I Am My Story: Voices of Hope

Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Ave.
Portland, Oregon
May 14, 2021, through Aug. 2, 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 our country 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 real-life stories of six young women from Africa who have made their homes in Oregon. They are survivors of genocide and the atrocities of war; they have lived through a traumatic break with the past; they have faced prejudice and injustice in their new home. These six women have built their lives with courage and hope. Their stories offer a window into the struggles experienced by communities of color, worldwide and here in Oregon, and into the remarkable resilience and determination that rises up in response.

The six women, who began their lives in Burundi, Congo and Eritrea, appear in larger-than-life photographic portraits, facing the visitor with dignity and poise. Their voices take hold in the accompanying narratives, describing their individual journeys and sharing their perspectives on their experiences and their world. These stories of hope unfold different facets of the rich identities of these women: 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 his “What We Carried” project to include objects brought by these women on their perilous journeys. Lommasson’s ongoing effort uses objects 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 speaks to the luminous inner life of survival and testifies to the unspeakable anguish of a life forever left behind.

The objects, portraits and narratives all come to life and become personal, connecting 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 by 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 May 14, 2021, through Aug. 2, 2021 at Oregon Historical Society, located at 1200 S.W. Park Ave in Portland, Oregon.

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