April 6, 2023
Kao Kalia Yang
Kao Kalia Yang

MINNEAPOLIS (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.

Erika Lee, Ph.D., professor of history and founding director of Asian American Studies at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.
Erika Lee, Ph.D., professor of history and founding director of Asian American Studies at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

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.”

For more information, visit: z.umn.edu/GlobalMN.

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