Immigration Journeys: Old and New

The Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA) hosted two public events in April entitled “Immigration Journeys: Old and New,” which showcased the immigration stories of five Pittsburgh-based refugees and five long-time residents. The program was geared towards promoting a greater understanding and acceptance for refugees and immigrants and a celebration of diverse cultures.

The Digital Storytelling Project is relevant to public discussion of how the United States – and more importantly the local Pittsburgh region — responds to the current refugee crisis and immigration in general.  Recent refugees and long-time residents, who have a family history of immigration that they can document, created “digital stories,” during a series of four day-long workshops. Participants each wrote and recorded a personal story and then used family photos and other personal items or copyright-free images from the web to illustrate their stories in a video format.

The first program was held at the Whitehall Public Library on Saturday, April 1 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. More than 200 attended, including a large contingent of Bhutanese refugees. The videos were also shown at a second program at the South Park Township Library on Tuesday, April 18th at 6:30 p.m.

The events were free to the public and allowed participants to enjoy food from different cultures, music and dance, and learn more about the cultural mosaic  that makes up our community.

“The Digital Storytelling Project is a powerful means to have the voices of new immigrants heard,” said program director Sally Rafson.  “Through ACLA and our partner organizations, we hope this program broadens the dialogue and provides a forum to help welcome these members into our community.”

The Digital Storytelling Project is included as a recommendation in the Community Blueprint: Helping Immigrants Thrive in Allegheny County, an initiative spearheaded by local foundations and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. In particular, the project addresses the objective of  promoting community engagement, social integration, and building cultural understanding among immigrant communities and established local communities.

This project is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum & Library Services as administered by the PA Department of Education through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of PA, Tom Wolf, Governor. Funding is also provided by Vibrant Pittsburgh, The Sprout Fund, and Corinne Guillou and the Ridgeville Kids.