HOME: Conversations on Black Lives Matter

Repeats every day until Sat Sep 12 2020 . Also includes Sat Nov 14 2020.
September 12, 2020 - 11:00am - 12:30pm
November 14, 2020 - 11:00am - 12:30pm

HOME: Conversations on Black Lives Matter

Registration: These panels take place via Zoom; advance registration required. Click here to register.

Sign up to our HOME programming updates here.

The Lynden and the HOME Refugee Steering Committee are extending the HOME series of Conversations on Displacement and the Arts to respond to the sequence of events marked by the murder of George Floyd and coinciding with the global Covid-19 pandemic. Looking beyond the slogan, HOME: Conversations on Black Lives Matter aims to acknowledge this significant moment and to explore its impact on and within refugee and immigrant communities.

There are many discussions unfolding simultaneously in response to the sense of urgency around systemic issues that shape the lives of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in this country. The HOME conversations will pay particular attention to what these discussions look like on the ground for refugee and immigrant communities—communities that are both shaped by the systemic racism of American institutions and engaged in confronting internal histories of racial injustice, antiblackness, and inequity. Ultimately, we hope to define and dissect the complex issues faced by refugee communities that have resettled to the United States in addressing Black Lives Matter.


September 12, 2020: Participants in the first BLM/HOME panel, moderated by Paul Vang, include Sumeya Osman, Biak Hlawn, and Toslimah Kanahan. Scroll down for more information on the participants. Watch a recording of the panel here.

November 14, 2020: This panel, which will explore the intersection of refugee resettlement practices and the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement, will be moderated by HOME committee member Paul Vang with panelists Gwendolyn Faye Sutton, Monica Ashery, and Dr. Chia Youyee Vang. Scroll down for more information on the participants. Watch a recording of the panel here.

About the Participants

Moderator | Paul Vang serves as the Civic Engagement Director at HAWA, the Hmong American Women’s Association. He is a former science educator and is passionate about helping to build power within the Southeast Asian community by engaging in conversations with people at their doors, hosting educational events that are open to the public, and educating elected officials on the Southeast Asian population here in Milwaukee.

Sumeya Osman is a Somali refugee who lived in Uganda as an urban refugee for six years. Resettling to the United States, she's lived in Milwaukee for three years. As a community advocate and interpreter, her experience and skills range from working as a community health worker at Aurora Walker's Point Community Clinic with Kai Mishlove, to supporting initiatives at the local level with Public Allies and advocating for refugee rights. Her ongoing passion for grassroots engagement and community health has led her to pursue training as a doula and midwife within diverse communities, as well as encouraging talents in refugee youth. Sumeya is an active member of the HOME steering committee and is busily engaged with the planning of this annual, community-directed refugee event at Lynden. She is the event's co-MC, alongside Rohingya refugee Hasina Begum.

Biak Hlawn known as Hlawn, immigrated to the United States from Malaysia in 2010 as a Chin ethnic minority refugee from Myanmar (Burma). As a senior at Ronald Reagan High School in the upcoming school year, she aims to further her passion for activism and her involvement within her communities. She has served in leadership roles such as Student Council President, Class President, President and Founder of Asian Student Union, and the captain of Reagan’s varsity tennis team. She has been appointed to and selected for advocacy groups within Reagan such as the Office of Civil Rights, Reagan Student Advisory Board, and HOPE Squad. Other involvements within her school include Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES) Club, National Honor Society, HOT Store, and more. Within her Chin community, Hlawn is one of the twelve elected youth leaders at Carson Chin Baptist Church and a member of the Praise & Worship and Media teams; she sits on the Youth Development Committee of the nationwide Chin Youth Organization (CYO); and she is also a promotional coordinator for the National Leadership Team of AB (American Baptists) Girls. Within the Milwaukee community, she a member of the Milwaukee Youth Council, representing the 13th district. Hlawn is a Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) scholar. Upon graduating, her career path remains a mystery but lies in pursuing her dedication in implementing and inspiring positive changes for the betterment of her community, the wider Milwaukee community, and beyond, while keeping rooted in her identity.

Toslimah Kahanan is a Rohingya refugee who resettled from Malaysia to Milwaukee in 2015. She has been actively involved in volunteer work and helps the community with interpreting, including at hospitals and local mosques, assisting newcomers to the US. During her years as a student at South Division High School, she has been in numerous leadership roles, including her involvement in Cardinal Council, and she is currently a continuing member of Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES). A recent high school graduate, she is continuing her education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she will be majoring in nursing. In choosing this career path, she hopes to become a direct community resource and to inspire young people to pursue their passions especially when it comes to helping their own community and many others.
Marcela “Xela” Garcia is a Xicana artist, innovator and cultural warrior, born in Guadalajara and raised in Milwaukee. She has extensive experience in the fields of arts and culture, education, philanthropy, and organizational sustainability, adding up to over ten years of systems and program development, implementation, and evaluation. A proud MPS alumna and resident of Milwaukee’s Southside, her deep commitment to cultural equity and change-making uniquely positions her to lead an organization with matching values. -->

Gwendolyn Faye Sutton is an ordained minister, speaker, freelance writer, workshop leader, and health and wellness life coach. She is thankful that she can use her messes to inspire others. Her parents fled Jim Crow South during the Great Migration with the hopes of creating a better life for their family. She continues the legacy of her parents as an associate minister at the church her dad founded. Gwendolyn is also the first African American President of Women’s Missionary Union, an auxiliary of the Southern Baptist Convention. She brings a wealth of life experiences and credentials to her work. She traveled the world as an International Flight Attendant. She has produced and hosted a TV show on Community Television and facilitated a city-wide support group. She was an award-winning educator for Milwaukee Public Schools, where she won many honors, including the Michael Jordan Essential’s Grant for Innovative Teachers.

Dr. Chia Youyee Vang is Professor of History and Associate Vice Chancellor in the Division of Global Inclusion and Engagement at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her teaching and research interests include the Cold War in Asia, Asian American history, Hmong history, refugee migration and transnational and diasporic communities. She has published many articles on Hmong/Southeast Asian refugees/Americans. She is author of three books: Fly Until You Die: An Oral History of Hmong Pilots in the Vietnam War (Oxford University Press, 2019), Hmong America: Reconstructing Community in Diaspora (University of Illinois Press, 2010), and Hmong in Minnesota (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2008). In March 2016, the University of Minnesota Press released her co-edited volume, Claiming Place: On the Agency of Hmong Women. Her biography of Hmong prisoner of war (POW) Pao Yang is forthcoming next month from Temple University Press. She is currently writing a new book entitled, The Sorrow of Displacement: Southeast Asian Identity and (Be)longing in the Global South, that examines the social and cultural history of Southeast Asian refugees resettled in French Guiana and Argentina in the late 1970s amidst significant local protests. Dr. Vang’s research is global in scope but intimately informed by her own refugee experiences as a child. She is interested in not only understanding larger political and military transformations, but also the lived experiences of those who experience wars not of their own making but fought in their environments. Her documentation of Southeast Asian refugee lives and that of their descendants across four continents help us to better understand the lasting impact of one of the most controversial wars of the 20th century.

Monica Ashery was born in Tanzania and moved to the USA to further her studies in 1988. In Tanzania, Monica worked in the comptroller’s office of the Anglican Diocese of Central Tanganyika in Dodoma where she was the head of the Accounts Department and held the responsibility to handle missionary affairs. She holds a Certificate in Accountancy from St. Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT), Mwanza, Tanzania, a B.A. in Business from Mount Mary University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a Certificate in Human Resources Management from Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Upon completion of her Bachelor’s degree, Monica worked as the Special Assistant to the President of Coleman & Williams, Ltd., CPAs in Milwaukee, WI. She is currently enrolled in an enhanced program for Accounting Services Specialist through the U.S. Career Services. Throughout her stellar career, Monica has played a significant role in the National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. Division of Firms (NABA- DOF) by coordinating four DOF semi-annual conferences on practice management and recruiting more than 50 members at the NABA-DOF Exhibits during the National Conventions around the United States. Monica is a four-time award recipient for outstanding contribution, leadership, continued services, and commitment, both from Coleman & Williams, Ltd. and the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA). Serving immigrant and refugee communities, she works as a Freelance Swahili Interpreter for the International Institute of Wisconsin, JS Language Services and Western Bilingual. Her passion for helping others has earned her the name of “Mama,” Swahili for Mother, for her dedication to assisting refugees in acclimating in the Milwaukee community. She has earnestly served as the immediate past President and the former Secretary of the Milwaukee African Women’s Association, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Milwaukee, WI. Since 2016, she has been a board member of the Lutheran High School Association of Greater Milwaukee (LHSAGM). She enjoys volunteering at her Brookfield Lutheran Church congregation in different ministries, such as children’s and hospitality, and in 2018, she was on a Call Committee for an Associate Pastor. On top of her responsibilities and serving the community, Monica is also the owner of Mchete’s African Treasures, which specializes in authentic African handmade products and Fabrics, and she is the proud mother of a 28-year-old son and two adopted daughters, ages 36 and 32, whom she raised since her younger sister’s death in 1995.

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