Recently, a first-of-its-kind multimedia storytelling project designed to archive and share immigrant stories exited the beta phase and went fully live. To celebrate the occasion, a series of launch events were hosted in New York, which kicked off Tuesday, April 22 at Ellis Island.
Immigrant Nation (iNation), which was piloted by Welcoming Long Island, was designed to help Americans—whether you are a recent immigrant to the U.S. or your family came to this country many generations ago—share their unique experiences, aspirations and stories.
As one of two Welcoming America affiliates to pilot the program, Welcoming Long Island was given a special invitation to attend the kickoff event at Ellis Island.
I attended along with Long Island Wins’ Laura Lemus, and together we traveled by private ferry to Ellis Island. This was actually my first time seeing the Statue of Liberty up close. I appreciated the moment, admiring how this great monument has always represented liberty and freedom to immigrants throughout U.S history, and continues to represent opportunity to people all over the world.
When we arrived at Ellis Island, a very friendly member of the Ellis Island staff greeted us and led us to the museum. Inside the museum, the iNation team had their information station setup, along with two activities to partake in. The first activity asked individuals to fill out a postcard answering a question related to your own immigration story. Their picture was then snapped and placed within a collection of stories.
At the second station, an artist read the postcards and began drawing an aspect of each person’s story on a canvas. It was incredibly fun watching my story come to life before my very eyes.
Laura and I then toured the Ellis Island museum. Interactive exhibits illustrated the push-pull factors of migration across generations, the histories of various migrant groups, and the successes and challenges each group faced. We noted the uncanny similarities between these groups and the immigrant waves of today, searching for the opportunity to realize the American Dream.
The iNation team screened two mini op-docs—The Caretaker and The Mayor—for a packed house at the Ellis Island Theater.
After lunch, we regrouped for an outdoors storytelling session. Through my welcoming work, I’ve told my parents’ immigrant stories many times in various settings, but it was an amazing feeling telling it with the Statue of Liberty in the background. We ended the day with a ride back on the ferry to NYC, reflecting on our amazing day at Ellis Island.
Welcoming Long Island would like to thank Theo Rigby and Kate McLean, who created iNation as a way of connecting Americans through immigrant stories, and as tool for organizations like Long Island Wins and Welcoming Long Island to use.
Be sure to visit the Immigrant Nation platform on Long Island Wins’ website to see how you are connected to other Long Islanders through their immigrant stories! How similar is your family’s journey to others who have come here earlier or more recently? In what ways are they different? Visit now and find out!