“Just put yourself in the other person’s shoes,” urged a student at SUNY New Paltz, emphasizing the importance of compassion for others. Our project New Immigrant and Refugee Visions (NIRV) aims to do exactly that by using short films to encourage empathy, awareness and open discussion. From September 25-27, we held Screen & Discuss events at five New York colleges: SUNY Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, New Paltz and New York Institute of Technology.
“This event motivated me to speak and stand up for immigrants since my parents also came from another country.”
The audiences came from diverse countries of origin, as well as economic and cultural backgrounds. CSFilm’s goal with these events is to visit communities both welcoming and resistant to new immigrants. Two of the counties we visited voted for President Trump and two against. Congressman Faso, who represents most of the upstate areas that we visited, is a strong supporter of President Trump’s restrictive approach to immigration.
“We have been here before. Our ancestors were viewed differently, but they overcame it!” said an audience member at SUNY Sullivan after viewing a selection of the NIRV films. Together, we reflected on how Americans in the past have been able to move past anti-immigration rhetoric and toward acceptance and integration.
Many in the audience said they fear the worsening tone of discourse across the country, and the hatred and divisions it is fueling. Others indicated that they fear the negative impact they believe immigration is having on their livelihoods, families and communities.
Michael Sheridan, CSFilm Founding Director, stated that these fears are what motivated him to develop NIRV, to stimulate open dialogue:
“Until we start listening to and understanding the fears, hopes and realities of all sides, we will not begin to effectively address the issues and challenges.”
The NIRV films provide an incentive to gather people together and a framework for discussion. The events included a discussion of actions people can take to address these and other questions and concerns. Everyone received an introduction to CSFilm’s downloadable Action Toolkit. The Action Toolkit begins with the urgent need to listen to people outside our normal sphere of conversation. Michael encouraged everyone to make a special effort every week to talk to someone that they don’t know about issues of immigration. If you are native-born, reach out and talk to a new immigrant. If you are a new
immigrant or refugee, talk with people that are not
from your country of origin or ethnic background.
“I am reminded of the diversity and varied humanity. This makes it easier to talk about issues without lumping all experiences together.”
In addition, you can organize a Screen & Discuss event in your community. It is one of many steps you can take! To learn about our upcoming events and resources, be sure to subscribe to our mailing list.
And, please, in order for us to Screen & Discuss these films in communities around the country, we need your support! Please donate to CSFilm today.
Thank you to everyone who joined us at these events, and to the individuals and university students, faculty and staff who organized them.