Growing up watching Canadian television, Amal Mohamud experienced the disappointing reality of the industry: it is very, very white. This lack of representation and Mohamud’s knack for telling diverse stories pushed her toward her own career in the media industry, one where she could pitch and produce stories that would resonate with marginalized communities.
“I always felt like there was a lack of diversity, especially in Canadian television,” says Mohamud. “So one of the things that I really love doing is just going out to different communities and giving them the opportunity to tell their story.”
Mohamud studied banking and business in university, but she knew it wasn’t the path she was meant to lead. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god — what am I going to do with this diploma? Am I actually going to work in an office?’” she notes with a laugh. Instead, she carved out her own path as a director, producer, and writer in the media industry.
Mohamud makes a conscious decision to represent diverse communities, especially Muslim and Black communities which she is a part of, in the stories she curates.
“There are really not a lot of Somali women within the media industry in Edmonton,” says Mohamud. “I feel like a lot of the time, it’s my job to speak up and promote more of a positive image.”
Her favourite role is producing, simply because it allows her to do so many different tasks — anything from paperwork, coordinating interviews, and choosing camera settings. “I don’t have one responsibility; my responsibility is literally everything,” says Mohamud. “I have to make sure that the ship is not sinking.”
Her work has taken many different forms, from working on a community show, to working with OMNI Television (a multicultural Canadian channel), and producing, writing, and directing her own documentary episode with AMI Accessible Media.
Her documentary episode, “Easter Seals Alberta,” marked her first step into mainstream media. The larger audience that comes with mainstream media is a draw for Mohamud who wants to shed more light on diverse stories for the general public. “Being a Black, Muslim woman, there’s a lot of negative stereotypes and a lot of misconceptions,” says Mohamud. “I want to erase all of that and just promote more positive stories.”
While her experience in the media industry has been nothing short of positive, Mohamud notes that she did often feel like the odd one out, especially at the beginning of her career. “I remember going to film festivals or networking events and… it was very white,” says Mohamud. “I felt a little less confident, very awkward. It took me some time to get used to it.”
More BIPOC actors are appearing on television, but things seem to be moving a little slower behind the camera. “I would like to see more diverse producers, especially people working behind the scenes,” says Mohamud. “People always think about… representation when it comes to actors, reporters, journalists, (but)… we need more people behind the scenes as well.”
She notes that it is the people behind the scenes who sign off on story ideas, not the actors, and if there is more representation among producers and directors, they will be more willing to showcase diverse stories in their programming.
Mohamud is breaking barriers and paving the way for diverse representation in Canadian media. “I want to create more stories that have more representation. I want to see more Black, Muslim people on television — not just in the ethnic media world. I don’t want us to just be put in a box: I want us to be with different mainstream platforms.”
Check out Mohamud’s documentary episode, “Easter Seals Alberta,” on the AMI Accessible Media website, and look out for her future work.