After the first season of the History in a Bag Lunchtime Talk Series garnered modest attendance, Peggy Derrick decided to shake things up in 2016, swapping discussions on architecture and landmarks for passionate speakers with diverse experiences and histories.
Met with overwhelming interest, “Many Peoples, One Place: La Crosse’s Multi-Ethnic Heritage” will return Tuesday for a second summer of lunch hour learning and conversation.
“We discovered a subject a lot of people found interesting,” said Derrick, executive director of the La Crosse County Historical Society. “We had five times as many people last year. It was standing room only.”
The 2017 series, free and open to all ages, will feature five rotating speakers from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays through July 18, sharing personal and historical anecdotes of their culture and challenges and stereotypes they have faced. Questions and discussion will follow.
“It seems like this becomes a safe place where audience members feel comfortable asking questions about ethnic groups not their own,” Derrick said. “I think that means people are making real connections.
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Cecil Adams, co-founder and executive director of the African American Mutual Assistance Network (AAMAN), will be the first presenter of the season, with “African Americans in the La Crosse Area – The Process.” In addition to speaking on African American heritage and cultural challenges of past and present, Adams will explain the significance of La Crosse’s annual Juneteenth Celebration, known as the nation’s second independence day.
The next week will feature Donna Finn, secretary of La Crosse County Historical Society, on her Irish/American heritage, and Maysee Yang Herr, associate professor of Education at UW-Stevens Point and speaker for the Wisconsin Humanities Council, will present “Being a Female Hmong Professional” the last week in June, sharing how she challenged societal and cultural expectations.
“I’m very interested to hear from Maysee,” Derrick said. “I think a lot of female professionals might find things that relate to them, and being Hmong adds another layer to it.”
Daniel Green, a lecturer at UW-La Crosse of Ho-Chunk heritage, will present “The Over-Consumption of Native American Imagery and the Ongoing Results,” with a look at the portrayal of Native Americans in the media, and season will close out with Historical Society volunteer Carol Mullen on “Beyond Beer and Lederhosen: The Germans in the La Crosse area.”
“I’m very grateful people from all different cultures and places in town want to do this,” Derrick said. “I’m very gratified by the interest of people who come and recognize everyone’s contribution to this place.”