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Wednesday June 29th

'Storytelling has transformative properties': Organization focuses on immigration

<p>Stories Beyond Borders is an organizing initiative that uses documentary films to show a more complete picture of the attacks on immigrant families and communities. Photo courtesy of &nbsp;Rommy Sobrado-Torrico.&nbsp;</p>
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Stories Beyond Borders is an organizing initiative that uses documentary films to show a more complete picture of the attacks on immigrant families and communities. Photo courtesy of  Rommy Sobrado-Torrico. 

Adayanci Pérez, a 6-year-old Guatemalan girl, was separated from her family at the U.S. border for three and a half months, and she was later diagnosed with PTSD.

According to the Stories Beyond Borders website, Perez is one of more than 2,500 children separated from their family at the border by the U.S. government as part of the Zero Tolerance policy, and there are still 400 children that haven’t been reunited with their loved ones.

Perez's story is one of the five given the spotlight by “Stories Beyond Borders,” an organizing initiative that uses documentary films to show a more complete picture of the attacks on immigrant families and communities.

The initiative was started by Working Films, a Wilmington-based organization that has been positioning documentaries to advance social justice for two decades.

On Sept. 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Hillsborough, Working Films will be co-hosting a screening of the five short films included in Stories Beyond Borders along with local grassroots organization Apoyo, and the ACLU of North Carolina.

Andy Myers, senior campaign coordinator at Working Films, said the purpose of the event is four-fold: raising awareness of family separation happening in our own backyard, disputing stereotypical portrayals of undocumented immigrants, showcasing their resilience and supporting local organizations in catalyzing action. 

Working Films focuses on accountable filmmaking, which Myers says is non-extractive and centers around people telling stories from their own communities, not people parachuting into communities to tell their own version of the story.

Apoyo, one of the co-hosts of the event, will be present to help attendees figure out how they can take action to support undocumented immigrants in the area. Apoyo is an Orange County-based organization that supports and protects the undocumented community in the wake of ICE raids.

Rubi Franco, founder of Apoyo, said she hopes this event will increase allyship by motivating attendees to get involved in directly helping the folks that are going through what they just watched.

Apoyo has an ally training program to help people be more protective of the undocumented community in the presence of ICE, and Franco said many who come in say they’ve been allies for years, but weren't aware of all of the obstacles immigrants face until they were trained.

It’s important to realize undocumented people face so many struggles beyond just ICE, like the wage gap, abusive landlords and people who threaten to have them deported on a daily basis, Franco said.

Apoyo takes a “rapid response” approach, responding to several requests every week from members of the undocumented community, spanning from increasing small neighborhoods’ capability to respond to ICE presence, to taking people to the grocery store who prefer not to drive during the daytime. They also have more ongoing projects, like working with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to change policies around how undocumented people are treated after arrest.

Myers said "Stories Beyond Borders" is really about showing the diversity of undocumented people’s stories and helping activists with other organizations see how immigration justice is a part of their story.

Short films are an especially useful tool for activism, said Myers.

“Storytelling has transformative properties,” Myers said. “It instills empathy, but what is empathy without action? Short films allow enough time for discussion, and that’s the most important part of the event, what happens when the lights turn on.”

arts@dailytarheel.com

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