This Is Where: 'All Arms Are Open'

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A view of Dodge Park in Worcester, MA, from Randolph St. (Wikimedia Commons)

It's National Poetry month and our friends at public radio WLRN in Miami, in conjunction with O, Miami poetry festival have launched a poetry project they're calling "This Is Where."

We've asked you to submit your own poems about places that have had meaning. Every Wednesday this month we'll be featuring one of your poems. To participate, write a short poem describing a place that is important to you and submit it either here at TheTakeaway.org or on Twitter.

If you're submitting on Twitter, include the hashtag #ThisIsWhere. If you're in South Florida be sure to tweet it to @WLRN, and if you live anywhere else tweet it to us @TheTakeaway, or give us a call at 1-877-869-8253.

The poem below from Augustine Kanjia, a Takeaway listener in Worcester, Massachusetts, simply blew us away. Today Kanjia gives us the story behind his poem.

Kinja says he didn't always reside in New England—he fled Sierra Leone for Gambia, and eventually wound up in Worcester, a place that he says has embraced him and his family, and became his home.

"When I came to Worcester, I came with nothing and where I was introduced everybody came with a helping hand," says Kanjia. "As a refugee, I was really a needy person with my family. In fact, my first car was bought by one of the citizens of Worcester, Mr. Burke. He just got me a car—I never imagined that it could happen. That gave me eyes to really see into Worcester."

While friends have asked Kinja to move to places like Minnesota, he says he will not leave because Worcester is now his home. Though the New England climate can be a bit chillier than Sierra Leone, Kinja says he even loves the weather of Worcester.

"I love to see snow," he says. "I tell my family that I really love the snow, and they may frown, but they know I'm saying the truth. I go out with my kids sometimes to help them play in the snow. Because of the help in Worcester, winter is not a big deal. We all bear it."

While the simple pleasures of a snowy day can be enjoyed in a place like Worcester, the community also offers Kinja something Sierra Leone couldn't: Safety.

"There was violence in Sierra Leone starting in 1991, then they took over my area—my grandmother's home where we lived," he says. "Unfortunately nobody could go then, and then one day the government announced that people were free to go and they had repeled the rebels. I boarded a bus one evening, unfortunately we had a massive attack on the road."

Kinja says that the road he was traveling on was quite and solemn. But as the bus started to go down a hill, things changed.

"There was a bullet that came from nowhere, and it was targeted at the driver and he died," he says. "The bus was going left to right on the road. It swayed and then we stopped somewhere down the hill. People started jumping—there were rebels there, and anybody who jumped was killed, was shot at. I was in that bus. I laid flat on the floor and held onto somebody who was ahead of me. He was trying to force his way out. He pushed himself out through the door and I still held on him tight. Then he was shot. He fell. I still held onto him and because of his weight he pulled me out of the bus."

Kinja says the rebels may have thought he was dead too when he fell with the man. He laid on top of the dead bodies and then eventually rolled underneath the bus. The rebels robbed him, but he was able to escape with his life.

"They heard another sound of a vehicle—there were about three of them and they ran towards where we came from," he says. "They set fire to the bus, and the fire was ravaging. People's heads were popping out—you'd hear 'Pop! Pop!' Eventually, I withdrew from under the bus and nobody was there then. As I was moving, I saw a lady moving too. She was asking if we were dead."

Kinja says that he and the woman he met walked alone in the dark through the bush. Eventually they made it on foot to a village and were able to seek safety. After the ordeal, Kinja was able to obtain asylum and come to the United States.

"I came into New York, then Boston, and then somebody picked us up from Boston and gave us a ride to Worcester, where I have made my home today," he says. 

 

"Worcester my home town

Love, peace, shared daily

Ran from Africa looking for peace and love

Only found it in Worcester in the heart of Massachusetts

Yes Worcester, this is where I belong


Left where I swallowed the dust due to war

Escaped in a hail of bullets

The suffering to safety was not small

Never knew there was a place better than Sierra Leone

Yes Worcester here we are, this is where I belong


Left Africa due to war

Never knew where God had destined me to;

but to where I belong, my home

Love, peace and sharing abound in my home town

No one falls in my home town; all arms are open to help

Yes Worcester my heart, this is where I belong


Take away my cap and leave my Worcester

My home a melting pot

Diversity makes us one all striving in one spirit

The spirit of America!

To maintain peace, love and unity

Where else can you find caring people using their heads hearts?

Worcester sweet home, this is where I belong."

Guests:

Augustine Kanjia

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja and Mythili Rao

Editors:

T.J. Raphael

Comments [5]

beatrice nakudana from worcester MA

Dear Augustine,
I listened to your poem and you speaking of what you have been through and it touched me....you are a kind person and am happy to call you my friend..God had a pourpose in your life n you shall be a great man....you now have peace together with your family...thanks for sharing God bless.

Your friend
Nakudana..

May. 06 2014 04:21 PM
Daniel Zellman from East Lansing

No, science can't prove that god doesn't exist ... anymore than it can prove Santa Clause doesn't exist.

I guess my issue isn't with the existence (or lack of existence) of an intentional god, it is, a la Dawkins and Harris et al, with the requirement that one have faith, with the need for belief in the absence of evidence.

I suppose my take is that if doubt and skepticism are (among) the essential aspects of a truly scientific outlook -- which they surely are -- then we must remain open to the possibility of the existence of an intentional god until it is proven that one does not exist. I, however, am still waiting for proof that one DOES exist, and so far all of the evidence suggests pretty conclusively that one does not. But I hesitate to assert absolute certainty: if someone were to adduce sufficiently persuasive evidence of such an entity's existence, it seems to me we would be obligated to entertain that theory until a new, better one were to come along.

Such an extraordinary claim would of course require some pretty extraordinary evidence, but develop a testable, falsifiable theory, design and conduct (and repeat) a valid experiment, etc. , etc., etc.... In short, show me the money.

Apr. 21 2014 09:26 AM
TJ Noto from Los Gatos, CA

Thank you for your loving and heartfelt words. They reinforce the idea that Americans are not born, they're made. Your story is an amazing one and nearly brought me to tears.You may have been born in Sierra Leone Mr. Kanjia, but you are an American, and our country is better for having you in it.

Sincerely,
TJ

Apr. 16 2014 05:56 PM
Maura Byrnes from Suffern, NY

Oh Mr. Kanjia, thank you for writing and sharing your heart with all of us. Two of my precious daughters came from Africa with nothing but memories, too. My prayer is that they will grow up to be like you--thankful for our hometown, a sacred place where love, peace and sharing abound.

Many blessings to you, your family and the kind people of Worcester.

Peace,
Maura Byrnes

Apr. 16 2014 04:04 PM
Carlton from Winter Park , FL

Dear Augustine Kanjia,

Very nice piece - you show your gratitude for your new home in your eloquent words - like "Left where I swallowed the dust due to war" -- Best wishes on your new home in Worcester -

Sincerely,
Carlton Johnson
Fellow Poet

'trudging along the road to happy destiny'

Apr. 16 2014 12:46 PM

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