Green Card Youth Voices

Want something good to read?

Check out Green Card Youth Voices, a local book featuring stories of thirty immigrant students from Wellstone High School in Minneapolis.

This is not a heavy compendium about the plight of immigrants. This is teenagers telling their stories.

Like kids anywhere, they mention friends, part-time jobs, school, sports and what they think is weird. Weird seems to be a favorite word. But to these kids, weird isn’t a kid who wears awkward clothes. Weird is the gulf between the world they left and the world they live in now.

Weird is living with a mother you haven’t seen in years. Many of these young people didn’t get the chance to grow up with their parents. One parent, often the mom, left home, looking for work and a better life for the families.

“I also felt weird living with my mom because she was like someone I had just met. I knew she was my mom, but I had not lived with her for a very long time.” Eduardo Lopez, Mexico

I felt weird in a new home with people I hadn’t lived with for a long time. I know it’s my mom, but I … I felt weird.” Alexandra Irrazabal, Ecuador.

These young men and women remember how weird and confusing America was when they first arrived. So many things flummoxed them. How do you change planes in a country when you’ve never flown before and don’t speak the language? How do you ride the bus? Tall buildings, elevators, computers, and school lockers, even men with tattoos—all were confounding. Winter, well, no surprise, that was a shock to newcomers from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America. Yonis Ahmed from Ethiopia remembers, “The first time I saw snow, I thought it was salt.” Ahmed Ahmed, from Somalia, wondered if snow was sugar.

These young people have adapted. They’ve learned English, learned to open their lockers, ride the bus, drive cars, get part-time jobs, send money to relatives in their home countries. They’ve done so much while they are still in high school. Resiliency is a language they all know.

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This Green Card Youth Voices photo exhibit is touring at Minneapolis schools this year.

They know loss, too. They miss their countries, their cousins, their brothers and sisters and grandmas. Especially the grandmas. One young man, Wendy Saint-Felix, from Haiti, says, “Sometimes I just go alone in my bedroom and think about my grandmother because I miss her a lot.” He dreams of joining the NAVY ROTC and later, bringing his grandmother here.

These teenagers’ stories brim with hopes and dreams, along with some tears and fears. It’s a good read. Nothing weird about it.

Thanks to Green Card Voices, the Minneapolis nonprofit which has produced hundreds of digital stories, as well as this book and photo exhibit, all of which help Minnesotans meet our neighbors. Watch this Green Card Youth video

 

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Dark 2 Dawn – A Bike Ride Through Black History

Eileen On

“Was your master a righteous man?”

“He owned negroes, how righteous could he be?”

History came alive in the early morning hours at Fort Snelling as the bike tour met Dred Scott, an enslaved man made famous by the Supreme Court decision bearing his name.

Each summer the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota hosts Dark 2 Dawn, an overnight bike tour of the Twin Cities. The tour stops highlight the history of African Americans in Minneapolis and St Paul.

At 2 am, the 2016 tour gathered fireside at Fort Snelling State Park to participate in a reenactment with Dred Scott. His story drew us in as he proudly talked of his pregnant wife, our empathy twisting as the reality of his child’s future was laid out before us. A child’s legal status as free or slave was set by the mother’s. Both Dred Scott and his wife Harriet were…

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Racial Injustice and Righteous Indignation

beyondtheglasswall

Why is it that every time people find a non-violent way to cry out against racial injustice blak-lives-matter-toowe find a way to turn it into an offense toward some group it has nothing to do with?  #BlackLivesMatter DOES NOT mean others don’t.  That was a leap we made.  And let me clarify here. When I say “we” I mean people who have not spent their lives feeling the brunt of racial injustice.  Additionally, #blacklivesmatter does not mean “blue lives” don’t matter.

“…they were crying out against INJUSTICE, not people…”

During the week Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were shot and killed I saw many of my friends and acquaintances become VERY vocal on social media.  They were sad, angry, scared, hopeless, etc… They cried out that Black Lives Matter because they felt like it give-me-our-huddled-massesneeded to be said.  At the same time, many who were arguably on the “other side of…

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Guns, violence, and hope

We live with guns and violence and we can live with hope.

I have hope that we can change attitudes about gun violence, just as public health advocates have changed attitudes about smoking. Now we have fewer tobacco deaths. In time, if we change attitudes and laws, we can have fewer gun deaths.

I have hope because groups like Protect Minnesota are working to change attitudes and laws.

I see hope in the dimpled smile of Protect Minnesota’s new director Rev. Nancy Nord Bence. Energetic and upbeat, Nancy knows preventing gun violence isn’t quick work, it’s necessary work. She’s organizing groups of Minnesotans who want to make us safer: The Interfaith Alliance on Gun Safety, Health Care Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, Teachers United for Gun Reform, Minnesotans OUT for Gun Safety, Coalition for Workplace Safety and Responsible Gun Owners of Minnesota.

The more Minnesotans who stand together, with neighbors, friends and colleagues, the more attitudes, and in time, laws, will change.

The first step in changing attitudes is understanding the facts about guns and violence.

The fact is, we have 90 gun deaths a day in America. 90. 90 deaths, every single day. Shooting deaths are so common that it takes an odd detail to make us pay attention. A mother pushing a baby stroller is shot. Her death makes national news, because she is the cousin of someone famous, a basketball star.

We pay attention to mass shootings and a few unusual everyday shootings, but often we hear nothing at all about the most common kind of gun death in America.

The fact is, most gun deaths are suicides. The fact is, suicides account for more than half the gun deaths in America. The fact is,  more than 80 percent of gun deaths in Minnesota.

The numbers are numbing, but please stay with me here.

We live with guns and violence and we can live with hope. We can do something about gun violence. We—meaning me and you and many others. We can do something, together.

ATTEND a September 15th fundraiser for Protect Minnesota at my house.

HEAR The Concert Across America to End Gun Violence. The Minneapolis concert at International Market Square is one of dozens scheduled nationwide for September 25th, a day to hear music and ideas of how to make communities safer. I’m happy to pay $15 for an afternoon of hope. Buy $15 tickets

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Choosing hope after grim news

The news is grim, again. Jacob.

Yesterday’s ugly details of Jacob Wetterling’s death stunned me. My legs felt leaden, my mind numb.

I decided to move ahead, to do what I had planned, marching in honor of Philando Castile, on the two-month anniversary of his death. At first, standing with other protesters outside Saint Paul’s City Hall, carrying a sign, “Liberty and Justice for ALL,” I was too sad to speak. Slowly, hearing the voices and energy of people around me, I found my voice again.

I find hope being with others, doing something. Marching with young people, old people, people of color and people my color, I see hope. I hear hope when we chant a call-and-response, “I-believe-that-we-can-win.” I believe, and have hope.

I remember hope, the thousands of people who marched and prayed, cried and searched in the days and weeks and months and years since Jacob’s abduction, October 22, 1989. I heard hope in Patty Wetterling’s voice many times over the years. Yesterday, her voice breaking, she talked about Jacob’s legacy. “He has taught us how to live, how to love, how to be fair, how to be kind.”

In times of grim news, we can choose to be fair, to be kind, to stand with others, marching, praying, singing. We can choose hope, a legacy of Jacob.

The sound of hope

I hear the sounds of hope in so many kinds of music. I hear hope in the Black Eyed Peas’ latest version of  Where is the Love?

Their music video shows haunting images of refugee children, portraits of people standing alone or together, scenes from the grim headlines.

Where is the Love?” washes over me, wiping away the inky dread that seems to coat the daily news.

Mapping their journeys

Hand poised above a world map, pen gliding along the path traveled, each person tells the story of his or her life, the journeys across seas and continents, by foot, train, car and boat.

In an airy lobby at MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, wide video screens reveal the stories of eight people, each of whom left home, travelling illegally, without papers, in search of a better life. We hear people tell their stories. We never see their faces. We don’t hear their names. Each video screen shows a map, with a hand, a pen, and the speaker’s words.

I move from bench to bench, watching each video screen, headphones on, listening to the odysseys from home, be it Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Mogadishu, or Ramallah.

Each person calmly traces a journey, in black magic marker over a colorful map. The lines cut across countries and seas, sometimes backtracking, returning to stay at uncle’s home in Spain; caught again by the police in Istanbul.

A woman from Mogadishu details her travels from Ethiopia to Sudan to Libya to Italy, where she has learned the language and has a job. She dreams of living in Norway. Continue reading “Mapping their journeys”