Do you understand? The mishearing of LGBT refugees’ stories
By Katherine Fobear
I want to talk about stories. From the simplest story of a trip down to the grocery store to the local news story on the radio as we drive into work, stories permeate and create our everyday lives.
They matter to us on a personal level, a social level, and on a political level. They help us to tell others who we are and who we wish we were.
Stories matter especially for refugees. Refugees make sense of their past and present and craft their identities both in their new places of residence and their home countries through the sharing of stories. For those forced to migrate from their home and resettle elsewhere, a refugee’s story serves as a fundamental link between the past, present, and future. The nurturing and forging of these links help refugees and their communities heal personally and socially. Aid workers, activists, and academics working in conflict areas call this process social repair.
When refugees share their stories with each other they build a sense of belonging and community by creating a bond among individuals through communal experiences, beliefs, and stories. Sharing a story can be therapeutic for the individual as well as the group as people share and witness the hardships of transplantation and emigration to a foreign land or culture. Continue reading →
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Serve the People at the Bottom: Yuri Kochiyama
By Scott Kurashige
The following is a tribute to Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama who died on June 1, 2014.
I am one of thousands whose lives were immensely touched by Yuri Kochiyama. Not all of those people are Asian American, but for those who are, Yuri directly and indirectly helped us connect our own identity struggles to the broader and more radical struggle for human liberation.
My first encounter with Yuri was in the fall of 1990. She was among the featured speakers at the landmark conference Malcolm X: Radical Tradition and a Legacy of Struggle, held in New York City to mark the 25th anniversary of Malcolm’s assassination.
In fact it wasn’t much of an encounter at all. We had driven into the city from out of town and I missed Yuri’s panel on the opening day. I only remember seeing this small-framed, bespectacled elderly East Asian woman sitting in the audience many rows away in a large auditorium. One of my friends spotted Yuri’s name listed in the program and recalled hearing of a Japanese American woman who was Malcolm’s close friend. Another friend said, “She must have been the woman whom people were constantly coming up to hug and kiss.”
Thus, I had some facile knowledge of Yuri’s intriguing history. But like many others, I grew up knowing nothing about her, and I went through much of my college education unaware of Yuri and the many struggles she had waged in the name of human rights. That would change soon enough. Continue reading →
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Coming Full Circle: Creating Alternatives to Fear
By Shayna Plaut, Contributing Editor, Human Rights
I began traveling to Hungary in December of 2001. Every time I got on the plane my collective Jewish family would take in a deep breath. I was going back to “The Old Country” where “they” hate “us.” It didn’t matter that no one in my family is actually Hungarian, or that anyone alive at the time was actually born in Europe. The unquestioned truth is that “we,” as Jews, were not safe “there.” As soon as we thought we were safe, “they” would come and burn down our shtetl. This is what happened in Spain. In Germany. In the Middle East. And, according to my family, this is what will happen in the future if “we” are not careful.
Never. Never. Get complacent.
As someone who grew up with many identities (punk, political, wanna-be Chicana, Leo…oh yeah, and Jewish) I always assumed this was simply paranoia.
Because of my academic and activist work, as well as good friends, I travel to Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe about once a year. I recently returned from a short weeklong trip to Hungary in June, and in that week I began to wonder if perhaps my family was right. Continue reading →
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