With the start of the Finding Voice Project during the 2007-2008 school year, Josh and Julie (project facilitators/educators) asked students what topics they wanted to focus on and explore. War and immigration were among the top choices. This was not surprising, given that these two issues reflect poignant experiences in the past lives of the youth involved in this project, as well as the realities they face as immigrant youth in the U.S. What was surprising, though, were the connections the students made early on between these two topics. They argued that we didn’t have to choose one over the other for our work; they suggested there was great overlap between them. We created detailed brainstorms and intricate Venn diagrams sketching out this overlap, as well as articulating the similarities and differences between refugee immigrants and non-refugee immigrants. Students expressed their strong desire to have a chance to tell their stories of immigration, as well as their experiences with war, poverty, and violence in their home countries.
Thus, after developing and polishing their reading, writing, public speaking, technology, and visual arts skills while working on their “health” projects in the fall 2007 semester [see “Is Anyone Listening?” work posted on this website], the students took on WAR & IMMIGRATION. We started with autobiographical writing about past, present, and future lives to pull out threads of experience related to war and immigration. Students worked in teams to create portraits of each other, portraits they felt would reflect their complex lives, diverse experiences, and their hopes.
The resulting work is powerful and begged to be shared with the larger Tucson community. As students explored the best way to get their voices out there and open dialog about war and immigration which held youth at the center, they came to the conclusion that a public art/literacy exhibition was essential. They wanted a year end forum, as they had created in December of 2007, but they wanted something visible and out there – beyond Catalina. Two students suggested bus stops as a venue we might explore, and it was then that the A NEW COUNTRY, A NEW LIFE poster exhibition was born. Students selected very short lines from their extensive writing and one image from their folder full of portraits taken by their peers. Together these became provocative and insightful posters which will be on display April 28, 2008 to May 4, 2009 in bus stops all around Tucson.
In addition, students are working on individual projects about war and/or immigration to present at the year end forum to be held May 15, 2008 from 6pm-8:30pm at Catalina High School. They will share digital stories, books, slide shows, and essays about topics related to war and immigration. Please join us!