edge of a real political movement in the immigrant community. Read more