This story is Part I of a short series catching up with some of our education program alumni.
Jama Abdirahman first met The Seattle Globalist at the end of 2014 during a Black Lives Matter protest on Capitol Hill. Globalist columnist and Creative Director Sarah Stuteville was interviewing him for her weekly Friday column, when Jama decided to show her protest photos he had captured.
They were impressive. But journalism? That was a new idea to him at 21.
“I grew up in a poor neighborhood, and there wasn’t anybody walking around like, ‘Yo, let’s talk about journalism.’ That’s not a thing,” he explains. “But the Globalist really goes to these spaces and introduces journalism to those who didn’t know… they could do it.”
By late March of 2015, Jama had landed in our Youth Apprenticeship Program, contributing not only powerful photographs, but commendable reporting and storytelling, from capturing Black Lives Matter protests, to photographing his neighbors in the often misrepresented Rainier Valley.
It’s unfortunate that stories about crime and violence in “bad neighborhoods” like Rainier Valley outnumber the good ones that reflect a more positive reality. This deficiency is what makes Jama’s stories special: his ability to capture the true essence of people in his neighborhood, and make it relatable to a broad public.
With growing division in our country, we need journalists like Jama more than ever to tell the real story.
“The Globalist gives the voice to those that other outlets wouldn’t give the voice to,” says Jama. “People always tell our stories but didn’t give the opportunity for us to tell our own.”
As part of Seattle’s Globalist’s youth apprenticeship program, Jama got paid to be mentored by professional journalists from The Seattle Globalist and other media outlets. He also received weekly training in writing, reporting, photography, video, radio and design before publishing his work in the Globalist.
Though he had never considered himself a journalist before, this extended, paid training opportunity would be his official entrance into journalism.
Since starting his apprenticeship with the Globalist in 2014, Jama received a “Youth Journalist of the Year” Globies Award in 2015, and has been published in The Seattle Times, The Stranger, Los Angeles Times and Somali Agenda.
Today, Jama calls himself a journalist.
“It’s something I’d never thought about and I’m proud to say that (I am).”
He’s also developed a new mission as a journalist:
“I want to create a space to have these uncomfortable conversations, disrupt norms and stick with the facts and analyze what’s going on,” he says. “I want to do that through my writing, my photography, my documentary film, and use that framework for the rest.”
Now 24 and a senior at the University of Washington’s Bothell campus, Jama is expecting to graduate in June of 2017 with a degree in media and communication studies.
What’s next for Jama?
He’s planning on moving to New York to pursue a career in documentary filmmaking. As a journalist.
The Seattle Globalist elevates diverse voices through media. We’re building a pipeline of diverse journalists like Jama through media trainings, a paid apprenticeship program, and intensive editorial mentoring. You can help break down barriers that have historically kept immigrants, women, and people of color out of journalism.