Sensational Sundays: "Swahili on the Prairie: A 1968 Wartime Peace Corps Tale."

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Southcentral
January 26th, 2020

In the midst of the Vietnam War and national political turmoil, 59 young men gathered at Fort Lincoln outside of Bismarck, North Dakota, in July of 1968. Thry were there to learn Swahili and train for Peace Corps service in Kenya. That summer changed our lives. North Dakota itself was a revelation for most of the trainees who came from all over America. For the young women of Bismarck, we and our African language teachers were highly exotic. Part of our training included two weeks of living with Sioux families on the Standing Rock Reservation. All summer the draft loomed as a threat if we were not selected to go. Most of us would serve as Kenya government officers for what was considered to be Peace Corps' most important program in the world. Only four years after independence, we were working to ensure the success of African farmers who had been deeded the land of Kenya's European colonists. Anthropologist and documentary film maker David A. Goldenberg was one of those trainees. He later returned to Kenya to conduct field work for his Ph.D from Brown University. Subsequently, he had a long career in international development, working in 36 countries to support the programs of international NGOs including Plan International, Save the Children, and Care. For the past 20 years he has been making documentary films about a wide range of topics including local community organizations, Israeli theater, and history. In 2017, prior to the 50th anniversary of our departure, he began interviewing members the of 1968 Peace Corps group about their experiences during training and their subsequent service in Kenya. He also interviewed several members of the Bismarck training staff and Cheryl Perman, his Bismarck girlfriend from that summer. This program is part of the State Historical Society of North Dakota's Sensational Sundays series. Sensational Sundays are free cultural programs that include a variety of lectures, concerts, movies and tours.

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