By Denina Siljegovic (YES 2017-2018, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by AYUSA in Mesa, AZ)
Going abroad, I was ready to experience a lot of new, different things, but being placed in a city whose population is almost half a million people is still a thing that took some time to get used to. To make the journey even better, I got to meet people with different backgrounds almost every single day! This experience made me more open-minded, and aware of the ongoing fight a good amount of people are going through to have basic human rights. All of this inspired me and Asja Alishpahic (YES 2017-18, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by AFS in Warren, NJ), who shared similar experiences, to celebrate Black History Month with two events at the American Corner in Tuzla, whose staff was very helpful and welcoming.
Our first event was a movie night on February 22 attended by 45 high school students. The movie we watched was "BlacKkKlansman," which is based on true events. An African American young man becomes the first detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department and then together with his colleagues, they infiltrate the KKK and try to expose it. The movie shows the way the KKK treated African Americans and how African Americans struggled to become equal and accepted in a society where they were considered less worthy because of their skin color. The movie ends with an extended epilogue that takes the Klan from the 1970s to the modern day calling out the white supremacist riots in Charlottesville. This part was the most shocking to the students who attended our event. Most of them believed that the KKK did not exist anymore, but watching this movie showed them just how much there is still to be done. Also, there were students who were not familiar with the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. or what African Americans did to make their voice be heard, and they agreed that they need to learn more about Civil Right Movement because it showed how much can be done when people unite.
The following day, we held a workshop for nine primary school students from different schools. The goal of this workshop was to teach students about the Civil Rights Movement and to help them understand the importance of it. Asja and I shared our stories of living in diverse communities, as well as a story about meeting one of the first African American female baseball players. I met her during a workshop where she shared her story, how hard it was to become a part of baseball team and how big of a struggle it was to become accepted by her teammates. We also acted out the historical scene where Rosa Parks refuses to give her seat up on a bus. The students who were playing roles of people in the bus said they felt “weird and uncomfortable.” The fact that students had understanding and were more open to embrace the differences between people shows the improvement in the way children are raised, compared to the older generations. The students were happy they had a chance to talk about a topic that is not often talked about in our community, and to do it in a way that was interactive.
We are sure that these activities sparked enough interest among participants for them to continue researching and learning about these important topics on their own!