Bantu: Lewiston, Maine

Colby College Magazine cover story, Spring 2016.

For this feature, I was sent to nearby Lewiston, Maine, to delve into a community of resilient and resourceful citizens. Maine is a state lacking in much ethnic diversity, but in Lewiston, 20-30% of the population is Somali Bantu. The Bantu people have been driven from their homes in Somalia for the last two decades, and spent years in refugee camps with substandard conditions. The lucky ones have landed in adopted communities in strange lands. Lewiston is a former mill town, struggling with the post-industrial economy of so many mill towns in Maine. So here we find one struggling community flexing to absorb another.

In a time when issues of immigration are very much contentiously contested, it was very rewarding to immerse in this city for a few days and get to know a local population I had little exposure to before now. This work looks at one Bantu family and their surrounding neighborhood. The Bantu people have done a remarkable job making room and resources for themselves in this city. There are markets and shops and immigrant centers to aid in what has been an unimaginable transition.

To read the full story, please visit Colby's on-line edition of the magazine.