Insight News

Wednesday
Sep 17th

Shared histories and shared future: A dialogue

E-mail Print PDF


On Sunday, January 27 at 2:00 p.m., the Minneapolis Urban League, the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota and Jewish Community Action, with the support of many other community-based organizations, will collaborate on an unusual, exciting and historic project - the staged reading of the first act of a new play, "Tap the Leopard." Written by Kia Corthron, whose work has been performed on Minneapolis stages from the Children's Theater Company to the Pillsbury House Theater, "Tap the Leopard" explores the interwoven aspect of the histories of African Americans and Liberians. On Sunday, January 27 at 2:00 p.m., the Minneapolis Urban League, the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota and Jewish Community Action, with the support of many other community-based organizations, will collaborate on an unusual, exciting and historic project - the staged reading of the first act of a new play, "Tap the Leopard." Written by Kia Corthron, whose work has been performed on Minneapolis stages from the Children's Theater Company to the Pillsbury House Theater, "Tap the Leopard" explores the interwoven aspect of the histories of African Americans and Liberians. Following the reading will be a panel and audience discussion including Congressman Keith Ellison, which will explore our shared future as well as our shared histories.

The Twin Cities metro area is home to the largest Liberian immigrant community in the United States: 15,000 to 20,000 women, men and children. They have come here over the past two decades, seeking peace and stability that they could not find in their own war-torn country. While they have begun to make new homes here, as families and as a community, their security has been undermined by threats from the U.S. federal government to take away their Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which would require them to return to Liberia whether they felt it was safe to do so or not.

Their struggle to remain here, or at least to be able to choose if and when to return, has touched the hearts of many of their neighbors. Interestingly, this is not merely a question of sympathy for the plight of others. In the Liberians' stories other Minnesotans have recognized elements of their own stories, and it is on the basis of such shared experiences that dialogue and genuine solidarity becomes possible.

The Liberians' search for peace and stability, for acceptance and welcome, has reminded members of Jewish Community Action (JCA) of the stories of our own forebears who fled exploitation and oppression in Egypt to wander the desert in search of the "promised land." JCA activists joined with Liberians to circulate petitions, letters and emails, appeal to other community organizations and visit Washington, D.C. to lobby Minnesota's congressional representatives. In fall 2007, the delegation scored a remarkable victory, as the Bush Administration committed to extend TPS for another eighteen months.

Listening to the Liberians' stories and those of other African immigrants and recent immigrants from Southeast Asia, Mexico and Latin America has prompted Jews to revisit our own histories, to reconnect with and celebrate our past (such as the holiday of Passover), and to reach out to our new neighbors based on the shared nature of our experiences. With this new appreciation of our commonalities, we have also recognized that, given our longer residency here and our privileges as white American citizens, we have resources, contacts and connections which we can share with our new neighbors.

The Liberians' stories have also encouraged African Americans to revisit their own histories, from the struggle against slavery in the early 19th century to movements to create pan-African networks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 1820s, the first boatload of free Blacks and former slaves landed in what would become Liberia, to be followed over the ensuing decades by thousands more. The descendants of these African American settlers would play a leading role in Liberia's history, which is not without controversy and complexity. Many would intermarry with women and men from indigenous ethnic groups, but they would also maintain a specific identity as "Americo-Liberians." They made a powerful impact on Liberia, from its language and architecture to its political system, economy and culture.

Over more th
 

Recent Comments

Powered by Disqus



Facebook Twitter RSS Image Map

Latest show

  • September 9, 2014
    Family and ancestry. Andrew Scott, Bobby Sykes, Floyd Brown, Sharon L. Sykes and Kenya McKnight.

Business & Community Service Network