Chai Wai Series: Migrants, Immigrants & Refugees

The Chai Wai Series Launches with “Migrants, Immigrants and Refugees”

by Katrina Spencer

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“What does it take for someone to leave what they’ve worked for their whole life?” he asked. In one of the more provocative statements made at the International and Area Studies Library’s (IASL) first Chai Wai event, Ricardo Díaz of the C-U Immigration Forum boldly affirmed that “Mexicans don’t want to come to the USA,” openly challenging a common premonition existing about the U.S. being an immigrant’s ‘paradise.’ “Immigration is a natural human process,” Díaz said, adding that “It’s not just liberty” that attracts people from other countries to seek lives within the U.S. borders: “it’s the economic opportunity”. Díaz passionately suggested that many people of both working and professional class love their home countries but make deliberate choices of sacrifice in order to provide secure futures for their families. They were statements like these that constructed the framework in which push and pull factors regarding immigration were visited Tuesday of last week.

As South Asian Studies Librarian Mara Thacker’s brainchild, the Chai Wai Series was launched to much acclaim. This series seeks to provide a forum for conversations regarding global issues that need space for development, debate and discussion. More than forty people gathered in the Main Library’s room 321 to hear four panelists speak on the topic of “migrants, immigrants and refugees.” The event was moderated by Steve Witt, head of the IAS Department. Three panelists in addition to Díaz, University of Illinois anthropology professor Ellen Moodie, Ha Ho of the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC) and Gai Nyok, a current master student in economics and former refugee, shared their personal narratives, highlights of their research and general postures that encouraged, as Moodie phrased it, “compassionate policy in a country that can absorb immigrants.”

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One valuable feature of the event was the diversity of voices and experience represented by the panel. Too often issues of immigration are reduced to discussions of U.S.-Mexico relations. This panel, by its very nature, infused identities that spring from war-torn areas like the Sudans, persecuted minorities like the Hmong of Vietnam and Central American narratives of post-war reformation. In addition to the varied faces on the panel, some insights were particularly compelling. Moodie, for example, affirmed that “violence actually increased” following armed conflicts as countries entered into new instabilities and reconstruction. The post-war period, then, while largely interpreted as one of peace, may in fact see more human mobility than when fighting is active. Moreover, some internally displaced people choose not to seek refuge in places like the U.S. even when a protected status is available to them. When asked if his mother could join him in the United States, Nyok, a former Lost Boy of Sudan who found a second family in a foster home in Virginia, affirmed that yes, she could. However, he supposed that her experience in the West might indeed be of an inferior quality than that which she is experiencing in East Africa, citing the language barriers she would encounter, the cultural isolation, the laborious work she would take on, and the lack of respect and promotion she would likely experience in trying to integrate into a foreign society and its job workforce at an advanced age.

Despite all of this, Ho, speaking from experience, affirmed with great confidence that “the United States is a very generous country.” As someone whose immigrant status has seen a variety of classifications—visitor, resident and citizen—Ho acknowledges that “immigration law is very complex,” yet also that the U.S. offers a wealth of possibilities for mobile persons. The discussion implied that there are significant varieties of meaning indeed between migrants, immigrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced people, exiles and even expatriates, and that the variety of their experiences merit the richness of the vocabulary used to describe them. While the opportunities are numerous once a migrant obtains a certain status, before then, immigration policy can appear hostile. “I don’t expect the system to change without a struggle,” Díaz concluded, and for that reason, Díaz lives out his passion and encourages others towards advocacy. He is currently promoting José Toledo’s documentary “Unfreedom: Latino Immigrants in a Midwestern Town.”

For more on the Chai Wai Series, follow the International and Area Studies Library on Facebook, access our lib guide which addresses our first event and be sure to join us Wednesday, November 5, 2014 from 2:00-3:30pm when we will discuss gender-based violence in the global South.

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Hispanic Heritage Month

Every year, Hispanic Heritage Month is observed here in the United States. It is September 15th through October 15th. Throughout this month, the culture, history, and contributions of Hispanics in the United States is celebrated. Whether it is the history of people from Spain, Mexico, Central & South America, or the Caribbean. So, how did Hispanic Heritage Month come to be?

It began in 1968, when there was a Hispanic Heritage Week. Although it started under the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson, it expanded under President Ronald Reagan in 1988. According to the Government Printing Office, it became a law (Public Law 100-402) in August of 1988. This month is celebrated in many different ways.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month pic

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Photo courtesy of Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography.

Nationally, the Library of Congress has events, exhibitions, and stories. Among the events, a book talk by Carmen Boullosa, who is a Mexican poet, novelist, and playwright. Others who are being honored are author Cindy Trumbore and illustrator Susan L. Roth of Parrots over Puerto Rico.” They will be awarded the 2014 Américas Awards for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. For more information, be sure to visit the Official Page of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Locally, UIUC has a couple of events going on around campus and the community. Among them are:

CLACS (The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies) has organized the 2014 Latin American Film Festival. This Festival began on September 19th and will go all the way through September 25th. Seven films will be showing. The countries and cultures from these films are diverse and showcase that while the countries may be in Latin America, each one has their own unique language/dialect and culture. For the movies and showings, check out the schedule.

There is also a Lecture Series that provides talks and lectures on many different subjects and interests related to Latin America and the Caribbean. Topics such as, “Big Business as Usual: the 2014 World Cup.” For more information, be sure to check out the full schedule.

For more events, La Casa Cultural Latina has a whole schedule for the month. La Casa was part of the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations’ (OIIR) initiative to the “recruiting and retaining underrepresented students, diversity education, civic engagement, and fostering the leadership skills necessary to develop global citizens.”

Just because Hispanic Heritage Month is just that, for a month, it doesn’t mean that it stops there. The University and Library offer many resources for students of Latino descent, or for those who would like to learn more about Hispanic Culture and/or language. Lucky for you, we compiled a list for you.

UIUC Mi Pueblo: This a Spanish-conversation group. They meet at different parts of campus for 1-hour sessions led by UIUC students. For more information about the sessions. Check out their website.

La Casa Cultural: Founded at UIUC in 1974, La Casa Cultural Latina has been committed to Latino/a students on campus, as well as the community [.

Browse through the Registered Student Organizations (RSO) and pick which ones would be the best for you.  For a complete list of RSO’s, browse a whole list of them.

Don’t forget that your library also has some great resources. Did you know that the International and Area Studies Library has a collection of Latin American books? Not only books, but newspapers and journals as well, so that you can keep up with the news. A lot of them in Spanish!

The Undergraduate Library also has a media collection with many movies and documentaries in Spanish and Portuguese, ranging from many different countries in Latin America. Some examples include, “Diarios de Motocicleta” (The Motorcycle Diaries), “Maria Full of Grace“, and “El Norte” (The North), just to name a few.

The Undergraduate Library’s QB (Question Board), has received questions from students since 1989. There have been many different questions throughout that time. Among them:

“Could you come up with a list of native women writers (novelists) writing at the early part of this century in Mexico? Preferably titles that have been translated into English”

“I was recently in New York, being a salsa person like myself, I went to a salsa nightclub. I heard of a band that was originally from Japan and came to New York to learn Spanish in order to become a salsa group. Their name was Orchestra de la Luz. Can I have some more info please? Signed, Inquiring Minds Want to Know”

“There is a popular song in Spanish called “La Macarena” (I think). There are different versions (2 that I know of). Can you tell me what “La Macarena” refers to and where did the song originate? Thanks. Signed Curiosita”

The above are just a few of the different types of questions that QB receives. To browse, search, or even submit your own question, visit QB!

For more resources that the library has to offer, browse through the subject guide offered.

There are so many things, that even we can’t list all at once in this blog post. We hope that you have found some new activities to take part in and new resources around the library.

 

 

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New to Campus: UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship

The UNESCO flag. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

This spring the Illinois campus joined a network of more than 3,800 other centers and clubs by gaining our own UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship. This is the 2nd UNESCO-affiliate center in the United States. The center was founded by Amani Ayad, coordinator for the Library and Information Sciences Access Midwest Program (LAMP) at GSLIS; Barbara Ford, director of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs and  member of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO; and Helaine Silverman, professor in the Department of Anthropology.

UNESCO was founded in 1946 by the United Nations with the goal “to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.” They also manage the UNESCO World Heritage List, which identifies global sites of “outstanding universal cultural value.” The UNESCO Center at Illinois seeks to further the goals of UNESCO by hosting expert speakers for community lectures, giving tours and field trips to nearby World Heritage Sites, hosting reading and discussion groups, and many more activities.

The UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship kicked off their work by hosting a visit from Guy Djoken, the Executive Director of the UNESCO Center in Washington, DC this April 14-16th.

First meeting of the UNESCO Center! From left to right: Ellie Hanauer, Associate Director, Center for Global Studies; Prof. Barbara Ford, Director, Mortenson Center for International Librarianship; Don Gerard, Mayor, Champaign; Guy Djoken, Executive Director, UNESCO Center for Peace; Laurel Prussing, Mayor, Urbana; Dr. Helaine Silverman, Director, Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy (CHAMP); Amani Ayad, LIS Access Midwest Program (LAMP)

The UNESCO Center will be having its first reading group meeting on May 6th at 7:00pm. All are welcome to come for a discussion of the assigned reading, which is Be Skilled, Be Employed, Be the Change Generation. The event will be held at Strawberry Fields, check it out!

If you’d like to get in touch with the UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship, their email is ucgc.champaign [at] gmail.com.

If you would like to read more about the new UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship, and the work of UNESCO in general, check out these links:

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Global Lens Film Series: Dooman River

Free screening of the film Dooman River on Thursday, April 21, 2011 at the University of Illinois YMCA, 1001 South Wright Street, 5:30 pm.
DOOMAN RIVER, dir. Zhang Lu, China, 2009
Two boys on opposite sides of the Chinese-Korean border strike a playful friendship that comes under scrutiny and strain after a series of thefts in a nearby town lead Chinese residents to cast suspicion on North Korean refugees.

More on the Global Lens Film Series

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