Portraits pop on the yellow gallery wall at the Fargo Library. However, they are not just any portraits—they are portraits of immigrants, who traveled thousands of miles to make Fargo their home. At the front of the room, three women from the photos sit at a table, facing the audience, prepared to tell their stories. One is Hamida Dakane from Kenya, who started a non-profit organization called the Afro-American Development Association. Another is Mytch Pierre-Noel Dorvilier, hailing from Haiti, who is an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church. And the third is Fauzia Haider from Pakistan, who serves as a board member of the Center for Interfaith Projects.
The gallery talk is just one of the many events that happen during Welcoming Week Fargo-Moorhead. It is held Sept. 14-24, and it is exactly what it sounds like—welcoming immigrants to the FM community through various public and private events for members of the community. These events include a World Cafe, a Narrative 4 Story Exchange, a potluck, and many more throughout the ten-day occasion.
As newcomers to the community, it can be difficult to adjust, especially in an area that does not necessarily have the same resources like places of worship or grocery stores.
“We had to drive to Minneapolis to get our groceries, because Fargo did not have a Pakistani grocery store at the time. Now, it’s grown into a multicultural mini-world,” said Haider.
Dorvilier agrees. Her panel beneath her portrait on the wall gives insight to her conflict while she attended seminary.
“How do I reconcile being a Haitian with its rich culture that has Vodou in it and also be a pastor in the Lutheran church? For me, Vodou is not only about the religion, it’s the culture, a way of life, and a set of beliefs,” said Dorvilier.
Concordia’s own Dr. Dawn Duncan, a member of the Welcoming Week planning committee, provided more background on the week in its second year. She explained that the purpose was twofold: one, to help everyone understand that they are welcome in Fargo-Moorhead no matter where they’re from; and two, that The World in Fargo Moorhead welcomes us, and says “this is who we are,” said Duncan.
The theme of this year’s Welcoming Week is “bring a friend, make a friend,” and the idea behind it is to foster community on an exponential level. Those who are attending the events are encouraged to bring friends and family, and then each person who comes branches out and makes a new friend, and community is already being built before the event has even begun.
In light of recent events and legislation proposed by the current administration, the importance of a week like this is not lost on participants and planners.
“A week like this tells those who live here and those who come what America is really about. It shows that we hold true to the ideals in the Constitution. Everyone is valued. Everyone has a voice. And that is the spirit of America,” said Duncan.
A full schedule of events can be found at www.welcomingfm.org/events.
Annie is a senior double-majoring in Environmental Studies and Heritage and Museum Studies, as well as minoring in German. She loves adventures, coffee, and dogs. This is her third year with the Concordian.