Representatives at BAI always seek to foster and sustain networks with like-minded individuals and organizations that work to preserve the culture and history of a sovereign Bosnia-Herzegovina. One such organizational effort is The BiH Diasporic Conference (BiHDC), which is the first of its kind that works to bring together a young generation of diaspora – a generation who, for the most part, has spent the majority of their lives living in the US and Canada. The conference's objective is to forge strong relationships and facilitate an inclusive environment for discourse.
BiHDC boasts a grand vision of solidarity and education. Through their conferences, they spur conversations among the Diaspora about prejudice, history, societal norms, and many more expanding topics that pertain to Bosnia as a whole. Their hope is to lay a foundation for democratic discourse about Bosnia-Herzegovina (paraphrased from BiHDC’s mission statement).
Each year, the conference is hosted in a different city. Last year's took place here in Seattle. This year, Atlanta, Georgia hosted the fifth annual conference themed around "Bridging the Gap: Changemakers in Action." To upkeep our Bosnian tradition of returning visits to our guests, I kept my promise to those I networked with from Atlanta at last year's conference and attended this year's summit on behalf of BAI.
The conference's momentum centered around a common discussion we have at BAI, which is acknowledging that although we have a lot of educated individuals in the Bosnian diaspora, but also questioning the value of those degrees to our greater community. How do we leverage all of our degrees and all of our intellect to make it actionable for our one common denominator- Bosnia? It's easy to feel detached from our Bosnian heritage in our day to day; most of us work our 8-5 jobs, maybe binge on our Netflix series or drop by our gym, eat, sleep, and repeat. But then what? Involvement in organizations like BAI and BiHDC serve as a forum for meaningful engagement and discussion around the common goals and shortcomings many of us experience as Bosnian-Americans.
The conference was packed with speakers that included Jasminko Halilovič who presented his work with the War Childhood Museum, Srđan Šarenac who presented his documentary "Two Schools" that showcased school segregation in Travnik, Emina Pelja who shared her entrepreneurial journey in building a brand that promotes diversity, Lucas Jensen who presented his documentary "Re:generacija" which follows youth from the three main ethnic groups in Bosnia as they engage with each other, community activists from Kentucky to New York, Maida Salkanovič who shared her research on the hidden consequences of trans-generational trauma, Ivona Boroje who discussed arts and culture in BiH and the diaspora, and closed with Senahid Halilovič who shared his research on linguistics as it pertains to the Bosnian language.
Just as stimulating were the discussions that occurred in the Q&As that followed each speaker. We exchanged ideas and community efforts, and even discussed how to respond to negative feedback such as "ovo što vi radite je bez veze." Hearing about all of these combined efforts reminds us all how immensely powerful it is to have knowledge of one's own heritage and culture. Culture functions ultimately to ensure the preservation and continuity of a people. By engaging in community involvement and organizations, we are preserving our rich culture and sustaining our sense of identity as Bosnian-Americans.
For more info on the BiH Diasporic Conference, visit them at http://bihdiaspora.com