This project will encourage public discussion of how we respond as a community to the current refugee crisis and immigration in general. The recent election has left immigrants feeling uncertain and threatened regarding their place in the U.S. Surveys we’ve done indicate that there is unease between long-time residents and refugees and immigrants who have settled in the area. There are reports of refugee children being bullied in the schools and acts of intolerance and even hate against adults. Libraries stand for the equality of all people and are a safe place for the honest dialog needed to heal communities.
The project has two primary activities:
1) A 4-session Digital Storytelling Workshop will be held at the Whitehall Public Library. Ten participants (5 recent refugees and 5 long-term residents with their own stories of immigration) will each create a brief video to tell their own “story.” Outreach for participants was through libraries, churches, SHIM, JF&CS, BCAP, UAC, etc. All participants live in the South Hills area; and
2) The videos will be shown at two public programs. Trained facilitators will lead discussion about the stories and their implications. Food from other cultures will be shared, and youth will perform dances from their countries. Workshop participants will be empowered by telling their stories. The mix of old and new residents in the workshops will be a microcosm of the interactions we hope to generate in the public programs.
By showing these videos and having immigrants tell their stories, we believe attendees will develop an appreciation of different cultures. When residents reflect on the immigration of previous generations and recall that immigration is not new to our region, a bridge of empathy will be created for recent refugees and immigrants. Over time, our hope is that these stories and public discussions will help to heal the divisions between groups.