The Walls Event

On Thursday October 4th, Guilford College and the surrounding community listened while over 50 guitars conversed with one another. “The Walls” was composed of three parts: four solo pieces by William Kanengiser, a lecture series by Guilford College professors, and five pieces by a guitar orchestra. The evening began with a piece reminiscent of the rhythm of the Spanish Flamenco dance tune. Appropriate to the context in which the song would normally be heard, William’s fingers danced along the neck of his guitar, building slow crescendos and culminating with upbeat fortes. He opened the piece “Sevillana” by saying that anybody can play its intro: a simple strum on open guitar strings. This theme of openness and accessibility, of acceptance and ample opportunity, echoed not just in the cords played in this piece, but throughout the rest of the evening too.

Recognized as one of America’s most accomplished classical guitarists, William Kanengiser sits on the Board of Trustees for the Guitar Foundation of America. He is one of the founding members of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ), playing everything from jazz to classical on an international stage. In 2005, Mr. Kanengiser and LAGQ won a Grammy award for Best Classical Crossover album.

The second half of the program featured four guest speakers, each providing information about a different wall and its unique history. These introductions were made by Dr. Zhihong Chen, Dr. Heather Hayton, Dr. Dave Limburg, and Dr. Diya Abdo on the Chinese Wall, Hadrian’s Wall, the Berlin Wall, and the West Bank Wall respectively. Although walls are typically associated with isolation, these speakers beautifully and eloquently spoke of the ways these walls act as forces of unification, resilience, and exchange.

The last portion of the program consisted of guitarists of all ages from different parts of the triad. Conducted by Dr. Kami Rowan and produced by Sergio Assad, this performance was prolific. The orchestra’s emotive facial expressions and sure fingers sung the tale of the immigrant experience. Sometimes inspiring pain, inciting triumph, evoking fear, and igniting awe, the five pieces took the listener on a historical and cultural journey through centuries.

All proceeds of the U.S. premiere of “The Walls” went to Every Campus a Refuge. These donations will help settle another family on Guilford’s campus during the month of October, adding to the 42 refugees previously hosted by ECAR. A huge appreciation extends to all who attended this event; your support and presence were vital to this program’s success.

Monsters to Destroy Event

On August 23rd, Ben Tumin came to Guilford College to present his talk “Monsters to Destroy” (M2D). Tumin is a filmmaker and comedian from New York combining humor, wit, facts, and storytelling to counter the narrative that refugees are a danger to national security. Tumin has a B.A. in History from Pomona College and has worked with various U.S. and international organizations to better understand the lives and experiences of refugees. Of German Jewish descent, Tumin wove together his own stories with the stories of five Syrian refugees portrayed through amusing interview clips. By doing so, Tumin revealed the connections he drew between the violence that his family endured and the incessant violence that people with the status of refugees endure throughout their lives.

He began with a question: Do refugees threaten national security? Most people who ask this question assume that refugees are inherently dangerous and violent, feeding into the narrative of refugees as potential terrorists. Throughout his presentation, Tumin avidly answers this question with a “no.” He reveals that of the 3,252,493 resettled refugees entering the United States from 1975 until 2015 20 were “terrorists.” Of those 20, 3 of them killed a total of 3 people. As an alternate statistic, in that same exact time period, 16 cows had rebelled against their owners killing 16 people total, meaning that it is statistically more likely to be killed by a homicidal cow than to be killed by a refugee in America.

Not only do refugees not threaten national security, they help boost the economy. In a study released by the White House in 2017, refugees were proven to provide a positive net fiscal impact of 63 billion dollars. Net fiscal impact also takes into account the impact on wages, directly refuting the notion that refugees are stealing American jobs and, in fact, help produce a middle-class job force as many refugees are forced to take jobs in lower skilled labor. Statistically it could be argued that refugees strengthen national security because the more money a country has, the more money is invested in defense.

The second question that Tumin addresses—because it typically arises when talking about refugees—follows: Why didn’t they [refugees] stay and fight? For this Tumin begins talking about his family and how two SS soldiers knocked on his grandparent’s door earlier in the day on Kristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”) and told them to report to the nearest police station so they could be sent to a concentration camp. Instead of reporting, Tumin’s grandfather convinced some parts of his family to flee and live; however, some of them stayed. All of his family members who stayed were killed in the Holocaust. This same narrative can apply to some of the Syrian refugees who think it wiser to leave and preserve their heritage than to die in a state that gave them the options of joining ISIS, the Syrian military, or be put in a prison and tortured. So the question “Why didn’t they stay and fight” which frames refugees as cowardly and lazy is almost equivalent to asking a Jew during the Holocaust “Why didn’t they want to be sent to a concentration camp?”

Narratives that fuel the War on Terror and narratives that vilify and deny help to refugees can in some ways be synonymous. In the same way that the reason 61% of Americans in 1939 wanted to refuse entry to Jews was the threat they would be Nazi spies. Indeed, it doesn’t become surprising that of 100,000 Jewish citizens that resettled to the United States during WWII, one was a confirmed Nazi spy. So clearly it is not facts that become the basis of public opinion, but the narratives created and distributed to the American people that denied aid to Jews in the Holocaust and continue to deny aid to refugees all over the world whose goal is the not-so-simple one of survival. The monstrous act of refusing to take refugees only feeds the narrative of ISIS that there exists a war between ISIS and America. As Tumin boldly asserts, through refusal and intolerance we become the “monsters we aim to destroy.” Indeed, our best defense against terrorism is remembering our humanity and practicing compassion, for these principles do not exist in the mantra of monsters.

Photo Credit: Fernando Jimenez

ECAR Student Experiences at the UN

Lakshmi Premysler:

It was an honor to represent Guilford College and the ECAR minor at a United Nations conference this summer. The conference hall was filled with experts, diplomats and passionate students who are all striving to include refugees in their communities. The projects that were presented at the UN demonstrated that I have much more to learn about refugees. The panel discussions, the talks and the presentations opened my mind to different ways to welcome refugees into our community. The project that resonated with me the most        was the project of the University of Pennsylvania to encourage universities to hire refugees. I look forward to seeing what Guilford will do for the refugees in Greensboro.
Kathleen Herbst:
I was honored to be able to speak about the Every Campus a Refuge minor at the UN, as well as for the opportunity to hear about other schools’ initiatives. At a networking lunch, we were able to share the story and mission of ECAR, hopefully planting the seed for the organization to continue to grow at these institutions already working hard in various ways to alleviate refugee issues.
Amelia Wellman:

One of my favorite parts of the UN Summit was being able to meet students from other universities and organizations and learning about how they run their organizations as well as how we can incorportate some of those ideas into ECAR. It was also incredibly humbling to be at the United Nations and hear such inspiring panels with distinguished speakers such as Maher Nasser, Daniël Prins, and Jonathan Allen. Being able to hear them speak also allowed me to see that working on an international level is not only possible but realistic.

Kathleen Herbst signing the UN Together Campaign Summit Charter on behalf of Guilford College.

At the Pre-Summit Invitational.

ECAR Shines at U.N. Together Campaign Summit

On January 9th, 2018 Every Campus A Refuge entered the world stage. The United Nations hosted a Together Campaign Summit in New York City to showcase different initiatives around the globe that provide a wide range of support to refugees and migrants. Guilford was among ten colleges and universities that were invited to attend the Summit.

Krista Clark, professor at Guilford College who also teaches in the ECAR minor, participated in the Summit. She says that “the environment was surreal. So many international voices and faces. I have always wanted to visit the UN in NYC and so I really just stood outside the main building and then inside the main building in awe.” The UN is a place for international conversation and collaboration — a place where solutions go to marinade in minds from around the world so as to look at an old problem with new eyes.

Another participant, ECAR program coordinator Hali Rose Kohls says, “Being around students, faculty and staff from universities all over the world who provided services to refugees was thrilling and inspiring. This work can be very draining at times, but I came out of the summit feeling rejuvenated and excited to get back to creating a refuge on our campus.” Kohls says that ECAR was one of the few organizations there that “offered a tangible spectrum of resources to offer to newcomers to Greensboro.”

Jonathan Maj, secretary of ECAR and digital media specialist, remembers ECAR standing out from the crowd. During Diya’s keynote, Maj recalls how “She also discussed how college campuses can do more than just spread knowledge by using the ECAR model as a means of experiential learning.” This aspect of experiential learning makes the program more adept at handling the complex problems that refugees face upon arrival. ECAR learns by doing, letting the talk in the classroom transmit into social impact. The ECAR minor shows rather than tells the dedication that Guilford College has to alleviating problems of refugees to Greensboro.

Clark also mentions Diya’s keynote saying, “I truly love hearing Diya speak about ECAR and why this program was so important to her in fulfilling the hopes and dreams of her lived experience.  She speaks with such eloquence and compassion.” In her speech, Diya spoke about the idea of radical hospitality. Krista Craven, ECAR delegate and Guilford professor, details the feeling of excitement upon seeing “that there were universities around the world committed to addressing the refugee crisis and engage in the idea of radical hospitality.”

New York City presented an entirely different set of challenges to Summit attendees. Maj walked “16 miles in basically 1 day around the city just so I could see as much of midtown in between obligations at the UN.”  This is no small task when taking into account inclement weather at the time of the Summit. On the other hand, Clark took a different approach and learned how to use Lyft saying “I loved learning something new about navigating a city.”

In the last moments of their trip, ECAR delegates had the opportunity to meet delegates of the Quaker UN. “I had no idea that Quakers had their own entity within the United Nations,” Kohls states, “connecting with other Quakers around the world to help foster peace and good relations. It was really neat to learn about what they do.”

The work of Dr. Abdo and dedicated ECAR supporters embodies true devotion to solving the refugee crisis. Craven is not alone when she says it is “great to see ECAR get the international recognition that it deserves.”

ECAR Recital and Reception

In celebration of Every Campus a Refuge, supporters, friends, and participants gathered at Guilford College to hear a beautiful selection of music and marvel in the artwork of Leila Abdelrazaq and Ali Khasrachi. The evening started with a performance from the Triad Tapestry Children’s Chorus. Led by choir director Melissa Burris, the Chorus sang five songs about hope, community, and diversity. The entire room joined in song at the last selection, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” leaving smiling faces and dancing children all around.

The next awe-inspiring performance came from mezzo soprano Sarah Love Taylor and pianist Radha Upton. Their first selection was in direct response to one of the first recent immigration bans. Most of their selections had a political undertone and spoke to the challenges and triumphs of the immigrant and refugee experience. They chose to perform a song cycle using quotes from people that came through Ellis Island. This cycle included a prologue, a six-part journey, and an epilogue that was musically sublime with some stories leaving the audience laughing and some with gloom.

After these incredible performances, friends were asked to take a look at the artwork of Ali Khasrachi, a refugee hosed by ECAR. His works are still on display in the Hege library next to photographs from the Red Sand Project.

The evening was filled with activism and resistance, urging people to become part of the movement to celebrate a beauty that only comes when cultures collide and differences are uplifted.

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Alana Harrelson

ECAR Volunteer Attends The Washington Center Seminar

In fall of 2017, Guilford College won The Washington Center’s 2017 Higher Education Civic Engagement Award for its Every Campus A Refuge program. Part of the award was a scholarship for one student from Guilford College to attend The Washington Center’s Inside Washington Academic Seminar on Media, Politics, and Advocacy. The Seminar lasted from January 2nd until January 14th, exposing attendees to Washington, D.C. culture, a number of political vantage points, and local nonprofits doing work aligning with ECAR’s mission.

The Guilford College student nominated and then later selected for this honor was Salah Sayess ’18.

Salah is double majoring in Health Science and Exercise Science. Initially, Salah came to Guilford largely because of the Golf program. As his college years went on, he started thinking about joining a program that better aligned with his values. So Salah quit golf and found ECAR to take its place.

Salah says, “ECAR was the perfect opportunity for me.” He started helping out with tutoring which quickly branched out into helping out with job applications, filling out tax forms, helping kids get registered for school, assisting people with English, and just being their friend.

When Salah arrived at The Washington Center he said it was “definitely not an experience that was in my comfort zone.” Most people there were seasoned political science majors looking to get more entrenched in the field, but Salah was looking for something else. He was looking for genuine politicians that honored their title and were devoted to solving problems in their community.

Salah heard from various different speakers on different sides on the spectrum. He heard from Hillary Clinton, Ben Carson, CSPAN executives, and many more local leaders in the nonprofit world. One of his favorite moments was when Congressman Joe Kennedy III talked to his group asking them questions about what they thought, gathered their opinions, and did very little talking. He also had the opportunity to meet the first Congresswoman from Vietnam, Stephanie Murphy and found her inspirational.

Salah “dreams to help out people in need, be that refugees, immigrants, or people experiencing homelessness,” he wants to be part of a greater mission for good. No matter the cause, Salah and other people involved in ECAR know that change is slow but absolutely necessary to the progression of society.

Leila Abdelrazaq Visits Guilford

Tuesday, November 14th Guilford welcomed Palestinian graphic novelist Leila Abdelrazaq with a high turnout and engaging questions after her presentation about the complexities of being part of the Palestine diaspora. Leila spoke about the themes she includes in her work, such as refugee communities as sites of both life and resistance, the right of return, and excluding the oppressor’s voice when creating her own narrative and graphics. Her presentation was filled with personal stories and was coupled with an insightful glance into how systems of oppression are connected, but are not the sole characteristic of refugees. Each have their own stories, history, and agency separate from the systems they exist within and navigate on a daily basis.

Much thanks goes out to Leila for her powerhouse presentation and breath of knowledge about producing art in various forms! ECAR is grateful for everyone who helped organize this event and for attendees from all over!

      

Photo Credit: Fernando Jimenez

On Thursday, October 5th,  ECAR hosted Dr. Linda Rabben from the University of Maryland.  During her presentation, Dr. Rabben discussed sanctuary and asylum for refugees.  It was great to see so many ECAR volunteers and Guilford College students present at this very timely talk!  ECAR wants to thank Dr. Linda Rabben for coming to Guilford and taking the time to talk about this important issue!

By: Nicole Moore

Higher Education Civic Engagement Award given to Guilford College and Every Campus a Refuge

So excited to announce that Every Campus A Refuge and Guilford College have been honored with The Washington Center’s 2017 Higher Education Civic Engagement Award.

Many thanks to the amazing people who support ECAR and make it possible, and especially to Program Coordinators Walid Musarsaa and Hali Rose Kohls and the inspiring ECAR volunteers.

Please read more about the Washington Center and this prestigious award here and here

Recital for ECAR

Last night ECAR hosted a recital in the Carnegie Room in the Hege Library. The program consisted of songs which spoke about the trials of refugees and immigrants.  Sarah Taylor who is an opera singer and Radha Upton who accompanied Sarah on the piano made the event a great success!  ECAR wants to thank Sarah and Radha for a taking the time to produce a wonderful performance!