On April 21, the Wesleyan Refugee Project (WRP) hosted a speaker panel in Memorial Chapel about refugee resettlement. WRP is a student-led group dedicated to volunteering, advocating, fundraising, and raising awareness of current refugee crises. The team works with a number of international and local nonprofit organizations, assisting in areas such as tutoring, legal aid, and refugee resettlement.
Angie Smith, a photographer based in Los Angeles, Calif. and the founder of Stronger Shines the Light Inside (SSTLI), delivered the keynote address. SSTLI traces processes of refugee resettlement though a series of photographs and interviews with the refugee community in Boise, Idaho. Smith spoke about the inception, development and execution of SSTLI, refugee resettlement in the U.S., using photography to tell impactful stories, and applying skills from a liberal arts college in the real world to create new initiatives promoting social justice and change. During her presentation she shared a series of photographs from the project that have been featured in numerous publications online and in print including National Geographic, WIRED, The New Republic, and The New York Times Magazine. She also read excerpts from interviews that accompanied the photographs.
In addition, brothers Maher Mahmood and Mahmood Mahmood spoke about their experiences with resettlement in Connecticut. Both described their journey from Iraq to Connecticut and the role of photography in sharing stories.
The panel closed with representatives from two organizations WRP sends volunteers to weekly: Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services (IRIS) in New Haven, Conn. and the Middletown Refugee Resettlement Coalition (MRRC). Representatives from both organizations spoke about local resettlement efforts and ways communities can get involved.
The event was organized by WRP members Caroline Kravitz ’19, Libby Salzman-Fiske ’19 and Casey Smith ’17. Co-sponsors for the event included Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts, the Wesleyan Green Fund, American Studies Department, College of the Environment, the Allbritton Center and College of Social Studies.
“This event was special because it raised the voices of individuals involved in the many different processes of resettlement: refugees, resettlement agencies, local actors and activists,” Kravitz said. “We were also thrilled to have attendees from all over Connecticut at the event to extend conversations beyond the Wesleyan campus and into the greater Connecticut community.”
The panel presentation was followed by a reception in the Daniel Family Commons.
The SSTLI exhibit will be displayed on the Center for the Arts’ green until May 5.
Photos of the panel presentation are below: (Photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)