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Willamette University’s The Conversation Project celebrates diversity through storytelling and music at The Immigrant Story Live

by Linda Lenhoff,

In celebration of Global Diversity Awareness Month, Willamette University’s The Conversation Project is bringing its second annual storytelling event, The Immigrant Story Live, to Hudson Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 10. The event, a collaboration with the Portland-based non-profit The Immigrant Story, celebrates the idea that storytelling and listening are vital for creating an equitable and inclusive community.

“The Conversation Project’s goals are to lift up individuals’ voices that aren’t often heard and to recognize the power of storytelling,” says Associate Professor of History Wendy Petersen-Boring, who runs the project with Professor of Politics, Policy, Law, and Ethics David Gutterman. “Stories create space to connect with each other across differences and see our common humanity,” she adds.

The project research associates, Mira Karthik BA’24, Kate West BA’26, and Sawyer Garrison BA’26, are organizing the event. “The Immigrant Story Live aims to celebrate the diversity that is in our communities that often goes unheard and unnoticed, and more specifically, to bring immigrant and refugee stories into public spaces to combat the historical erasure of those groups,” Karthik says. She adds that students will play a large role at the event, serving as emcees, stage managers, greeters, and facilitators.

The evening will kick off with a Peruvian musical performance featuring Martin Zarzar on guitar and percussion, Randy Porter on piano, and Mario Diaz on guitar. From 8 to 9:30 p.m., four storytellers from Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, and Afghanistan will share their stories about the challenging journeys that brought them to the United States.

The Conversation Project, a three-tier sequence of courses, prepares students to cultivate conversation across differences, teaching them “how to be recipients of stories, how to be able to look out into the world and see other people as bearers of complex ideas and identity, and how to create the conditions where they can share their own stories as well as connect with others,” Petersen-Boring says.

“We invite everyone at the beginning of the evening to be open and present and just listen and engage with the material, with the sounds, with everything that’s going on,” adds Karthik.

This free event runs from 7–9:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Learn more about the Immigrant Story Live.

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