Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

The Sharps’ War

The Sharps’ War

Denny who wrote "The Sharps' War" review.

Winter Convocation – Meadville Lombard Theological School –
Photo by Chris Ocken
Copyright 2015

My friend Denise, more commonly called Denny, Davidoff wrote an excellent review of Ken Burns’ film Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War. I read it online in UU World Weekly, the email from UU World.

The magazine is sent to every member of Unitarian-Universalist – UU – congregations in the U.S.

I try to read the whole quarterly magazine. Every time I find something that makes me say, “I’m so glad I didn’t miss this!” Sometimes I also find an article in the weekly newsletter that catches my interest. This one did.

I love Denny’s introduction. She explains her Jewish family identity. “I learned early on to always be able to identify the people who, were I ever endangered because of being Jewish, could be counted on for unconditional help,” she says.

Now that background helps her understand the Sharps’ war and their dedication to saving lives during the 2nd World War.

The Sharps of the Sharps' War from UUA magazine

The Sharps, from the UUA magazine UU World

She talks about their second mission: “This time the mission is to save children, particularly Jewish children, and boatloads are brought to the safety of New York Harbor. The on-camera testimony of some of them who are still alive is heart-wrenching.”

At this summer’s General Assembly in Columbus Ohio Denny was on stage for a discussion of Palestine and Israel. She and the other panelists were asked to reflect on how their own lives influenced their feelings. She spoke then about her family and growing up Jewish.

She said later that reflecting on her family publicly as she did on the panel was not usual for her. Now I’ve seen her do it a second time! Is a book coming next?

Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War will air on PBS on September 20. I’ll be watching or recording.

Do We Like Diversity?

Vinnie Ferraro in his blog shares a Pew Research poll result that says we do like diversity!

Pew Research Center poll results

Pew Research Center poll results

Professor Ferraro says cultural diversity seems to be a hot-button issue everywhere today. “Immigration concerns are only the tip of the iceberg–questions are being raised about the authenticity of citizens who believe in a specific religion or who speak a different language.”

Here’s the poll question: “Do you think having an increasing number of people of many different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in our country makes it a better place to live, a worse place to live or doesn’t make much difference either way?”

The poll results said that 58% of Americans answered “yes, a better place,” the highest of any country. Greece and Italy were among the lowest.

So why so much animosity today about immigrants? Or is it only opposition to immigrants from certain places? Or just immigrants who are undocumented?

How would you answer the question?

Chimamanda Adichie at the UN

Chimamanda Adichie spoke on World Humanitarian Day at the UN. Quoting Ainehi Edoro in her blog, “her words are vintage Adichie.”

She relates the story of her parents with their two small daughters fleeing the Nigerian army early in the Biafran War. They had nowhere to stay until a friend, whose house was already over-crowded with extended family, said, “We’ll make room for you.”

Her story about visiting Mexico some years ago and finding herself succumbing to stereotypes reminded me of my airport experience with my sister.

I wrote about it in July. A young couple were hugging and kissing rather passionately, clearly leading up to a departure. Something about them indicated military.

I could see their upper bodies and related what I was watching to my sister whose back was to them. She said, “He must be leaving for Afghanistan or Iraq.”

I agreed. Then they stood up and I could see the uniform. She was the soldier, not him!

Adichie said she was overwhelmed with shame when she realized that she had forgotten the people she was seeing were not so different from her. They were going to market, telling stories, and going home to spouses and families.

She talks about the Igbo word for ‘love.’ It is ifu n’anya which literally means ‘to see.’ She asks us to see each other as individuals, as people, not just as ‘refugees,’ or ‘immigrants.’

“Making room for people is a moral imperative for our time,” she says.

Peace Corps Beyond

The annual conference of the Peace Corps community will take place in a couple of weeks. Clem and I finally decided today to go!

What made me decide? Marian Beil of Peace Corps Writers sent an email today to invite people who’ve published with the Peace Corps Writers imprint to be on a panel! I did this a year ago in California and would love to do it again, as I told her.

She says, “The authors will be asked to talk about their books and how they went through the process of bringing their stories to print.”

There will also be a table to sell books in the exhibitioni hall.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, is a featured speaker!

Friends of Nigeria will have its own meeting and a dinner of Nigerian food, usually pounded yam and egusi soup, jollof rice, and plantain. Somehow someone finds Star Beer! It’s usually a lot of fun.

On Sunday there is a Walk for Peace. This year it will “begin at University Yard at George Washington University, travel down Pennsylvania Ave. past the White House, and end on Capitol Hill for a speaker series highlighting the impact of Peace Corps.”

In past years we’ve carried our country-of-service flags. It makes an impressive sight. The walk always brings tears to my eyes at some point as I walk.

If you’re nearby, come!

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.

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