Maria and I started a new chapter in our work and our lives today, we drove to Albany to meet with Jenna Kersten of The Refugee And Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus in Albany (RISSE). We are connecting to RISSE to support a refugee art show – "New Beginnings: An Exploration Of The Meaning Of Home" scheduled for March 30 at the Albany Repertory Theater in Albany, New York.
RISSE was founded in 2007 by members of the Emmaus Methodist Church in Albany to help address the needs of newly arrived refugees from the Congo and Rwanda. The group has grown and so has the need for them, the art show artists are from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, including Syria.
As the debate over immigration rages in Washington and elsewhere, the government is seeking to temporarily ban all refugees and to radically alter the nature and pace of immigration to America. There are many newly-arrived refugees now living in my area and the art show is an effort by about 20 of them to explore the real meaning and idea of Home.
What does it mean to have a home and be home.
Refugees face enormous challenges in coming to America. In many cases, their lives have been shattered by war and by terrorism, and they face significant struggles over education, employment, money, safety, language and cultural acclimation.
The art show is a public affirmation of their commitment to new beginnings.
We saw some of the art today and it is vibrant, colorful and touching. Next week, we're meeting with some of the artists. Maria will see if they need any help putting the show together, I will talk to some of them, take some photos and write about their extraordinary creative exploration.
We met with Jenna at RISSE's offices on the second floor of the Emmaus Church, which also doubles as an after school and meeting room. Refugees are still arriving in this area in advance of the expected ban, we are both happy about getting more deeply involved with them.
This is an important cause for me, for all kinds of reasons, and I am quite determined to stick with it.
Sunday, I hope to meet with some refugee children and take their portraits, with permission. It is essential, I think, to portray them as human beings, not thieves or rapists or terrorists, deadbeats or job-stealers. They are none of the above. They are here legally, have been thoroughly investigated, are fighting for a better life for their families, and are eager to work and contribute.
This second refugee work is more fraught and complex. They are being assisted by a different organization. I can't talk about the group or the refugees in any particular way. I hope to be able to photograph some of them, they are frightened not only of retribution back home but of persecution here.
We had a good talk with Jenna, and we talked about all the ways we can help.
We are eager to help out with the art show, and today we saw some of the paintings, I hope to reprint some here on the blog.
This is an exciting new chapter for both of us, I am eager to meet more of the refugees and help them in any way I can. The first phase was (is) support for the Refugee Gift Page, that has been and continues to be a smashing success. Refugees continue to arrive in this area, perhaps not for long. They need a great deal of help.
Today was the first official day in that new effort, it is no longer a simple thing to be involved with the refugees, they are frightened and refugee organizations are intensely protective of them, and with good reason.
More later. I'm grateful to have this opportunity to live beyond argument and fear and do some actual good.