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Power of migration stories topic of upcoming forum

Monday, April 25, 2016

LAWRENCE — The Kansas African Studies Center will host a public forum highlighting the possibilities for meaningful conversation about immigration through the sharing of stories. The forum will take place at 7 p.m. May 9 at Unity Temple on the Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. This community gathering will begin with presentations by three speakers, followed by a moderated public discussion on the challenges and opportunities that arise from recent demographic changes in the Midwest.

The forum will bring together acclaimed Nigerian novelist and poet Chris Abani, Northwestern University; distinguished cultural geographer Garth Myers, Trinity College, Connecticut, and nationally recognized expert on Latino/a migrant experiences Marta Caminero-Santangelo, University of Kansas.

Teleconferencing technology will connect an audience in Garden City with the forum in Kansas City and enable dialogue between the two communities, both of which are hubs of recent resettlement for Africans in the Midwest.

The forum is a central component of a Kansas African Studies Center initiative funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to facilitate the sharing of migration stories about Africans in local communities through public discussions, community programming and the creation of educational resources.

With close to 10,000 African immigrants living today in the heartland metropolitan centers of Kansas City, Lawrence, Topeka, Emporia, Wichita and Garden City, the project will offer extended and productive dialogue surrounding shifting demographics due to migration. In addition to the public forum, community programming will include humanities workshops in storytelling, poetry, theatre and visual art. The Kansas African Studies Center is partnering with the Kansas Humanities Council and the Kansas City public radio station KCUR to sponsor radio shows, film and book discussions, and engaging talks that reveal the power of migration stories.

“This project gives voice to the recent experiences of African families while also asking local residents of host communities to share their narratives about receiving new African immigrants into their cities and towns,” said Elizabeth MacGonagle, director of the Kansas African Studies Center. “By harnessing the power of compelling stories, we aim to increase understanding across civic and cultural divides in heartland spaces to build healthy communities for the common good.”  

Funding for the initiative comes from a new program of the National Endowment for the Humanities called Humanities in the Public Square where humanities scholars engage in direct dialogue with the public about some of today’s most pressing issues. “The humanities are one of the best ways of engaging people in conversations about the demographic and cultural shifts taking place in our communities,” said Byron Caminero-Santangelo, professor of English and environmental studies and interim director of the Kansas African Studies Center. “Social science research on migration has documented the ebbs and flows of movement, but this project emphasizes the widespread significance of the humanities to current national conversations about immigrants and migration.”

Details about the free public forum and the yearlong project are available at:


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