Immigration and Storytelling: Top 3 Takeaways from this Storytelling Event by Ripple Effect Artists
At Ripple Effect Artists, we tell stories. We use the power of storytelling to highlight societal issues that need attention. With an impressive track record of creating productions about important social evils such as climate change, racism, human trafficking, workers’ rights, LGBTQI rights, women’s rights, bullying and many more, I’m sure you can agree that we deserved a night of joy. So, we took it! We had a night of poetry, music, storytelling and heartwarming tales of immigration.
Here’s why these sorts of events are important:
The Power of Storytelling
Storytelling was one of the first forms of entertainment. In fact, that was how theatre began! Tracing its roots back to ancient Greece where theatre was born from celebrations in the name of the God Dionysus. These celebrations evolved into a playwriting competition where for three days, writers performed three plays on each consecutive day and a winner was picked at the end. This ritual gave rise to various theatrical practices which are followed today such as having multiple actors perform individual parts, stories with sequels, and many more. Storytelling is undoubtedly the best way to get a point across. Consider this, if you and I were catching up over a coffee and I told you about that sugar is bad for you so you should not never consume it. This is a rather broad statement and you might be tempted to try to contextualise it with me by saying that it has a different impact on different people, it is not the sugar itself but the quantities and various other reasonable arguments but instead of participating in that discussion I begin to spout facts about why sugar is bad for you. You can’t see this catch-up ending well, can you?
However, if I decided to tell you about a friend or relative who habitually consumed large quantities of sugar every day and ignored all medical advice when they were warned about undesirable consequences to their health, you would be more amenable to the discussion. This is exactly what storytelling does. It packages the problem in the form of a story with characters you can relate to, a problem that is understandable and a struggle to arrive at the solution that you can see yourself going through.
Immigrants are People
Most discussions around immigration and the “migrant problem” focus on the “othering” of immigrants. That is, they make immigrants and the very act of immigration sound like it is bad for the host country and society. The discussions often focus on the “value” immigrants from each country bring and people are essentially reduced down to their net worth. There are the right kind of immigrants and there are the wrong kinds. If people hail from a country that has the right standing in the global community and they are high earners, all is usually well. However, if people come from a country that is dealing with issues and they cannot afford lawyers and do not make enough to take three holidays a year, it is viewed as a problem. Whilst there is real economics and race issues here, there is however a real problem.
The Real problem is the blatant disregard for the fact that immigrants are people. They are people just like the rest of us. They have desires and ambitions and they care for their families. They suffer headaches, feel hungry, want to live a meaningful life and love their parents and children. Sounds suspiciously human doesn’t it? Well, it is! Whatever label we attach to people, we have to remember that at the end of the day we are all human. This what we all need to understand before we look into any statistics at all. This is what our event was all about, to highlight the fact that immigrant or not, we are all human.
Getting It Right
As I said before, we are a bunch of storytellers. We turn every issue into a story and introspect on what it means to tell that story. Then we package it as a play, movie or live theatre and ask you to introspect. We would love to give a solution to the problem but that is not our mission. Our mission is to inspire conversation and action, to get people involved in fixing problems they hear about and sometimes even complain about.
As such, we did not state a position on immigration on the night but we shared stories. We shared stories of people we know and people they know. We shared stories of love, loss, heartache and humanity. We shared stories of kindness and overcoming obstacles and at the end of it all, all we learnt was that whether an immigrant is legal or not, whether they did it “right” or “wrong”, everyone deserves a certain amount of dignity to be afforded to them. Yes, respect is earned but treating someone with resect is our responsibility. It is important to recognise the plethora of events that may have put someone in a situation where they are vulnerable. To exploit that vulnerability further, is not befitting in a society that calls itself civilised.
In conclusion, if you do not like the position on immigration your country or state is taking, get involved and make your voice heard. Make sure you say what matters to you. However, whichever side of the debate you sit on, just remember that neither side gives you the freedom to be disrespectful of someone who is making choices that you would not make.
A big thank you to Ina Chadwick for putting this event together.
Jessie Fahay for Ripple Effect Artists. Jessie is an actress, playwright and author who is heavily invested in bringing about societal change through the dramatic arts. After years of working in Educational Theatre, as a public speaker, actress, author, graduate student, and her work with Landmark Education and United Global Shift, she has developed an even stronger commitment to making a difference through her love of theatre and appreciation for theatre-education as a vehicle. Thus, Ripple Effect Artists was conceived. With a committed team of Board Members, Actors, Directors, and Theatre Lovers, Jessie has seen her wish of pushing audiences from apathy to action come together and hopes to continue inspiring change in generations to come.