Thursday, March 19, 2015

Troubles Over Loud Music in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota

For quite a while, the City of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, has been in the news over loud music in its parks. The Brooklyn Park City Council banned loud music from all but one park, following complaints by residents living near those parks. The Minneapolis Star Tribune, for example, published this report about the issue.

The ban has prompted much opposition from those who feel victimized by it. African residents of Brooklyn Park have been quite vocal in this regard, as reported here.

I have been following the issue on Facebook as well, where the Africans have been voicing their views and sentiments, generally opposing the ban, describing it as unilateral, discriminatory, and insensitive to the cultural values of the immigrants. The photo above, from Abdullah Kiatamba's Facebook page, shows a meeting between City authorities and residents.

I am a cultural consultant, specializing in the cultural issues Africans and Americans face when they interact. Several years ago, I was invited to Faribault, another Minnesota city, to participate in a dialogue about problems that were brewing between long time business owners and Somali immigrants. The core issue was the habit of Somali men congregating in the downtown area, blocking sidewalks and, according to the business owners, scaring away customers. I discussed the issue as stemming from cultural differences, to the satisfaction of all.

Reading about what is happening in Brooklyn Park, I keep thinking about what I wrote in my book Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences whose opening paragraph mentions loud music:

This booklet deals with differences between African and American culture. I noted these differences during my graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1980-86. I used to spend much time with fellow African students joking about American ways. We wondered why, for example, the police often arrived at parties, to report complaints by neighbours that the music was too loud. What was the purpose of a party, we wondered, if not to have a good time, and how could anyone have a good time if the music was not loud? Compared to African parties, American parties seemed like funerals. (p. 1)

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, with people moving and settling everywhere, every community must find ways to deal with changing realities, including cultural differences. Loud music is only one issue, but there are many others, such as food, dress, religion, modes of communication and behavior.

There is no escape from these realities. All we can do is educate ourselves, learning from and about one another, understanding our differences and learning to accommodate them in our lives, so that we can live and work together in harmony.

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