Omar Bah was one of the most respected and effective journalists in The Gambia. At the age of 21, while The Gambia was under the control of a dictator, Bah sought to become a human rights lawyer to fight rampant political corruption and injustice. Owing to the law program’s foreign travel requirement, Bah shifted his focus onto journalism and specialized in court and political reporting.
Over the ensuing years, Bah built a reputation as one of the country’s most respected and effective journalists. Due to his persistence and resilience, he became one of the world’s most wanted journalists. In 2001 Bah was kidnapped while reporting on a secret trial taking place at a military barracks. He was attacked, tortured, and confined to a closet-sized cell by soldiers, who left him with several injuries. He was held until several witnesses, human rights workers, and fellow journalists called for his release. Still, he remained a journalist. At the age of 26, Bah found himself the target of a national manhunt owing to his criticism of the totalitarian state. After a dangerous journey, he found refuge in Rhode Island, where he would embark on a professional and personal journey that would impact the lives of thousands of Rhode Islanders.
A year after fleeing persecution, fate brought him from the smallest nation in mainland-Africa to the smallest state in the United States. Dr. Bah challenged a brutal authoritarian and was fortunate to escape with his life. He knows what it takes to stand up for progressive change, and he is running to fight for that change for every Rhode Islander.
He earned a Bachelors from the University of Rhode Island, Master's Degree in Public Administration, a Master’s in Counseling Psychology, and Doctorate in Leadership Psychology from William James College so he could more effectively help others who had suffered trauma. In 2015, Omar founded the Refugee Dream Center, which he led until he began his congressional run. Through the Refugee Dream Center he helped thousands of immigrants, refugees and other working-class Rhode Islanders to become more self-sufficient by helping families find affordable housing, purchase their first home, access job training, and find employment.
Under his leadership, the Center has created systems to help mitigate the effects of poverty in Rhode Island while providing a “hand-up” to those in need. As a beneficiary of the kindness and generosity of Americans from all backgrounds, as well as from private and public institutions, Omar knows first-hand that the idea of people who are under-resourced ‘lifting themselves up by their bootstraps’ and accomplishing things in life through grit alone is a trope that could not be farther from reality.
Omar is not an establishment candidate, and while he is a consensus maker, he will not back down from a fight.
Omar was lifted up, not only by himself, but by tremendous opportunities that were given to him through the generosity of his fellow Rhode Islanders and through government programs - a college education, a transitional home, training, and medical care. He is the exception, because many of these opportunities, which are a requisite for upward mobility in our society, are not available to everyone. These “hand-ups” help not just the working class who are struggling to improve their lives, but everyone in our society who benefits from their contributions. We cannot function without service workers, electricians, construction workers, and truck drivers. We need to remove the barriers that make it nearly impossible for people to just live.
Omar is not an establishment candidate, and while he is a consensus maker, he will not back down from a fight. He was hunted down, tortured, and nearly killed for speaking out against injustice. Still, he stood strong. His experience, values and track-record should leave no doubt in the mind of any Rhode Islander that when it comes to protecting the rights of, and serving, the residents of the Ocean State - there will be no fiercer advocate.