Lecture series presents regional cultures through personal stories

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published January 11, 2012


Their stories will be very different, but at the same time, the same.

“We all have so much in common,” Loraine Campbell, manager of the Troy Historic Village, said.

During an upcoming Troy Historic Village lecture series, Janice Freij, curator of education at the Arab American National Museum, will share her family’s story of emigrating from Lebanon. Anthropologist and historian Willie McKether will share oral histories he’s gleaned from African Americans who migrated to Michigan from the South to find jobs. Mary Kamidoi, an officer in the Japanese American Citizens League of Michigan, will talk about life in a Japanese Internment Camp, where she stayed when she was 11 years old. Marius Sidau, a cultural anthropologist, will talk about village life and old traditions in his native Romania. He arrived in this country six years ago.

Troy resident Padma Kuppa, outreach chair of the Bharatiya Temple who serves on the executive council of the Hindu American Foundation, will talk about learning to balance identities as an Indo-Hindu-American.

Kuppa was born in India. She came to New York when she was 4 years old with her parents, who attended graduate school in the late ‘60s. She later moved back to India with her parents.

“In 1965, the immigration laws changed,” she explained. “There was a huge influx of immigrants of different faiths and ethnic communities with higher education to this country.”

Many came to the Detroit area because there was a need in the auto industry for scientists and engineers, Kuppa said.

She returned to the U.S. on her own in 1988.

“I (also) came back as an immigrant,” she said. She noted she has a unique perspective having experienced coming to this country twice.

“When you are 4 years old, you don’t think of yourself as an immigrant,” she said. “When you are 22, you know you are an immigrant.”

In order to become a U.S. citizen, Kuppa had to swear to lay down her life for her country.

“If you are born here, you don’t have to do that,” she said.

She aims to build compassion and understanding in the community by sharing her story.

Campbell said the lecture series is designed to really look at diversity.

“We’re doing it in a way that’s not traditional history,” she said. “We’re looking at history from the first-person and the issues each person dealt with. These are designed to be personal conversations.”

Campbell said that those who attend will likely come away with the feeling that, “I am so much more like him or her than I realized. … Our parents are the same.”

The Troy Historical Society sponsors the lecture series, which is funded by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council.

The five-lecture series will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday evenings at the Troy Historic Village, 60 W. Wattles, just west of Livernois. Freij will speak Jan. 18; McKether, Feb. 15; Kuppa, March 21; Kamidoi, April 18; and Sidau, May 16. The cost is $5 at the door for nonmembers and free for members of the Troy Historical Society. No registration is required. For information, visit www.troyhistoricvillage.org or call (248) 524-3570.