NIRV Topic: Immigrant Contributions

New immigrants make many important contributions to the culture, economy and social fabric of the United States.

Here are two films from the New Immigrant and Refugee Visions (NIRV) collection – films by and about immigrants – that lift our spirits with the cultural contribution and inclusionary work of immigrants.

Before you watch them, please review the “Questions-to-consider…” below.

  • Rhythms of Respect, by Katsyris Rivera-Kientz, 9 min – about Jorge Arce, a Puerto Rican cultural activist;
  • Lift with Your Heart, by Braulio Tellez-Vilches, 8 min – about Jean Appolon, a Haitian choreographer healing with dance;
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Rhythms of Respect (Original 9:24, Excerpt 1:43)
Filmmaker: Katsyris Rivera-Kientz
Editor: Monica Cohen; Additional Sound and Camera: Monica Cohen; Additional Editor: Zayde Buti
Dynamo Puerto Rican dancer, musician, educator, and cultural activist, Jorge Arce, fosters inclusive communities by bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together to learn about Caribbean culture. As he says and demonstrates, “When you see the audience coming out, dancing, singing, playing the instruments… and they don’t want to stop… There are changes of behavior there. Changes of attitudes. There is acceptance also. There is recognition. And there is respect.”
Katsyris Rivera-Kientz
Moved from Puerto Rico* in 2016, lives in Cambridge, MA
Katsy is a scholar-activist who came to Boston in 2016 to join the Transnational, Cultural and Community Studies program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She works closely with the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States on issues related to Puerto Rican cultural identity and Puerto Rico’s political relationship with the United States. Currently, she is pursuing a PhD in Sociology at UMass Boston.

*Puerto Ricans are American citizens but many feel like immigrants in the US.

Discussion Resources:
About Jorge Arce, the subject of the film:
About the issues covered in the film:
Lift with Your Heart (Original 7:44, Excerpt 0:45)
Filmmaker: Braulio Tellez-Vilches
Editor: Alex Morelli; Additional Camera and Sound: Patricia Goudvis, Mohammad Arifuzzaman
Choreographer Jean Appolon struggled for years to find a sense of belonging in his native Haiti and in the United States. He discovered his purpose in teaching dance to heal and engage community members of all ages and backgrounds in celebrating cultural diversity.
Braulio Tellez-Vilches
Emigrated from Cuba in 2017, lives in East Boston, MA
Braulio was a professor and career diplomat in Cuba. He works at ABM Aviation as a safety and catering instructor and volunteers with Catholic Charities and the Irish International Immigrant Center. He is studying to become a Spanish teacher in the Boston Public Schools.
Discussion Resources:
About the filmmaker:
About Jean Appolon, the subject of the film:
About the issues covered in the film:

Want to See More?

These other two NIRV films also address immigrant contributions in the following ways:

  • Campaign for a New American, by Qin Li – about the daughter of an Indian immigrant running for city council;
  • Borrowing Fire, by Kebrewosen Densamo – an Ethiopian evangelical minister helping his community.

Questions to Consider While Watching These Films

  1. What is “American” culture(s)? How much of the America that you know is the contribution of immigrants?
  2. Some describe the US as a melting pot and others as a salad bowl? What is your opinion of this distinction and how does it affect you?
  3. What stood out to you? What will you tell your friends about? 
  4. What did you relate to? What reminded you of things in your own life? 
  5. What felt unfamiliar, new or surprising?
  6. Can you think of an occasion when you changed your mind about an issue? What would change people’s minds about immigrants or immigration?
  7. What do you want to change in your community after “meeting” these immigrants and learning about their experiences? (e.g., Individual behaviors? Public policies? Local media perspectives of your immigrant neighbors?)