Down the Mississippi: The Somali-American JourneyVideo accompaniment for Down the Mississippi: A Modern-day Huck on America's River Road, Chapter Five (Mark Twain Museum Press)By: WYNETTE JAMESONThis chapter of Neal's book is about a journey: a journey unfinished. Whether it is the story of Somali children hoping for a bright future, Neal journeying down the river or photojournalist Dan Eldon's meteoric life tragically being cut short, all remain incomplete. As a beginning, it is similar to the relationship that this journalism teacher has with Neal. Out of the blue, we met through a Facebook post Neal made about Dan Eldon. Dan continues to bring so many creative activists together through various means that can only be described as captivating. Both Dan and Neal may be defined as exceptional tellers of tales. Neal is now like my long lost, well-travelled extremely talented son. When I heard of his intention to write this book, I was thrilled. Now the rest of the world could enjoy Neal and his tales of diverse river inhabitants. Neal takes each person at face value and enjoys opening them up like an oyster. His great talent makes each of them a pearl in his story. Quite a gift it is. To the world, we are all Neal's pearls.One such pearl was the Somalis that Neal met in Minneapolis. These people had such hope that bubbled over when they spoke with Neal. Through Neal's account, the reader is able to hear that hope in their voices and see it on their faces. They were excited to be included on this journey of his. Whether it is the teenaged Somali girls merrily taking him to visit the mural that they are working on as a part of the Articulture project, or the director of the project itself, the reader feels as though each of their individual investment in the venture is just as important to all involved. It meets the very definition given, "Articulture: to engage teens to (create)...social change through the arts in a public forum." The Somali community came together with others to create a mural that can be seen by all as a positive force in the entire community: a unifying piece to join them together permanently.Neal also introduces us to journalists from the past, present and future. Two young girls, Ruqiya and Muhuba, are two journalists from the future. Both girls are 13 years old. Through Neal, the girls proudly show the reader their magazine, International Times, which they worked very diligently on to produce. These girls are sending a message to other journalists: stop focusing on the negative. International Times focuses on positive things, with the mandate that it hurts humanity to read negative things. These girls believe that an entire community should not be torn apart when one person does something wrong. They are proving through their actions that there are always positive things to write about. We hear from teachers about the hope seen in their students and their futures. We listen to Dan Eldon's mother, Kathy Eldon, who tells us that she was a journalist for The Nation in Kenya with her 'tagalong boy.' Kathy continues to tell us about how, over the years, Dan became fascinated with the power of photography and words to tell stories that are important. Dan also felt it was important to bring other people on board to make positive change. He and three other photographers were killed in Somalia in 1993 while trying to effect change in that war-torn country. One aspiring journalism student, Muheba, explains, "It's imperative for me to go back there to help. That man (Dan Eldon) got killed for no reason-he was only trying to help. He got killed. He did not deserve that. That's what I want to change when I go back. I want to aid people."It seems as though Neal, through Dan Eldon and others, has the reader 'tagalong' as part of his team, making the reader truly want to dip an oar in the river of life, wanting to move further down to meet the next person who can be reached by the teller of tales. All this in the name of making a positive change in the world.------------------For more info please visit http://moderndayhuck.com -- a place to sample, share, and purchase the book featured in this video by the Mark Twain Museum Press.