“Amplifying Sanctuary Voices” Exhibit Gives Power to Migrant Voices
By Beth Lederer
Amplifying Sanctuary Voices (ASV) is a community based oral history project that promotes empathy, healing and justice through storytelling. The “Amplifying Sanctuary Voices” exhibit is showcased at the Rosenberg Library, Ocean Campus at City College for the entire Spring 2023 semester. The exhibit offers a humanitarian and empathetic look at the migration problem plaguing the world today.
This multimedia exhibit offers historical facts paired with beautiful artwork, posters, collages, and a looping video series showcasing migration stories. There are also posters amplifying the refugees’ voices, telling their unique stories.
Librarian Michele Mckenzie and English Professor Steven Mayers emphasized the importance of students knowing there is a City College Amplifying Sanctuary Voices exhibition research guide https://library.ccsf.edu/asv/home which is an integral part of the exhibit.
The resource guide is an online educational tool that offers vital information about the organizations involved in the exhibition’s creation. With links to numerous books, videos and topics like the sanctuary movement, Voice Of Witness (VOW) oral history series, migrant stories and climate change affecting world populations, the guide is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to learn more.
According to Mayers, putting together the research guide was an extensive project and a collaboration of many different organizations including East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC), ASV, Voice of Witness (VOW), Voices UnMuted, and Mayers himself.
A video presentation, “INTO THE LIGHT (Stories and Lived Experiences of Immigration)” is showcased at the exhibit and can also be accessed through the library’s website. In this video, there are short presentations from the authors bringing power to their personal stories.
Youth UnMuted, one of the collaborators in the exhibit, who seeks to elevate displaced youth voices through creative storytelling and art workshops, presented “Now You Hear Us Podcast – Episode 1- Pavie’s story.”
The co-founders are Daphne Morgen and Hannah Burnbaum who founded the program in response to the lack of programming for refugee youth in Greece. Morgen also participated in the opening day exhibit by bringing her middle school students from Brightworks SF.
In Pavie’s story, the video showed a 16-year-old girl originally from Afghanistan appearing to be underwater blowing bubbles. In her podcast, she talked about the depth of her tragedy: “I want to find some pieces of my existence in this way, the lost pieces that I have left in different lands.” She continued, “I want to talk about unattainable dreams, of small and big dreams that suffocate, burn in the fire, their blood spilling on the roads.”
Listening to these individual stories, Mayers said, “is the heart of the exhibit; when you hear people’s stories, then you really care.”
At City College, Mayers is an English Professor as well as co-coordinator of City College’s Puente Program at Mission Campus. The Puente Program utilizes a three-pronged approach of writing instruction, counseling, and mentoring to support underserved students in transferring to a four year university. The two Puente classes were present for the opening day of the ASV exhibit on Jan. 25.
Mayers got involved in the ASV project through an oral history project he did with VOW. Mayers writes and conducts oral history research. He had co-written a book in 2019 with Pulitzer Prize Author Jonathan Freedman called “Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Youth Refugees from Central America.”
“Solito, Solita” is part of the VOW book series on human rights.
City Dream is another sponsor of the exhibit at City College. City Dream works with undocumented students at City College. The students from City Dream will be conducting an oral storytelling workshop at the exhibit in March.
The ASV exhibit invites the viewer to open their hearts to the artform of these authors who are brave enough to tell their stories. In the author’s own words they tell their story of the migration process, feelings of loss combined with feelings of hope once they gained Amnesty, Citizenship, Temporary Permanent Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
A metamorphosis is witnessed once when they can legally participate in the United States wholeheartedly, leaving the shadows of a country that has always not welcomed them.