By Raymond P. Diamond
Radio programming that is created by and for audiences from the African Diaspora is magical.
— Jean Hakuzimana
Amjambo Africa, Maine’s only multilingual publication, was founded 5½ years ago as a print publication, but has gradually expanded, and now presents the news through a monthly print newspaper, and a digital site. Three popular podcasts air first, on alternating Wednesdays, at 7 p.m. on WMPG-90.9 FM, Portland, and then are uploaded to the Amjambo Africa YouTube channel, where they are archived. Amjambo Africa’s podcasts are brought to the public with help from Maine Humanities Council.
Jean Hakuzimana, Amjambo Africa’s Deputy Editor and Audio/Video division leader, curates, edits, and produces all three podcasts. These are “Amjambo Time,” in English; “Wiriwe Maine,” in Kinyarwanda/Kirundi; and “Bonjour Maine,” broadcast in French. As soon as funding becomes available, Amjambo plans to expand the broadcasts into more languages to reach the widest listenership possible, so that all communities in Maine – even those marginalized because of language – get a seat at the information table.
Hakuzimana speaks English, French, and Kinyarwanda/Kirundi, which together reach many of the people living in Maine. But Ladder to the Moon Network, the nonprofit that produces Amjambo Africa, also wants to reach listeners in Arabic, Dari, Lingala, Portuguese, Somali, and Spanish. In order for this to be possible, the organization needs to strengthen and expand its infrastructure. Meanwhile, the multilingual podcasts are off to a good start: French is spoken by many Americans of French-Canadian descent, of course, but also in Burundi, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Togo – the list of former French colonies goes on. Kinyarwanda and Kirundi are national languages in Burundi and Rwanda.
For “Bonjour Maine” and “Wiriwe Maine,” Hakuzimina’s focus is to engage Maine’s New Americans in learning about life in the state, and to provide tips on how to thrive in their new home. This includes overcoming many barriers so they can contribute to Maine socially and economically, and develop secure lives here. Interviews for the shows are done entirely in the target language, or sometimes with voiceovers. Guests from Africa sometimes appear on the shows. Musical jingles are provided by the Maine-based international star Clarisse Karasira, who is from Rwanda, and Burundian-born drummers Yves and Steve Karubu, also living in Maine.
Content includes reporting on current events, immigration, and politics, as well as simple, everyday subjects like sports, where to go for an inexpensive meal, or how to find healthcare.
Hakuzimina wants to help as many folks as possible, from many walks of life, access the assistance and resources they need to thrive, and feel at home in Maine. Amjambo Africa shares the podcasts through community networks to reach the broad diaspora of immigrant communities within Maine. Mirroring “Bonjour Maine” and “Wiriwe Maine,” the English-language podcast “Amjambo Maine” – which was Amjambo Africa’s first podcast series and has produced 35 episodes, available on YouTube – is dedicated to helping the host community understand the challenges facing their new neighbors, as well as the richness that the many different newcomers bring to their new home.
Amjambo Africa is a community news organization. To contact Jean Hakuzimana with events, feedback, or suggestions: [email protected].