Event to showcase local immigrant voices | PostIndependent.com

Event to showcase local immigrant voices

Carla Jean Whitley
Illene Pevec shares a story at Justice Snow's for Writ Large, a live storytelling series.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |


Immigrant Voices

Tonight, 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for refreshments. The speakers are: Bernardina Bañuelos, Samuel Bernal and Estela Garcia, all from Mexico; Miguel Carballo from El Salvador; Nicholas Vesey from the United Kingdom; Shinta Damayanti from Indonesia; and Kristina Mace from Hungary.

The Temporary, The Arts Campus at Willits, 360 Market St., Basalt

$10 at the door or at englishinaction.org

Shinta Damayanti left Indonesia for her husband’s job. When the family moved to the Roaring Fork Valley, she barely spoke English. She found a community that supported her family, which includes her 13-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son.

Eleven years later, Damayanti will recount her experience before an audience at Willits in Basalt. She’s one of seven speakers who will share their immigration stories during an English In Action event tonight.

“It’s good for us to learn about somebody else’s life,” she said, noting that we can learn from each other’s approach to problems. “We struggle with something, and the way they solve the problem is really amazing.”

The event, Immigrant Voices, is curated by Alya Howe of the storytelling series Writ Large. English In Action board co-chair Lynn Nichols is also a tutor for the organization, which uses language skills as a way to build community. After attending two Writ Large events, she saw possibility for the organization.

“I hope the audience realizes that everyone has an incredible story to tell. If we can listen and be curious, I think we as a community will be so enriched by those stories,” Nichols said.

The event will feature seven immigrant speakers, four of them students of English In Action.

“It takes courage to speak in public,” Howe said in a press release. Her artistic series’ all aim to showcase local people’s voices. “Imagine how much courage it takes to stand up and speak in your non-native tongue.”

Immigrants are often thought of as being from Latin America, particularly locally, where they make up a sizable percentage of the immigrant population. But people come to the United States from all over the world, and the slate of speakers represents that diversity, said English In Action Executive Director Lara Beaulieu.

Many of the stories describe the speaker’s experience leaving his or her home country, or the differences between that country and the United States.

A number of the participants were professionals in their home countries but haven’t been able to work in their fields after immigrating.

“Their specific challenges are different from mine, but I certainly experienced that in transitions in my life,” she said. “How do I figure out who I am now, in these new circumstances?”

Nichols attended a rehearsal in the days prior to the event and said it left her wanting to hear many more such stories.

“My world got a lot more interesting and a lot bigger,” she said. “I’m not just hearing the news about El Salvador or hearing about a historical event in Hungary. I’m hearing these personal stories and hearing how these people experienced it, and hearing how that influences living in the United States.”

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