Immigrant. Does the word define a man, woman, or child? Or does the word keep us from finding common ground because we’re uncertain if their lives are like ours?
I never truly understood the uniqueness of the U.S. until I was in Japan and I was asked what I was. “What Am I?” I hadn’t been asked that before.
My host brother stared at me blankly and said, “You know, German, English, maybe part Italian.”
“Oh,” I thought, “My ancestry. My mixed ancestry.”
Mixed ancestry: Fairly common in the U.S.; not so much anywhere else in the world, especially East Asia.
I often ask myself what life is like for current immigrants to this country. Was their journey easier than my family’s journey? Was it harder? What about those who are yet legal citizens? What is their story?
When Kelsey and I founded The Facing Project we did so under the principle that stories connect people, and through a forced empathy of the reader (and writer) we begin to better understand the lives of others. We are currently working with cities from Atlanta to South Bend helping them tell stories of their citizens from sex trafficking to homelessness; pairing writer and storyteller together to share experiences of triumph and tragedy with the broader community.
While we are working with Facing communities, we have taken on the first national Facing Project which falls under a similar spirit; but instead of writer and storyteller, we’re asking the storyteller to send their stories directly to us. To get at my question about what life is like for immigrants, the first project will share their stories through Facing Immigration.
Some of the stories will be compiled into a free e-book titled Facing Stories of Immigration in the U.S. that will bring to life the stories of those who face immigration each day. The book will be available in September on the Facing Immigration site for distribution to begin individual community dialogues. Stories that do not become part of the book will be shared on the site as individual blog posts.
If you have an immigration story to share or you work with immigrants, we’d love for you to become a part of the project. We will keep your identity protected while keeping the authenticity of your story. We are available, too, for any questions you may have about the project. We want to help you tell your story. In the meantime, check out some of the stories we’ve already posted.
What we find beautiful about the U.S. is that we each have come to the country as immigrants; whether that was individually in the last few years or through the paths of our fathers and mothers many moons ago. But the one thing we all have in common is the search for the opportunity that America offers.
Through these stories of immigration, we may realize how similar our lives are.