Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Stories of Others, the Stories of Us

I'm currently on a bus in New Jersey on my way to NYC after a beautiful sojourn through Northeastern PA. The Fall weather is breathtaking. I really miss it so much after living in Northern California for two years.

Plug for awesome little sister here
I am also stoked that this bus has wifi, which I discovered late into my journey...though maybe that was a good thing. I was actually able to take in the landscape instead of doing e-stuff.

Rohingya woman and child
I mostly took this trip out here to visit my sister for her birthday, but I am working as well. On Sunday I am meeting up with a Rohingya man originally from Burma who contacted me via facebook after checking out the different stories and photos I took of  Burmese activists in the Bay Area. I knew little about the Rohingya peoples and their plight, but I have been reading up on them lately to learn more. It has been a fascinating and sad process to learn of the oppressions this ethnic group has faced for so many years. But I want to hear his story, I want to hear directly from a Rohingya person to begin to know about him and his people.

In the past few months, I have listened to so many stories. Some from my new jobs (yes I have more than one now) where I am interviewing different people from Asian communities in the Bay Area and also from many students I interact with at the English Center, another non profit I work for. Everyone has a story and though I have my blogs, I have unfortunately been so busy of late that I have not had the time to write these narratives up. Hopefully this will change once I get a little better at time management ;-)

I have spoken with former youth gang members, who have overcome and are still overcoming hardships to reach their goals. I feel inspired by them but I am also worried, I'm scared that they may get cut down before their dreams take flight.

I recently met a young man from Sri Lanka who had his arm in a sling and found out that he had been injured in a bomb blast. He slowly lifted his sleeve to show me the scars of the attack, his skin-directly-on-bone upper arm with missing chunks of flesh that though healed, still cause so much pain.

Iranian Protestor 2009
I listened to stories of young activists who have been brutalized, tortured, stabbed and almost murdered in Iranian prisons. I have been told of great migrations taken by young men who hoped to save their lives, while leaving their loved ones and beloved lands behind.

author of Donkey Heart, Monkey Mind
Even while out celebrating with a friend during happy hour, I ran into a stranger who handed me a book that he had written called Donkey Heart, Monkey Mind. I went home and read it, and cried as I took in images of severe torture, fear and hope that the author relayed in his story of Algeria, and its brutal suppression of the Berber minority. It was his story and I was grateful that he shared it with me.

The Bay Area is rich in diversity with its many immigrant communities. Many of their lives play out like an Oscar winning film, a heart wrenching documentary, or a massive article out of Time magazine. But these people are real and they live next door or make your sandwiches or prescribe medication when you are sick. They may be your parents, your cousins, your

I have recently started to work at an organization that is looking to capture some of these stories through articles and photographs. I am grateful for this opportunity. As much as I love to talk, I also love to listen, share, learn and most importantly connect to human beings from all all over the earth. I have some more ideas of how to capture these stories, but I am trying to take things one step at a time.

Why do these stories matter? Who cares? Well outside of me, I'm not sure who cares, but it matters to me because every story told is a life uncovered, a violation uncovered, a brutality uncovered, inspiration uncovered. I may not be able to bring justice to oppressive situations around the world, but I can help give people a voice by being a conduit of information, empathy and understanding.

Maybe learning and connecting peoples' stories can change the world and bring justice to atrocities that may never find justice in courts. Giving word and sound to a situation gives it justice in my opinion, even in a small way, it names oppressions and exposes them.

Yes, yes it is..