I Am My Story: Voices of Hope

ArtReach Gallery

First Congregational UCC
1126 Southwest Park Avenue, Portland, OR, 97205

Sep. 12, 2021, through Oct. 31, 2021


The Immigrant Story invites you to visit “I Am My Story: Voices of Hope,” our newest exhibition, opening May 14, 2021, at the Oregon Historical Society.

At a moment when our state and the nation are entering a critical period of conversation about the erasure and underrepresentation of people of color, “I Am My Story: Voices of Hope” highlights the experiences of six young women from Africa who have made their homes in Oregon. They are survivors of genocide and war; they have lived through a traumatic break with the past and they face prejudice and injustice in their new home. Their stories offer a window into the struggles experienced by communities of color, worldwide and here in Oregon, and their remarkable resilience and determination.

As part of the display, the six women, who began their lives in Burundi, Congo and Central African Republic, appear in larger-than-life photographic portraits. Their voices take hold in their accompanying narratives where they describe their individual journeys and share their perspectives on their experiences and their world. These stories of hope unfold the different facets of their identities: as Black, as African, as women and as survivors.

The Immigrant Story is proud to join with the lauded Portland photographer Jim Lommasson who extends in this presentation his “What We Carried” project, which uses personal possessions carried by refugees, including these six women, to describe the experience of fleeing one’s homeland under difficult circumstances and resuming life in a strange new land. The accompanying response offered by each immigrant illuminates the unspeakable anguish of a life forever left behind.

The objects, portraits and narratives connect viewers with the thoughts, joys and fears of these young women. They shine a light on different facets of Black experience from the multiple layers of adversity experienced by immigrant women of color and survivors of war, to the strength of a person who has decided precisely who to become.

I Am My Story: Voices of Hope will run from September 12, 2021, through October 31, 2021 at ArtReach Gallery, located at the First Congregational UCC, 1126 Southwest Park Avenue, Portland,, Oregon. Please check with the Gallery for the times and Covid protocols. 

I am My Story: Voices of Hope is made possible by the generous contribution of the Zidell Family Foundation.