Written by: Beth Lederer
“Amplified Sanctuary Voices” (ASV) is the newest exhibit that opened up at City College, Ocean Campus in the Rosenberg Library’s second-floor atrium on January 25. This multimedia exhibit highlights the history of the Sanctuary Movement, Climate Migration and amplifies the voices of migrants in the Bay Area by telling their own individual harrowing stories. English Professor Steven Mayers is calling on the City College community to view this all important multimedia exhibit and to participate in solution-focused conversations on migration and climate change.
For opening day festivities, in attendance were two City College English classes and teacher Daphne Morgan (cofounder of Youth UnMuted) who brought her middle school class from Brightworks School to view the exhibit, listen to the panelists and participate in meaningful discussions.
The ASV exhibit is a collaborative effort between various groups and organizations. The guest curators are Lisa Hoffman and Rebecca Genry from East Bay Sanctuary Covenant. City College English Professor Steven Mayers, part of the ASV project and Michelle McKenzie, a City College media librarian in charge of exhibits, were instrumental in bringing the exhibit to City College. The ASV exhibit was sponsored by the Rosenberg Library, Amplifying Sanctuary Voices, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, City College Puente Program, City College City Dream.
Gerny, who is Special Projects Coordinator at East Bay Sanctuary Covenant said, ”migration is beautiful and natural. Humans have been moving around the planet for as long as we’ve been on it. Just migration policy must preserve the right for everyone to seek safety and sanctuary.”
The panelists, Deyci Carrillo Lopez, Manuel de Paz and Brianna Adia Davis amplified their voices by reciting poetry, telling their harrowing stories of escape and resistance and presenting their poignant artwork for the opening exhibit. The exhibit will be on display for the Spring semester and closes on May 25.
Students at the exhibit were introduced to a timeline showing the history of the Sanctuary movement, and how extreme climates are forcing migration throughout the world. They also viewed meaningful artwork, watched a multimedia presentation, listened to the panelists and divided up into small groups to have thoughtful discussions about what this exhibit means to them and how they can find their own solutions to the worldwide problem of the refugee crisis and forced migration.
Lisa Hoffman, one of the curators of the exhibit from East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC), hoped the exhibit would “increase the dialogue, deepen empathy and inspire action towards more compassionate immigration policies.” She would also like to see people get engaged and more motivated to take action and find solutions.
The ASV multimedia exhibit highlights stories of migrants who were forced to flee their countries due to unmitigated circumstances and the hardships they faced trying to receive refuge. It also brings to light climate induced displacement by introducing six areas of the world; the Northern Triangle of Central America, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Syria, Pakistan, and the plight of Rohingya people. People in these areas have been displaced and forced to migrate due to the destruction of their homes and land due to conflict, poverty, persecution and increasingly extreme climate conditions.
In one of the informational displays, ASV has shown that by 2050 an estimated 200 million people will have been displaced due to environmental changes such as drought, floods, famine, sea level rise, biodiversity loss, wildfires and other environmental factors.
It’s not easy for refugees to tell these very personal stories, how individuals or families have been forced to migrate sometimes due to mass killings, drugs, gang violence, poverty or climate change.
Each person’s story is personal and the panelists told their stories through many different artforms either through painting, poetry, collage, oral storytelling or using various types of multimedia.
One of the panelists, Manuel de Paz’s story, was gut wrenching. When he was just 13, he saw his beloved El Salvador ravaged by war. The military came into his village and massacred nine of his relatives including three of his brothers on March 21, 1980. During the 12 years of Civil War in El Salvador he saw 21 of his relatives killed.
de Paz is passionate to tell his story to educate and to inform communities that his story is not isolated and millions of people live through Civil Wars and become refugees.
It took him years of living in many different towns throughout El Salvador and still experiencing danger that he made the decision to leave El Salvador for good. He talked about his journey and finally making it safely into the United States on the third try.
East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC) helped him gain asylum and then citizenship. de Paz was hired by EBSC in 2006 where he does community outreach work. He was instrumental in helping California become a Sanctuary state and passing the legislation that gives a CA drivers license for undocumented workers, CA AB 60 license. de Paz’s journey as a refugee is both harrowing and hopeful, showing us what hard work and perseverance can lead to.
Lopez is from Guanajuato, Mexico and came to the United States at three years old. At 13 she found out that she was undocumented. Lopez said she turned to writing and poetry, “Poetry has helped me find my voice in this country that’s constantly screaming to tell me I don’t have one.” Lopez recited two beautiful poems from her first book of poetry paying homage to her mother. The first poem was called, “ Today My Heart Feels Warm,” and her Poetry book is called Entre la Miel y el Fuego.
Lopez gave credit to the artist who did the attractive cover of her book, whose name is Eddie. He was in immigration detention when the cover was created. Lopez also sent me an excerpt from her book thanking him, where she includes a beautiful quote from him, “ All I ever wanted to do is draw. To make paint or ink flow, to be able to portray or inspire, to make my daughter proud.”
Lopez is now working on her second book of poetry.
Davis uses visual arts to tell her stories, painting and making thought provoking collages which are part of the ASV exhibit. Davis tells stories through this art form connecting to the stories of her mother and grandmother who left Mexico.
Hoffman believes that people can do more to take part in this movement. ”Reaching out to grandparents to learn about their family’s story or whether it’s participating and protesting unjust immigration policies or whether it’s helping a neighbor with challenges integrating into this country,” she said.
After taking time to view the exhibit and listen to the panelists, the students broke up into small discussion groups to discuss what the exhibit meant to them. The exhibit allowed the students to ponder sanctuary cities, immigration policy, how extreme climate affects us all and what the term climate migrant means. The exhibit asks for the public to add their voice to the solution, support refugees and amplify migrant voices.
English Professor Steven Mayers said, “we are calling on the City College community – students, professors, librarians, staff- to engage in this crucial conversation: bring a class to the exhibit, create and share discussion questions and assignment ideas on migration and climate change in your field, from science to anthropology to art to language to literature. We hope to inspire classes from a variety of disciplines to engage in solutions-focused conversations and brainstorm about migration. To get involved email English Professor Steven Mayers (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ASV co-founder Rebecca Gerny (email@example.com).”