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Women’s History Month Profile: Liz Rog

“I feel so lucky that I’m known in this community as a song leader and that this community values the power of song.” - Liz Rog

Liz Rog leading community singing at the 2018 Decorah Women’s March.

Liz Rog leading community singing at the 2018 Decorah Women’s March.

Photo courtesy of Liz Rog

Photo courtesy of Liz Rog

Liz Rog leading community singing at the 2018 Decorah Women’s March.

Emma Busch, Staff Writer

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Liz Rog has spent the past 38 years of her life in Decorah doing what she loves most; building community through song.

A native of Roseville, Minnesota, Rog spent much of her early childhood singing with her family. Music was a defining aspect of her worldview.

“I grew up singing all the time and expecting that when I got out into the real world I would find that everything was like the musicals that I watched as a child where people just burst out into song and they all knew the same [words] because they all lived together,” Rog said.

Rog initially came to Decorah in 1980. Since then, she has come to define herself as a cultural activist in the Decorah community. Rog says she gets involved in a number of issues, including but not limited to advocating for Decorah Power, immigrant rights, and environmental concerns. She also participated in the Decorah Women’s Marches, where she combined her commitment to song and activism.

“I feel so lucky that I’m known in this community as a song leader and that this community values the power of song,” Rog said. “People that have come to our marches and rallies here and have been to others [know] that once you’ve had song at one of those, the song is everyone’s place in the gathering.”

After years of attempting to define what singing meant to her, Rog says she came to acknowledge that she possessed an “ancestral memory” of how important singing was to her ancestors’ lives, as well as the ancestors of others around the world. 

“I finally realized that my longing for that kind of world was really because I am one of the many people who was born with the seed of a memory that says, ‘This is the way that we are meant to be,’” Rog said. “And [this mindset is] really necessary in these times when so many people are shut down and so many people feel that they’re not enough. I think we can use song as a way to practice unraveling that false story.”

Rog has lead groups like the Open Hub Singing Club and Community Sings at Luther and has put on gatherings that encourage people of all generations to dance and sing. She is well-regarded by many in the community for her kind and giving nature.

Photo courtesy of Liz Rog
Katy Roets (‘18) and Liz Rog walking at the 2017 Decorah Women’s March.

“Liz is among the most compassionate and well-grounded individuals I have ever met,” Katy Roets (‘18) said. “She has the uncanny ability to include any and everyone in song, even when they’re visibly uncertain; the loving energy she exudes encompasses everyone she meets. Liz is truly a Decorah legend, and I would argue in many ways not unlike the late Weston Noble.”

Local author and friend Tabita Green says that Rog’s kindness was what made her stand out when they first met.

“One of my earliest memories of Liz is when I reached out to her about being part of the first community singing group in Decorah,” Green said. “There was a suggested donation and I wasn’t working at the time, so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to participate. Rather than waiving the fee for me, she invited me to help out in different ways so I could attend the group for an in-kind donation of sorts. It was such a small thing, but a different way of engaging another person that was refreshing to me.”

Rog lives in Decorah with Daniel her husband of 30 years and their 19-year-old cat. She managed the Oneota Co-op for 25 years but now makes her living by renting out Fern Hollow Cabin, a house that her great-great-great-grandparents first built when they came to Decorah from Norway in 1853. Currently, he spends most of her time as a freelance community organizer in order to stay connected with the Decorah community and encouraging others to do what she feels humans do best; make beautiful things.

“The best thing that we humans have as a way to give honor back to the Earth is through using that which is uniquely human to us; our voices, our bodies, our ability to make poetry, [our ability] to make that uniquely human beauty,” Rog said. “I believe that’s what humans were put here for, to crank that out. If we stop cranking it out, then we stop remembering or feeling the joy of being alive that is our birthright.”

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