Decorah, Iowa hosted a “Rally for Refugees” last night that had to move locations because it grew far beyond the small park originally planned for it. We had around 600 people, including a Somali family from Postville. That small community 20 miles or so away from Decorah is well known for an ICE raid conducted  in 2008. One of the members of that family spoke to the crowd. I wasn’t able to hear what he said, but the Decorah News posted a report:

One of the speakers was Postville resident Abli Ali. He told the crowd that he came to America five years ago as a refugee from Somalia. Ali said he is a citizen now and added, “I love this country.” He also pleaded for support of people who want to come live in the United States, concluding his speech by saying, “Refugees are like you and me.”

I stood right behind the family, and was moved to tears when three women recorded the booming chant “Say it Loud Say it Clear Refugees are Welcome Here” on their cell phones. The tears came from thinking about that video being shared in their communities and eventual viewers not feeling so attacked for a moment at least. I realized that I was also crying because the only time I see Somali families and Orthodox Jewish families from Postville is when we are all shopping for groceries in Walmart. I was so happy they’d joined liberal, wealthy, white Decorah and hoped they’d feel welcome to come again.

Then a car drove past and something shot out of the window: my artist mind took a snapshot. After I went home I felt the need to turn the snapshot into a drawing. Part of the words from the car are obscured because I felt more than heard the first word; the second was clear enough.

Lauren Anderson is Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies at Luther College.

One thought on “Say It Loud:

  1. I should have also mentioned–another speaker Yer Vang came to Decorah as a child when her family fled Cambodia as refugees. She is now an immigration lawyer recently returned to Decorah who offered her services and spoke about her own experiences as a Hmong-American.

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