Moving to Minnesota: Immigrants tell their stories

Stories can transform the past from words in a book into the light in an old man’s face and the longing in an immigrant’s voice. Across the distances of time, place, culture, gender, race, religion and language, stories help us understand differences and recognize common ground. They give us a chance to ask questions and start conversations.

When seven ThreeSixty Journalism teens set out last summer to interview immigrants – including three black elders who migrated from the segregated South to Minnesota – we hoped they would learn that most people have stories to tell and are eager to share them.

Reporter Maddie Colbert was inspired by Betty Ellison-Harpole. As a black child growing up in Memphis, Mrs. Ellison-Harpole yearned to drink from “white” water fountains. She grew up to be a kindergarten teacher who “celebrated” all her students and helped them earn some of the highest scores in the city.

We also wanted our reporters to discover that when they ask questions, good listening is required. As writer Kalia Yang told ThreeSixty reporter Jada Pulley: “You can only talk if people listen.”

At a time when Minnesota’s population is more diverse than ever before, we need to ask more questions and listen to more stories. We hope you enjoy these stories and invite you to gather some yourself.

Lina Marulanda

Staying for my son

I can tell that this country has better opportunities for my son. Better resources for education and different things. So I think now I’m sacrificing for him. And I am happy with that.

Kao Kalia Yang

Nowhere on the map of the world

I’m Hmong, and you cannot find Hmong on the map of the world. There is no country that is mine. So I link myself up to the people who love me, who no matter where we were, carved out a place to belong for me.

Shamso Hashi

Success is achievable

My name is Shamso Ali Hashi. I grew up in a small city outside Mogadishu. I finished high school there. I got married young and had 11 children in total. Six passed away and five are alive.

Junchi Vang

Carrying on the culture

I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. My 13 siblings and Mom and Dad all traveled here together when I was 13. I just graduated from Robbinsdale Armstrong High School and started my first year of college at the University of Minnesota this fall.