by ALEXANDRA RETTER
For Rawhi Said, talking about his family leaving Bosnia amid war in the 1990s, staying in a refugee camp in Croatia and ultimately arriving in Minnesota when he was around 2 is a way to shed light on genocides that have taken place in the recent past and to try to build bridges between people, regardless of their culture. Said is one of the speakers at Winona State University’s (WSU) upcoming “Expanding Perspective” virtual speaker series, which is open to community members.
Through the series, community members have an opportunity to learn about recent genocides with Said, Indigenous food systems of North America with chef Sean Sherman, trans masculinities with Cooper Bombardier and jazz and the civil rights movement with Galen Abdur-Razzaq.
Dr. Jonathan Locust, Associate Vice President of WSU’s Office of Equity and Inclusive Excellence, and University Diversity Officer, said the goal of the series is to provide members of the university community with programming that reflects their identities as WSU becomes more diverse, and to offer members of the broader Winona community programming they would find engaging.
“I would say one of the things you’ll see reflected is the people that are sharing are not sharing second-hand stories,” Locust stated. “They’re sharing first-hand stories, first-hand experiences.”
The speakers will address struggles they have faced due to their identities, Locust said. “So it’s a hero’s story … You learn the lessons of how people from underrepresented perspectives have to navigate worlds that we don’t necessarily see.”
A flutist, educator and lecturer, Abdur-Razzaq grew up during the 1950s and 60s, and he will speak about the civil rights movement. “That time period was extremely important, because it shaped the course of what was going on with people of color in relationship to voting rights, civil rights, in relationship to interacting with European Americans … and dealing with just the whole idea of segregation and prejudice in this country,” Abdur-Razzaq said.
Abdur-Razzaq will discuss civil rights movement icons such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, John Lewis and Angela Davis. He will also talk about those who opposed the movement, such as then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Another topic he will speak about is jazz’s important role during the civil rights movement era. He noted that before television became more widespread in the 50s, people listened to the radio, and much of the music on the radio was jazz. Then, when television was more broadly available, show theme songs were often jazz, he said. “So we were inundated with the music, R&B and jazz. So it played a very important part, because it was a music that defined that time period,” Abdur-Razzaq said.
Said will discuss modern genocides, such as the Rwandan Genocide of the 1990s. “I’m really just talking about why it happens, what we can do as people, as constituents and as upstanding citizens … to love one another more and really embrace each other and our differences,” Said said.
Locust said the goal of WSU’s Office of Equity and Inclusive Excellence, as the U.S. in its entirety becomes more diverse, is to broaden the perspectives of the WSU community and community at large on a regular basis “and to give voice to people in the past who have had no voice.”
The Expanding Perspectives Series will take place virtually from February 8 through February 12. More information may be found at https://www.winona.edu/inclusion-diversity/events.asp.