The latest single from a Vermont pop and hip-hop music group addresses one aspect of the refugee experience, as issues of immigration and international travel policies continue making headlines.
A2VT, standing for "Africa to Vermont," is made up of performers who came to the United States as refugees from African nations that have faced war, poverty, famine, and other crises.
"The war is still on; no peace," Said Bulle, who goes by "Jilib" on-stage, said of his homeland of Somalia.
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Bulle moved to the United States from a refugee camp in Kenya, after fleeing Somalia with his family. Some relatives are still in the camp, he said.
He said he once imagined the U.S. as having streets paved in gold.
But he'd discover the reality, as sung in the new single "Ghetto," is there are economic challenges here, too.
That myth of automatic wealth and prosperity is the undercurrent of the song, which features lyrics in English, Swahili, and Maay Maay, which is a Somali Bantu language.
"Nobody's different," Bulle said, describing how people all over the world confront struggles such as economic disparities. "We're all the same."
With the new single, the Vermont-born group aims to reassure immigrants that it's normal to struggle at times to adapt to life here.
"Keep your head up," Bulle said, smiling.
In its recordings and live shows, A2VT also celebrates the growing diversity of the Burlington area.
The music video for a previous track, "Winooski, My Town," shows the performers dancing and having fun with their new neighbors across the city.
Music producer David Cooper said "Ghetto" was in the works for a while, but A2VT decided to release it this summer.
"It really seemed this is the one to put out right now," Cooper told necn.
The song's release comes following months of national talk of travel restrictions from certain countries and the tightening of admissions of refugees to the United States.
In mid-February, President Donald Trump argued the merits of tightening the refugee program and restricting admissions to the U.S. from countries his administration has deemed security risks.
"We need strong programs so that people that love us and want to love our country and will end up loving our country are allowed in," President Trump said in February. "Not people that want to destroy us and destroy our country."
While President Trump has called travel and immigration restrictions an urgent national security concern, Cooper said the tone and execution has fostered a disheartening attitude toward refugees in some parts of the country.
"These so-called refugees? They're just people," Cooper said. "They're just like us. Because this is America—we are a nation of refugees and immigrants."
Bulle said he and his fellow performers really appreciate all the hospitality they've received in Vermont, and are glad to be able to use music to add to the ongoing conversation about the refugee experience.
"I'm proud of it," Bulle said of the latest song.