Local young authors share their stories of immigration in new book

By Brianna Bush

With the COVID-19 pandemic meeting in person to do anything has been a difficult feat, leading many to turn to a more accommodating method to meet. To launch its new book, Green Card Voices utilized booth Zoom and Facebook to allow space for anyone interested in the new book. 

In a meeting of over 150 people, “Green Card Youth Voices: Immigration Stories from Upstate New York High Schools” launched last night, Wednesday, Dec. 9. Starting the night off, Program Director Julie Vang welcomed everyone who attended for tuning in. 

“For those who are new to Green Card Voices, we are based out here in Minneapolis, Minnesota.” Vang said. “We’re a nationally growing nonprofit organization. Our mission is really to record and share first person stories of immigrant refugees by them.” 

Vang said it facilitates a better understanding and appreciation of their stories. Those in attendance were also able to meet some of the student authors and hear snippets of their journey. Vang made sure to let everyone know of the reaction buttons and encouraged everyone to have their camera on to make it feel more personable.  

Vang then showed the viewers the book trailer claiming that it was the best way to be introduced to the book and the students who wrote it. Vang then introduced the Executive Director Tea Rozman who continued with the process of making the book. 

Photo from Green Card Voices website
World map shows where each student has come from. The green-colored countries are where the immigrants are from. 

“This is our sixth book in the series of Green Card Voices and I really cannot stress enough that there’s an extreme power in local stories,” Rozman said. “We’ve done this in different cities and when we were in Fargo, students talked about how it was, you know, being so extremely cold and being in a pretty desolate state. When we’re in Atlanta people talk about the warmth and how it is in a city of a million people. The stories, of course, are very different in Rochester and Buffalo and the way the neighbors relate to one another is too common an experience. So, although it takes much more time and effort and money, we feel it’s extremely important to be intentional about how we share those stories city by city, town by town to record and share those stories.” 

By taking those extra steps, Rozman and the rest of the Green Card Voice team were able to capture hundreds of stories from the young immigrant refugees. The Green Card Voices team assembled many of the authors in the virtual launch to share some of their stories with the viewers.  

Individual photos from Facebook, compiled by Brianna Bush
The faces of each student who spoke during the book launch event. 

The student speakers of the night included: Abdishakur Luhizo, Katsiaryna Liavanava, Alex Tsipenyuk, Immaculee Mukehimana, Abdulmageed Shaibi, Anika Khanam, Estel Neema, Sultan Yahya, Sebastian Antonio Berdecia Negron, Manea Almadrahi, Mysstorah Shaibi, Ayşe, Esma Okutan, Mireille Nubukomborwa, Mery Nubukomborwa, Jonnoto Nor Ahmad, Flavia Kayitesi, Wanlee Arys Irizarry Pacheco and Stela Ciko.  

Each student shared short stories of the things they went through during their journey. Some of the students obtained a Green Card through the Green Card Lottery, where the students and their families applied in hopes of being awarded a Green Card and avoiding a lengthy and expensive visa process. 

Rozman finished off the night by thanking the students for being brave and coming in front of more than 100 people and sharing their firsthand experiences. 

“I just want to say how very impressed I am, you know, with everybody we practiced earlier today, and they were very frightened and did so well,” Rozman said. “The first time is always the hardest. And, you know, after a few times, you know, before you know it, they will be paid speakers. Seriously. That’s what we’ve seen, you know, time and time again.” 

Rozman reminded everyone of the difficulties with distance learning, not just with technical difficulties but with the problems that some face. 

“I just also really want to say that just this experience, is just a really good reminder how very difficult the whole distance learning is, it’s very expensive to have the technology that is needed to do distance learning,” Rozman said. “It’s also very hard to have enough space to have a quiet room where you can connect. There are just so many challenges in the past months that the students have been through and in the location of the book, we also said that one of the things that is so crucial when an immigrant or refugee, especially young immigrant refugee comes to a new country is, you know, integration and learning the language and having that face to face find new friends and teachers and people that care about them.”  

Photo from Facebook

The event concluded with Rozman giving special thanks to contributors and gave the print date of the physical book. The online edition and physical copy can be purchased in stores and can be found at www.greencardvoices.org/store.



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