VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
DC Entertainment president meets real-life heroes
September 25, 2013 by Danielle Silber
|Bilal Muya, IRC New Roots coordinator, provides a history of the Somali Bantu’s leadership in San Diego’s urban farm movement for Diane Nelson, president of DC Comics. Photo: Jessica Wawrzyniak/IRC|
As 130,000 fans gathered for Comic Con International this summer in San Diego, Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment, took a break from the popular convention to pay tribute to real-life heroes.
A year ago, DC Entertainment, creators of iconic superheroes like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, partnered with the International Rescue Committee to launch We Can Be Heroes, a campaign to raise awareness and funding for communities in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia affected by the worst regional drought in 60 years.
To date, We Can Be Heroes has raised $2.3 million for humanitarian relief and leveraged nearly $1 million for the IRC’s efforts. Thanks in part to the campaign, the IRC has reached more than 1.8 million people, helping to meet immediate needs as well as build the region’s resilience to future drought emergencies.
Escorted by IRC staff, Nelson stopped first to meet Somali Bantu community leaders at the IRC’s New Roots Community Farm in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood. Farm trainer Bilal Muya, himself a Somali Bantu refugee, described how the Somali Bantu, who farmed for centuries in Somalia, helped inspire the creation of the IRC’s national New Roots program. In San Diego, the New Roots community farm now enables the Bahati Mamas—meaning “lucky mamas” in their own language—and other refugees from Somalia and around the world to grow their own fresh produce and sell it locally for extra income. Nelson was inspired by the collaboration between refugees from diverse backgrounds and remarked on the connection to a central theme of DC Entertainment’s’ Justice League and the We Can Be Heroes campaign: We are stronger when we work together.
At the IRC's San Diego office, Nelson listened to leaders from four Somali diaspora organizations describe their efforts to strengthen both their local community and drought-affected communities in Somalia. Each year, Somali migrants send approximately $1.3 billion back to their native country, $215 million of which comes from the diaspora in the United States. (U.S. humanitarian and development assistance to Somalia is $242 million.) In San Diego alone, Somalis have raised more than $2 million. Nelson was particularly impressed by stories of local fundraising efforts by Somali-American youth groups and of Somali-Americans who have returned to assist with recovery and rebuilding efforts.
The IRC’s ties to the Somali Bantu community in San Diego date back a decade, when our local office began helping to resettle hundreds of refugees who had fled civil war in Somalia. Our We Can Be Heroes campaign challenges Americans to recognize our global interconnectedness. Diane Nelson and her team discovered new connections between DC Entertainment’s support for famine relief in Somalia and the leadership role that Somali Bantu refugee farmers are playing in enhancing the food system here in the United States.