Immigration Journeys: Old and New
Stories bind us by creating a personal lens that helps us understand the “other,” creating empathy as we look at the individual experience rather than the labeling of the “group,” which can create misunderstanding and a lack of acceptance. The Allegheny County Library Association’s Immigration Journeys - Old and New: A Digital Storytelling Project builds on Pittsburgh’s history of immigration, linking the region’s history to the current immigrant and refugee populations moving to Allegheny County. This project has been built on stories, intrinsic to libraries.
The Digital Storytelling Project addresses the social integration of newcomers at the personal and community level, empowering participants and creating opportunities for meaningful dialogue.
Sally Rafson and Kara Sambrick led a series of four workshops where participants created short digital stories (videos) retelling either their immigration experience or that of a relative. The workshops helped to promote understanding among the diverse participants. Long-term residents of Pittsburgh were focused on the telling and preservation of history and their accounts of their relatives’ hardships and road to success. The newly arrived refugees and immigrants chose to participate in order to tell their stories to the wider community.
The project included public discussions following the workshops at two libraries and two universities, with a panel of refugees and long-term residents responding to audience questions. These events drew very diverse audiences, culturally, racially, and generationally.
Surveys showed that viewing the videos and participating in the discussions increased knowledge and support for the resettlement of refugees into Allegheny County. This positive change in attitude leads to greater understanding of the refugee and immigrant experience, and creates a more welcoming atmosphere in Pittsburgh.
Sally Rafson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.