Commissioned by the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. Dr. James Bass, artistic director.
My sister was an English teacher at the Minnesota International Middle School in Minneapolis which provides a safe and inclusive environment for East African immigrant students to learn (many of whom are Somali). Most of these students came to the USA to escape the violent civil war that has plagued Somalia since 1991. Seeking a better life for their children, these students’ parents risked their lives to come to the USA – a valiant act of love. I wanted to tell their story through music and so I asked my sister to have her students write poems about their experiences leaving their home and coming to the USA. I received over 100 poems that contain passion, pride, emotion, and vivid stories of the sights and sounds that these young people have experienced. I sifted through these texts and found the powerful words of 14-year-old Warda Mohamed that became the backbone of the composition. Using Warda’s poem and two Somali proverbs, “We Can Mend the Sky” is a musical depiction of one’s journey as an immigrant and an affirmation of hope as we all embrace the diversity around us.