NEH Project: Global Minnesota: Immigrants Past and Present

March 10, 2016

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN (March 8, 2016)--In this presidential election year, immigration policy discussions are as inflamed as they can get. Thanks to a National Endowment for the Humanities Humanities in the Public Square Program grant, the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) will contribute to the public conversation about this important issue.

The new $150,000 grant funds a yearlong program of community and campus events with the theme of Global Minnesota: Immigrants Past and Present.
Four Global Minnesota public forums will bring award-winning authors and scholars to campus to explore how immigration has transformed Minnesota, a state with a long and rich history of both “old” and “new” immigration.
The series kicks off April 7 at 6:30 p.m. with Minnesota's Immigrant Roots: Connecting Immigrant Histories to Contemporary Communities with writer Megan Marsnik, historian Peter Rachleff (Macalester), and audience discussion. Marsnik is the author of the recently serialized novel Under Ground, a historical novel set on the Iron Range during the tumultuous strike of 1916, told through the perspective of a young Slovenian immigrant woman.

Then on April 21 at 6:00 p.m., the IHRC hosts Seeking Refuge: Minnesota and the Refugee Experience with a community panel and award-winning author Kao Kalia Yang reading from her new book The Song Poet, a powerful memoir of her father, a Hmong song poet who sacrificed his gift for his children’s future in America. The event includes a discussion of Minnesota’s unique history as a place of resettlement for refugees from Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Both events take place at the Elmer Andersen Library, 222 21st Ave S, Minneapolis, on the University of Minnesota west bank campus.

Fall 2016 forums will address the Somali diaspora and the impact of immigration in American cities.

Throughout 2016, the series continues with an exciting range of Global Minnesota public programs that extend the public dialogue about immigration into local communities. These include partnerships with Gordon Parks High School in St. Paul, to explore relationships between immigrant and African American communities; community-based screenings of Immigrant Stories, the IHRC’s collection of digital stories created by recent immigrants and refugees; a spoken word workshop, performance, and discussion about Minnesota Latino experiences with spoken word/poetry collective Palabristas and the Loft Literary Center; a St. Paul neighborhood walking tour with a discussion and meal with neighborhood chefs at the East Side Freedom Library; and a summer institute for K-12 teachers.

The IHRC’s distinguished record of preserving immigration history and dedicated community engagement make it a natural choice for the NEH grant. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the IHRC combines the academic firepower of University of Minnesota faculty and researchers with a dedication to meaningful public engagement. A major focus of IHRC efforts in recent years has been the Immigrant Stories project, which empowers immigrants and their children to tell their own stories.

“We’re thrilled and honored to be one of just 21 institutions awarded this new NEH grant across the nation,” says IHRC director Erika Lee. “At the IHRC, we’re constantly asked to help make sense of contemporary immigration news or to bring historical perspective to current issues. These are critical questions to ask, and we’re so pleased to be able to bring these discussions to a wider public at such an important time in our history.”

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“Minnesota’s Immigrant Roots: Connecting Immigrant Histories to Contemporary Communities”
Date: Thursday, April 7, 2016
Location: University of Minnesota, Immigration History Research Center, Elmer L. Andersen Library, Room 120
Time:6:30pm to 8:30pm (Reception, Book Reading, & Conversation)

Minnesota is a place of both “old” and “new” immigration. A century ago, immigrants from Germany, Norway, and Sweden were the most numerous in the state. Today’s immigrants come from Somalia, Mexico, China, and India. Join us to explore Minnesota’s immigrant roots past and present. Speakers include Megan Marsnik, the granddaughter of Eastern European immigrants who settled in the Iron Range and the author of Under Ground, a historical novel set on the Iron Range during the tumultuous strike of 1916, told through the perspective of a strong young Slovenian immigrant woman and Peter Rachleff, Professor Emeritus, Macalester College and Executive Director of the East Side Freedom Library.

6:30-7:00 - Light Reception
7:00-8:30- Under Ground by Megan Marsnik Book Reading and Discussion

Speaker Biographies:
Megan Marsnik is the granddaughter of Slovenian immigrants and the daughter of union activists. She was born and raised in Biwabik, a small town on Minnesota’s Iron Range settled primarily by Eastern European and Scandinavian immigrants. Marsnik has degrees in English, education, and gender studies. She earned her MFA in writing and poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, CO, where she won the Jack Kerouac Award for outstanding prose. She teaches English and Philosophy at Southwest High School.
 

Peter Rachleff, Professor Emeritus of History at Macalester College, specializes in U.S. labor, immigration and African American history. He is the founding co-director of the East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul, MN, dedicated to preserving and promoting knowledge about the people and history of the East Side of St. Paul through educational collections, programs, and storytelling.

 

"Seeking Refuge: Minnesota and the Refugee Experience" and Book Launch of Kao Kalia Yang's The Song Poet
Date: Thursday, April 21, 2016
Location: University of Minnesota, Immigration History Research Center Elmer L. Andersen Library, Room 120
Time: 6:00pm - 9:00pm

Refugees fleeing war and persecution have sought refuge and made new homes in Minnesota over the past sixty years. Join us to explore Minnesota’s unique history as a place of resettlement for refugees from Europe, Asia, and Africa and consider the state’s role in the ongoing global refugee crisis today. Speakers include: Abdi Roble, Executive Director of the Somali Documentary Project, László G. Fülöp, Hungarian American Coalition Vice President, and Mai Na Lee, Professor of History and Asian American Studies.
In an exciting book launch event, award-winning author Kao Kalia Yang will also read from her new book The Song Poet, a powerful memoir of her father, a Hmong song poet who sacrificed his gift for his children’s future in America. A light reception will take place in between the two events, with a book signing with Kao Kalia Yang following her reading.

SCHEDULE
6:00 - 7:15:  “Seeking Refuge: Minnesota and the Refugee Experience”
discuss own personal experiences coming to MN as a refugee as well as the broader community's refugee resettlement history in MN and the U.S. Given the ongoing humanitarian crisis facing refugees globally, we would also welcome any comments you may have that would connect history to contemporary events.
7:15 - 7:30: Break
7:30 - 8:30: "The Song Poet" by Kao Kalia Yang Book Reading/Launch and Discussion
8:30 - 9:00: Book Signing//Reception with light appetizers and drinks

SPEAKER BIOGRAPHIES

László G. Fülöp was raised in the towns of Tiszakécske, Máramarossziget, and Szentendre, Hungary. László G. Fülöp was conscripted to a forced labor division in Komló and Budapest in 1954-55. He took an active role in the Revolution of 1956, then fled to Austria in January of 1957. He studied architecture in Vienna, Austria and in the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota, USA; he worked in private practice, then Manager of Design & Contracts in the Minnesota State Univ.System (1970–1975) and also taught architectural courses for 7 years. In 1975 became Director of Planning and Construction at the University of Minnesota later at University of Wisconsin-Madison till 1990. With his wife Ágnes Sylvester, Fülöp has long been a leader of the Association of the Minnesota Hungarians. He has been a member then Vice President and a member of the Executive Committee in the Hungarian American Coalition since 1993, a former President of the Community of Hungarian Friends, and is also a member of the American Hungarian Federation.

Professor Mai Na Lee is an Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is a scholar of highland Southeast Asia and the Southeast Asian Diaspora community. Her book, Dreams of the Hmong Kingdom (UW Press 2015), examines how the Hmong negotiated for autonomy at the margins of expanding empires and contentious states during the French colonial era.
 

Abdi Roble is the Executive Director of the Somali Documentary Project. He is a 2016 Bush Fellow. Abdi Roble currently working on archive based on his documentary work and collection of historical manuscripts, postcards and photographs of Somalis around the globe in the past century. Roble uses art and photography to advocate for human rights, social justice, and civic engagement, and led various efforts around the world to create awareness for Somali refugees and internally displaced people, through speaking engagements, fundraising and advocacy. Along with writer, Doug Rutledge, his book, The Somali Diaspora, A Journey Away, was published by the University of Minnesota Press (2008).  Abdi’s work has been shown in museums and galleries around the world. He has lectured on Somali migration at the Museum of World Culture in Frankfurt, Augsburg College, Ohio State University, University of Minnesota, Oxford and Leeds Universities among others. In January 2012, he was honored as one of 14 Champions of Change by the White House.

Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong American teacher, public speaker, and author. Her book The Latehomecomer was the first Hmong authored memoir to have national distribution by a literary press and was selected by a number of colleges and universities as a common reading book and as a community read in several cities around the country. Her awards include: 2012 Jeannette Fair Memorial Award for Distinguished Writing; 2010 PEN USA Award Finalist for Creative Nonfiction/Memoir; 2009 Winner of Minnesota Book Awards in Creative Nonfiction/Memoir and Readers’ Choice; 2008 Winner of the Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights.