At a moment when the entire country is examining a complex narrative of racial and ethnic inequities, the stories of Asian Americans are more timely and more relevant than ever. The Immigrant Story is proud to kick off a multimedia project to explore historic xenophobia against Asian American community, including policies that resulted in discrimination, incarceration, erasure and a recent increase in hate crimes in our state and in our country.
Today, Oregon is home to a vibrant, diverse and multicultural Asian community. Indeed, in Portland alone, more than 40 different ethnic and cultural identities from Asia coexist peacefully.
Community members have deep roots in the state, as well as deep traumas. During World War II, many were incarcerated in internment camps. Returning to their homes, many of these American citizens found their land and properties seized. Still, they remained in their adopted homeland. In Oregon, these Asian Americans include doctors, dentists and nurses who came in the 1960s to serve in rural communities. Others are refugees and asylees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos who sought safety after the fall of their countries in the 1970s. These Oregonians worship at local churches, temples and mosques that in some cases they helped build. To promote community spirit among fellow Asian Americans, some organize celebrations in public parks. Oregonians have the good fortune to dine at restaurants opened by these newcomers that serve a varied range of cuisines from their home countries. Asian Americans in Oregon run the professional and creative gamut: artists, homemakers, musicians, religious leaders, educators, health care providers, attorneys, craftspeople, laborers. They pursue education, work in the tech industry, and they renovate this city.
Daily, the presence of Asian Americans is reshaping Portland, our state and our nation.
Over the years, The Immigrant Story (TIS) has mastered the art of amplifying the stories of immigrants, emerging as a premiere storytelling platform in the Pacific Northwest. At The Immigrant Story, we believe stories told today become history tomorrow. We will tell the stories of Oregon’s Asian Americans in a variety of different ways:
- Oral History Archival & Asian Diaspora Narratives: Six written narratives will highlight and document the stories of Asian Americans, using a style that foregrounds the voices and perspectives of each person. Each story will be accompanied by photographs of the subject, and may include historical images from their family or community. The story and photos are juxtaposed so that readers may connect more fully with the subject. The result is a series of candid expositions. These recorded materials will be archived at the Oregon Historical Society and other local and national centers to preserve these oral testimonies.
- Storytelling Podcast: We will use audio from the recorded interviews to create six new podcast episodes that highlight the voices of community members. Each episode will feature one participant’s story that will connect to recurring themes related to migration such as identity, trauma, and assimilation. Voices of color have historically been marginalized in the United States. This project will narrow the gap in representation by providing Asian immigrants with a platform to share their stories, and combat the erasure and “othering” of immigrants by highlighting their humanity and resilience through storytelling.
- “In Conversation” Series: In this new podcast series, well-known authors, historians, legal experts and ethnographers will engage in a dialogue centered on the issues raised by recent hate crimes against Asian-Americans. The topics will cover historical restrictions on Asian immigration, legal and legislative barriers to representation, and how modern liberation movements might address acts of hate. We will produce six episodes in this series over the next year. Here is our first episode in this series.
- The Immigrant Story Live: Six storytellers will share their lived stories and represent a myriad of experiences in a live event. TIS Live performances combine nuanced storytelling with subtle performance art to share a professionally produced quality program with the public. This live theater event will feature musicians and storytellers from the tri-county area’s Asian American community. Their stories offer a window into the struggles experienced by communities of color worldwide and here in Oregon, and their remarkable resilience and determination.
- Exhibition: We will team up with well-known photographer Jim Lommasson, who will extend his “What We Carried” project to include new additions. His work focuses on objects immigrants were able to carry with them on their journeys. From his photographs of the objects, the participants provide handwritten testimonies — stories, memories, poems, drawings. The objects, portraits and narratives connect viewers with the thoughts, joys and fears of their subjects. They will shine a light on different facets of Asian experience.
Made possible by the generous contribution of Anne Naito-Campbell.