In March 2004, the headmaster of the school where Carol Ramolotsana worked called her into his office and handed the young religion teacher an envelope. It carried the stamp of the Ministry of Education, which could mean only one thing: a transfer. Carol opened the envelope and read the name of her destination: Lentsweletau. “Lion Hill.” She began to cry. 

At home, she looked up Botswana in an atlas, her finger searching the map until it settled on a small point on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. Lion Hill, population 4,000, was home to the Bakwena tribe, who worship crocodiles.

Carol, a sophisticated city girl, had known this day would come. After all, this was Botswana, where teachers, doctors, nurses, administrators and other civil servants are shipped off against their will to remote regions of the country, expected to sacrifice their own freedoms for the collective good. It’s an extreme model of governance. It also works extraordinarily well. 

In the 1960s, as dozens of countries in Africa began to decolonize, their leaders promised prosperity and development. Instead, oftentimes, violence broke out, economies withered and infrastructure crumbled. But one country kept its promise: Botswana. In the three decades after independence in 1966, Botswana had one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It went from having 12 kilometers of paved roads to over 18,000. In 1966, it had 22 college graduates — now, it boasts a highly educated populace, many of whom studied in South Africa, the U.S., Great Britain or Sweden. After a few years, these graduates returned and built ministries and hospitals, universities and airports. They ran power lines and water pipes through the savannah.

Today, education in Botswana is largely free, from kindergarten to university, and Botswans pay nothing for visits to the doctor, and just as little for seeds, fertilizers and harvest workers. According to Transparency International, Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa, and less corrupt than many European countries, too, including Italy, Spain and Malta. 

When Botswana’s colonizers drew its new borders, they tore apart tribes who wanted to be together and locked together others who didn’t. This sort of reckless divvying up had led to chaos in countries like Nigeria, the Congo, Mali and Rwanda. But in Botswana, that didn’t happen. Instead, Botswana’s tribes drew closer as one nation. 

When I traveled through the country in 2018 and spoke to dozens of Botswans about their identity, not a single one mentioned their tribe. They said first and foremost: “I am a Botswanan.” This loss of tribal identity runs counter to what many other societies now recognize as an important element of diversity: namely, people’s right to hang on to who they are, even as they come together as a unified group. 

In this way, Botswanans have made a monumental sacrifice for the tranquility of their nation — they have deprioritized their deeply held tribal identities for the sake of societal stability, and in the process, formed a unified state out of a multiethnic, multilingual, partially hostile tribal society. This sacrifice can’t be discounted, and yet it has worked. Today, thanks to these sacrifices, Botswana is perhaps the most successful example of nation-building in history.

The reason this happened is the same reason that Carol Ramolotsana, a happy 29-year-old who loved going to the movies, grabbing Chinese food with friends and frequenting O’Hagans Pub, found herself, a few days after receiving the notice from the headmaster, watching as her couch, her refrigerator, her bed, her whole life, disappeared in a moving truck that then rumbled off towards the Kalahari.

A few days later, Carol was following the same route in her Honda Civic. Soon, the glittering towers of Gaborone disappeared in the rearview mirror. The road narrowed, the landscape widened. When she arrived in Lentsweletau, the first thing she saw was a crumbling building and a half-finished gas station. No cinema. No pub. No Chinese restaurant. The school consisted of a few dozen shacks scattered across the red earth.

In her small brick house, Carol sat on her bed and cried. It was days before she stepped into her high heels, hung a purse in the crook of her arm and went to class. Her new colleagues laughed at her outfit.

Carol Ramolotsana
Carol Ramolotsana

“The fine lady,” said one.

“You won’t wear the shoes for long,” said another.

Carol spent the lunch breaks alone in her house. At night, she drove to the village bar, ignoring the looks. She ordered beer at the counter and drank it outside, alone in her car. Five, sometimes six cans in the evening. Then she drove home and slept.

When Carol was transferred to Lentsweletau, she was consumed with resentment. Why does the government have to bring teachers from the city to the country? Why can’t everyone work where they come from?

I put these questions to Simon Coles, deputy minister at the Botswana Ministry of Education. He sat behind a wooden desk piled with letters, printed emails and transcripts of phone calls eight inches high. 

“All complaints from dissatisfied teachers,” said Coles, gesturing at the piles. “Most of them are thrown out.”

Botswana’s civil servants — 120,000 people, around ten percent of the working population — often complain about the fact that they could be transferred to another part of the country at any time. If a rural clinic needs a new nurse, if a distant district office requires a driver, if a far-flung town hall needs a secretary, the government ships someone out. Many try to get out of it. Few are successful.

“We owe our national unity to the transfers of officials,” says Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Botswana’s former vice president. He explains that Seretse Khama, the first president of the independent Botswana, observed how tribalism was tearing apart one African society after another. Botswana had tribes too, each with its own territory and chief, and usually represented by an animal. There were the Kalanga in the north, the good-natured elephants. There were the Batswena, the crocodiles, a warrior people. And there was Khama’s own tribe, the Bangwato, the antelopes, which, even then, were seen as the elites.

A statue of Seretse Khama, first president of independent Botswana, stands outside the National Archives of Botswana. Credit: Wikimedia

Khama knew that these tribal identities would have to give way to a national, shared identity — a painful sacrifice to ask one’s people to make, but one that the government felt was the only way to avoid the fates of other African countries that had struggled to unify following independence. At the same time, the government had to ensure that rural people could go to school or see a doctor. So it began shipping out its civil servants, who often belonged to a different tribe than the place they were sent. It quickly became clear that these transfers were having an interesting side effect.

The officials made friends with the people whom they were sent to serve. Some fell in love, got married and had children — children with parents who belonged to different tribes and sometimes even spoke different languages.

All over the country, in thousands of one-to-one contacts, prejudices fell and new bonds were formed. Exposure, says Kedikilwe — that was the key. Every citizen must be exposed to his fellow citizens, regardless of tribe. 

After arriving at Lentsweletau, Carol Ramolotsana only left her home to teach and drink. She resisted exposure. Until one Saturday in the spring, five months after she had arrived.

That morning she had driven an hour southwest of Lentsweletau for a change of scenery. She sat on a plastic chair in front of the “Big 6 Bar” and drank a beer. When it was almost empty, a man got up and got her a new one. He was tall and handsome, with strong shoulders and a broad smile. He was a soldier, he said. His name was Thabo.

“Where are you from?” he asked. Lentsweletau, Carol said. 

“Really?” he replied. “That’s my home village.”

He visited her a week later. Another time, he brought friends and took her to a wedding party. He had bought her three skirts, and she felt like her old self, when she would dress up and hit the town in Gaborone. 

Ponatshego Kedikilwe

Thanks to Thabo, Carol soon felt more at home on Lentsweletau. She attended the festival of the village choir, where goats were slaughtered. She became a juror in the local beauty pageant. She danced at weddings and cried at funerals. “At first I was so angry with my employer that I transferred this anger, this hatred, to everything that was near me, including the village and the people,” she says. “Thabo took my hatred away and suddenly everything appeared in a different light.” 

It takes surprisingly little contact to break down even the most persistent divisions. In one of the last great battles of World War II, the German and American armies battled for a bridgehead. It was defended by the American Company K, among others. Many of Company K’s soldiers had already been killed, and others were injured. If reinforcements didn’t come soon, the Germans would overrun them. 

Then, on the afternoon of March 13, 1945, they heard gunfire from the forest below their position. “The men feared the worst,” writes American author David Colley in his account of the scene. “Then they saw a jagged line of soldiers emerge from the forest. They were relieved to see that the men were wearing olive uniforms and the pot-shaped helmets of the U.S. Army. But as they got closer, the GIs of K Company saw that the faces of these men were brown… Their relief turned into shock. It was Black Americans who came to their aid.”

Like all of American society back then, the army was segregated by race. But in the closing stages of World War II, for the first time since its formation, the U.S. Army broke its doctrine of segregation. One of these Black soldiers, J. Cameron Wade, later said: “We ate together, slept together, fought together. There were no incidents, the army couldn’t believe it.” They held the bank. Then they marched further east, towards victory.

Afterward, to find out how this inadvertent social experiment had affected those involved, the Army sent researchers to question the soldiers. 77 percent of whites who fought with Blacks said they liked and respected Blacks better now. When asked how the Black soldiers fought, 84 percent of the whites questioned answered “very good,” and the remaining 16 percent with “good.” A Nevada company commander said, “You’d think it couldn’t work. But it did.” A sergeant from South Carolina: “When I saw them fighting, I changed my mind.” A platoon leader from Texas: “We all expected difficulties — there weren’t any.”

After the war, Gordon Allport, one of the most brilliant social psychologists of the 20th century, found himself poring over the Army’s research in his office at Harvard University. As it turned out, in the last months of the war, the researchers had questioned not only those soldiers who had fought with Black comrades, but 1,700 U.S. soldiers, asking them all the same question: How would you feel if your unit included Black platoons?

Because the army, with its divisions, regiments, companies and platoons, is so confusing, a somewhat simpler comparison might help: Let us imagine four groups of white soldiers. Group one consists of the men who fought alongside their Black comrades at the front lines. Group two consists of soldiers across the river who watched the fight through binoculars. Group three is made up of soldiers who only heard the battle through their radios. And group four consists of soldiers who weren’t anywhere near the fight — they were back in the U.S. 

Now, imagine that all four of these groups were asked the same question: ” How would you feel about serving in a unit with Black soldiers?”

Of the soldiers in the fourth group, who were back in the U.S. thousands of miles away, 62 percent said they strongly disliked this idea. 

Contact theory posits that contact between enemies reduces prejudices and leads to more peaceful coexistence.

Soldiers who heard the battle through their radios, however, had a different reaction: only 24 percent of them disliked the idea of fighting alongside Black soldiers. 

Of the soldiers in group two, who watched the battle from the other side of the river, only 20 percent disliked the idea. 

And as for group one? The soldiers who had actually been there in the trenches, fighting alongside Black Americans, had almost no problem with it anymore — only seven percent of them didn’t want to serve alongside Black soldiers. 

The more contact, the less prejudice. And then Allport found something even more fascinating: a second row of data in the same document.

The researchers had also asked the soldiers about another group of people: the Germans. Of the American soldiers in group four — the ones who have never been to Germany — 74 percent had a negative view of Germans.

Of the soldiers who were in Germany but had no contact with the civilian population, only 51 percent had a negative view. Of those who had had brief contact with German civilians, only 43 percent felt negatively about them. Among soldiers who had had closer contact, that number fell further, to 24 percent.

In other words, the soldiers who were physically closest to the population of the country they were fighting had the most positive attitude toward that very population. 

Based on this and other research he conducted, Allport formulated the now well-known “contact theory,” which posits that contact between enemies reduces prejudices and leads to more peaceful coexistence. However, warns Allport, there is a type of contact for which this does not reduce prejudices, but actually reinforces them. Namely, when the contact is so superficial that it arouses a prejudice but cannot attack it. 

We can see where a lack of contact can lead. As a reporter, I’ve visited McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania. It has a thousand residents, two traffic lights, 11 churches and a well-frequented gun shop. Eighty-four percent of its residents voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. 

Carol Ramolotsana’s house in Lentsweletau. Photo courtesy Bastian Berbner

The people of McConnellsburg told me about the threats to America as they see them: illegal immigrants, liberal city dwellers, Blacks. Yet 97 percent of McConnellsburg’s population is white. City dwellers rarely go there. And there are hardly any illegal immigrants. The residents are afraid of people they don’t know. They’ve created monsters in their heads.

I’ve also met people in New York who refer to Trump supporters as fascists, racists or Nazis. When I ask how many Trump voters they know personally, many tell me they’ve never met one. 

Carol once saw the people of Lion’s Hill as similarly separate from her. Now, she feels so connected to them that she would like to remain there forever. On the edge of the village is a large field where an old woman grew watermelons. Carol, who loves watermelons, would visit this field so often that the woman began calling her “my daughter,” a title in Setswana, Botswana’s national language. One day the woman asked if Carol liked a piece of the land. Carol said yes, and the woman gave it to her. Carol started building a house on it. It wasn’t even finished when a letter arrived from the Ministry. Carol was to be transferred again. Her next station would be 200 kilometers north. She could move into the house here later, she told the old woman — at the latest, when she retires. As it turned out, Carol had decided she would like to spend her golden years in Lion’s Hill, and be buried there, too.

In his book Sapiens, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari tells the story of a group of Homo Sapiens who journeyed from their African homeland towards the Middle East 100,000 years ago. There, they met another species, the Neanderthals. A battle ensued and the Sapiens were crushed. But 30,000 years later, the Homo Sapiens returned a second time. This time they won, and went on to conquer the rest of the world.

What happened between those first and second encounters? According to Harari’s thesis, during that time, Homo Sapiens acquired a skill that no other species had mastered — namely, the ability to speak about things that could not be seen, touched, or smelled. Many species can express basic thoughts: Be careful! A lion! But Homo Sapiens learned to verbalize concepts like: The lion is the guardian spirit of our tribe.

In other words, they invented fiction, which Harari believes is the most important innovation in the history of our species. Because once the Homo Sapiens began to tell stories, they were able to form societies. Myths and legends were spun. God was created. Suddenly people no longer had to know each other personally to stick together. They felt they belonged to one another because they believed in the same stories. “You cannot convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him that, after he dies, in monkey heaven he will get an infinite number of bananas,” writes Harari. “Fiction has not only enabled us to imagine things. It enabled us to do that together.”

Today, human life is dominated by groups that are held together by fictions. Hundreds of millions of people believe in the story of Jesus — they live on different continents, yet form a community. A piece of paper, printed with the right ink and symbols, becomes a thing of great value — about seven billion people believe this story today. And then there are the stories of nations. What is Germany? What is France? What is the United States? Nations are no different from God, money and the law: they exist only in our collective imagination.

But after World War II, globalization began to shoot people around the globe en masse, physically in planes and high-speed trains, virtually through television and the Internet. Suddenly, millions looked beyond their national stories and began to feel less connected to them.

This has caused something of a crisis. Too many people’s group identities have outgrown the national framework, yet we continue to make politics within it. Some Western societies are starting to resemble African states in the 1960s: warring tribes locked in with one another, confined by borders but not beliefs.

Botswana shows us a way forward. The government formed a nation out of a tribal society by weakening the old group identities through thousands of one-on-one encounters. It built a new, national group identity by telling its citizens a new story — a fiction so convincing that many began to believe it. 

Contact was their most important tool.

A version of story originally appeared in the book “180 Grad: Geschichten gegen den Hass” (180 Degrees: Stories Against Hate) by Bastian Berbner. Berbner is the host of the podcast 180 Grad: Geschichten gegen den Hass. Both feature stories of overcoming hate and division.

Cyprien Mihigo has witnessed firsthand the destructive power of tribalism. Before settling as a refugee in Syracuse, New York, he spent years traversing the Congo, his vast and politically unstable homeland, as an International Red Cross field officer, crossing tribal borders at great personal risk to provide aid to the sick and dying. 

After moving to Syracuse in 2001, he watched the local Congolese refugee community grow from four families to hundreds of people — and saw the old tribal rivalries continue to haunt them. The intergroup strife that had plagued the immigrants back at home had followed them, 7,000 miles to their new country and right into the new neighborhoods in which they lived side by side. 

“This Atlantic Ocean is so huge that you can travel with the hatred, and after 25 or 26 hours in an airplane, bring it back here — and there is nothing to fight for,” says Mihigo. “Carrying the hatred will kill that person.”

For Mihigo, with his background in humanitarian diplomacy and his own inter-tribal marriage — his wife, a Tutsi, was so vulnerable to tribal violence in the Congo that at one point she went into hiding —  the urge to move beyond these conflicts and unite the Congolese community in Syracuse was irresistible. He organized a women’s soccer team. He hosted gatherings with Congolese music, the familiar rhythms transcending tribal boundaries. And then he had an even more ambitious idea: he would put on a play. 

cry for peace
Some in Syracuse’s Congolese community worried that the play would dredge up bad memories “for no reason.” Credit: Jamie Young. Courtesy of Syracuse Stage

“The idea of doing the play was because some tribes would not give other tribes the time to communicate — the opportunity would not happen,” says Mihigo, who projects the energy of a young idealist despite being a father of eight with a sixth grandchild on the way. “But if you have somebody using euphemism, not speaking directly to the person like, let’s talk about this, they can talk about it indirectly while having fun. Instead of talking to that person directly, talk to the audience…  At the end, they come together.”

Having never produced a play before, Mihigo literally started knocking on doors at Syracuse University’s theater-in-residence, Syracuse Stage. One of those doors led to associate artistic director Kyle Bass, who introduced Mihigo to internationally renowned director Ping Chong. Their collaboration, Cry for Peace: Voices from the Congo, premiered in Syracuse in 2012, then played in New York City and Washington, D.C. It remains a powerful model for how theater can heal divisions between fragmented communities. 

Five performers sit in a semicircle, illuminated by spotlights.They are Congolese Syracusans, Cyprien Mihigo among them. Over the course of 80 minutes, they deliver a narrative that weaves together their life stories, each uniquely harrowing and uplifting, along with a brief history of the Congo and acapella interludes of traditional songs. Though the performers do not move from their seats, the show is mesmerizing, a whirlwind of information and emotion. 

It is a formula that Ping Chong has been perfecting for decades. Chong, 73, co-created Cry for Peace under the banner of his Undesirable Elements series, using performers who are, as Chong describes it, “outsiders within their mainstream community” to explore issues of culture and identity. The original 1992 production featured seven bilingual New Yorkers from different countries of origin. As the series grew in popularity, Chong expanded the scope beyond multiculturalism, creating Undesirable Elements productions around people with disabilities, child soldiers and sex abuse survivors. It didn’t take long for Chong to realize that the productions, intended to build connections between people from different cultures, also worked as a kind of therapy for the participants.

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    “I realized it was about creating a space for people to address things that they often weren’t able to speak about in the societies that they were in, and then people would just sort of pour their stuff out — stuff they haven’t had an opportunity to vent,” Chong says. “I was quite naive and willing to go places [during the writing process] that were tricky because I didn’t know any better.”

    More than 200 ethnic groups co-exist in the Congo, and decades of violence, civil war, Western exploitation and political corruption have turned tribe against tribe, resulting in massive death and human rights violations, and compelling millions of Congolese to seek international asylum. When refugees arrive in Syracuse, says Mihigo, they often carry the conviction that “living in a kind of division or segregation was their right, was normal, and was a way of defending themselves.” 

    Credit: Adam Nadel. Courtesy Ping Chong + Company

    Mihigo has seen changes in Syracuse’s Congolese community. “People are not afraid of each other anymore.”

    When Bass shared Mihigo’s idea for a play about these refugees, Chong was immediately on board. He knew Cry for Peace would be different from any other play he’d created — for the first time, he would be casting performers from ethnic groups that were in direct conflict. 

    Chong came to Syracuse, where, along with Bass and his associate director Sara Zatz, they would cast the play, write the script based on the performers’ stories and direct the show for Syracuse Stage. Mihigo was assigned the role of dramaturg and “cultural consultant.” No one was quite sure what to expect.

    On the day of his first meeting to gather information, Chong brought five pies for refreshments. The production team had invited Syracuse’s Congolese residents to show up and share their stories. They expected a small handful of participants. Instead, says Bass, “50 people in their absolute finest clothes showed up at Syracuse Stage. It was actually quite beautiful.” 

    As per the Undesirable Elements format, only five performers were selected for the final cast. Mihigo was among them. “I had to be in it, according to Ping Chong and Kyle Bass, and I had to force myself to be part of it,” says Mihigo, who had hoped to remain behind the scenes. Each member of the cast hailed from a different tribe and had a story they were burning to tell.  

    cry for peace
    Ping Chong, director and co-writer of “Cry for Peace” (right), with associate director and co-writer Kyle Bass. Credit: Jamie Young. Courtesy of Syracuse Stage

    Emmanuel Ndeze, 39, fled his village as a young man, relying on strangers for food and shelter. Mona de Vestel, 46, the daughter of a black African mother and a white Belgian father, was born into a family divided by Colonial history, violence and bigotry. Kambala Syaghuswa, 30, was a former child soldier who watched other boys in the Congo “kill each other over an avocado, when there are millions of avocados.” Beatrice Neema shared the nightmarish story of a woman who endured sex slavery and witnessed her family’s murder — she introduced herself by saying, “I am telling this story for someone else because her voice has been silenced by shame.” And finally, there was Mihigo, 48, who had to remove bodies from rivers and negotiate with a gun in his mouth during his time with the Red Cross. His story — of intertribal marriage, of atrocities witnessed, of efforts to create a united Congolese community in the United States — tied the others together. 

    At their first rehearsal, the cast read the play that Bass, Chong and Zatz adapted from their stories. Bass was struck by the cast’s deep nostalgia and love for the Congo, even as they shared their war stories. The first time they practiced with a projection screen, they were so excited to see a slide of the Congo that many of them pulled out their phones and took pictures of the giant map. “It was one of the most stunning things I’ve ever seen,” said Bass. 

    Within Syracuse’s Congolese community, however, some were skeptical. They told Mihigo that the cast’s life stories would be exploited, or that the play would dredge up bad memories “for no reason.” But Mihigo believed in the play, and its capacity to ease “the little hatreds on the heart,” as Mihigo said to Bass in his pitch, that tribal conflict had planted. 

    “The tribal element is very real,” says de Vestel, who was volunteering as a translator for Congolese refugees when she joined the cast. The Belgian-born daughter of a white father and a black African mother, de Vestel lived in the Congo before moving to the United States in 1979 with her mother and stepfather at the age of 13. Tribal violence had touched her extended African family, but Cry for Peace was the first time she had seen different tribes grappling with each other’s experiences together. “I was the only one that was biracial, but the others were from different ethnic groups and it was really super intense for me to even witness that,” she recalls. 

    Once performances began, the power of Cry for Peace was immediately apparent.

    “We got amazing responses from the audience,” says de Vestel. “I think it really resonated for people to see such a seemingly different group of people — people that should not like each other, with a complicated history  — tell the story and connect on a human level.”

    In the Undesirable Elements anthology published in 2012 for the 20-year anniversary of the project, Zatz writes that the plays are intended to have “three levels of impact.” First, they create community between people who might not otherwise know or speak to each other. Second, the performers open up to the audience during the performance, creating a kind of community within the theater. Third, everyone — participants and audience alike — returns home, where they can use that experience to impact their own communities. During the Cry for Peace production, de Vestel watched this process unfold. 

    “I know that [Cry for Peace] brought people together because I witnessed it,” she says. “We were very connected, at a very deep level… When your perspective shifts, I think that’s a wealth that you bring back to your community, to your life. And I like to believe that it trickles to other people, too.”

    “Did it revolutionize the community? I don’t know,” she adds. “But I think it was a revolution for us.”

    That was certainly true for one cast member. Beatrice Neema had recently moved from a refugee camp and spoke almost no English when she joined the cast. Nevertheless, she delivered the most devastating story in the production, of a woman raped into unconsciousness by soldiers while listening to her husband and child being killed in the next room. She said it wasn’t her own story, but rather the story of a woman she knew. “I have told this story for someone else,” Neema reminded the audience. “Syracuse, New York is now her home. Perhaps someday she will be able to tell her own story.” 

    “Did it revolutionize the community? I don’t know. But I think it was a revolution for us.”

    What the audience didn’t know is that the woman “silenced by shame” was actually Neema herself — afraid of being shunned by her new community, and embarrassed by her broken English. But over the course of productions in New York and Washington, D.C., something shifted. 

    “When we first did the show, Beatrice said, I want to say it’s somebody else’s story that I’m telling, and I want to speak French,” recalls Chong. “And I said, fine. We had a translator on stage and she told her story. And then we did the show again and she said, I want to tell the story in English, but still say it’s somebody else’s story.  By the time we had done the show a couple more times, she wanted to say it was her story. “

    For Bass, seeing Neema’s story change from the third person to the first person represented the ultimate reconciliation, “her own interior reconciliation with herself and her own story.” To some extent, he says, he watched all of the cast members have that same experience. Mihigo has seen similar changes throughout Syracuse’s Congolese community. “People are not afraid of each other anymore,” he says, though some longstanding cultural and language rifts remain. 

    Regretfully, due to an administrative change at Syracuse University, Ping Chong and Company lost their funding before Cry for Peace could be performed in additional cities. Still, almost a decade after he first pitched his idea, Mihigo has hopes of producing a new play for a cast of Congolese refugees. He sees the divisions in his adopted nation, the heated political debates over racism and immigration, as an opportunity for his community to speak a truth that the rest of the country needs to hear. 

    “I’m a very small person. Nobody knows me much, but the only way I can try to get the attention of people is by being in a play and to pass not only my message, but the message of the community, the message of people of color, the message of immigrants and refugees,” says Mihigo. “Our point of view is important. Our word is important.”

    After working with Ping Chong and Company on Cry for Peace, Mihigo knows that through theater, even the most divided people can learn to listen to one another. “We could make a play that would play in any country, and people would applaud it,” he says.