Our cultures play a significant role in our identities. They determine our values, the holidays we celebrate, the traditions we follow, and the foods that we eat. My background as a South Sudanese American individual is something that I am proud of and represent everywhere I go. When I first came to North Park, I was thrilled to know that there was an African Student Club because it was a space where I could go to embrace my African-ness with other African students of different origins who were interested in learning more about Africa. I also discovered that there was an African American Student Association which was dedicated to providing insight on news and events for African Americans here on the homefront. I regularly attended meetings and events that were put on by both groups.
A few weeks ago, I attended an event on campus called “To Save Many Lives,” and it was one of the most impactful events that I have been to in m three years at North Park. The focus of this event was reconciliation between Africans and African Americans, and the purpose of gathering together was to create a safe, collective atmosphere in which African and African American students can connect with one another as black people. This included conversations about our diverse racial and ethnic identities that varied from Muslim African, Congolese, African American and a few others.
We, as a group, defined reconciliation as knowledge, discussion and confession to one another. What are we trying to reconcile? Security in our identities and understanding between our racial and ethnic groups. How can we reconcile this? We must be intentional in coming together and creating conversations, authentic relationships, and internal strength amongst one another.
Niwlona Nowlin, who is the specialist for governance at the Evangelical Covenant Church, was present at the event and we used her article “To Save Many Lives” as a guide to help us understand and explore reconciliation between Africans and African Americans. She compares the relationship between these two group of people to that of Sarah and Hagar in Genesis 21. She say that these two women were being oppressed by a patriarchal system, but rather than together facing their common oppressor, they were at odds with one another.
There have been tremendous efforts made by students and faculty members to form solidarity between these two groups and there has been significant progress made since I have been here. This process of reconciliation is beneficial to all students and I’m excited to see it developing at North Park.