If These Walls Could Talk
If These Walls Could Talk was inspired by concerns related to recent polarized conversations in the media about refugees. The project is a collaboration between the students in the Community Journalism class at the Rochester Institute of Technology. It is founded on a deep concern and desire for dialog around inclusion, and an interest in building bridges to understand different points of view on the idea of refugees and home. We worked to create a series of questions designed to open a conversation, rather than shut each other down. Questions like “What are you afraid of?” and “What does home mean to you?” are open ended and we hope they will allow for people with different points of view to understand and possibly connect with each other. Rochester is a sanctuary city and home to the third largest refugee population in New York State. Our project aims to include the voices and portraits all kinds of people from the community including refugees and their children.
Rochester and Refugees
Rochester, N.Y., has become a hub for refugees seeking asylum and a new home from various conflicts around the world. While less than one percent of the global refugee population are deemed strong candidates for resettlement in the U.S., in Rochester alone just over 1,000 refugees settled in 2016. Organizations, such as Rochester Resettlement Services, Catholic Family Services, and Saint’s Place, aid refugees during their allotted resettlement time.
Currently, the largest population of refugees in Rochester are the Bhutanese, with about 7,000 and 8,000 living in Rochester.
While many of these refugees live in communities of people from the same country of origin, it is possible for people to live in Rochester and never come in contact, or be aware that they are interacting with, a refugee.
The Community Journalism class approached this project, having no prompt or prior idea, with the idea of starting a conversation between groups of people who may not appear to have anything in common. We decided to focus on the large refugee population in Rochester, N.Y. to create a paradox between the conversations occurring in Rochester and the greater U.S. The idea for the work emerged from observations on the rise of a very narrow space to exchange views about anger, fear and anxieties in the current discussion surrounding refugees. We wanted to find a new way to move beneath the polarizing rhetoric and also look beyond the stereotypes of the realities of refugees in Rochester.
The contributors of the project focused on the greater Rochester community to conduct research and find individuals varying in opinion, background, race, gender, and occupation in order best represent all sentiments in the area.
By working as a production team, with each student having their own and team responsibilities, the contributors were able to find subjects, conduct interviews, edit, and produce a complete product (this website).
Project Contributors: Boris Shirman, Bridget Fetsko, Daniel Vasta, Dominique Hessert, Kaitlyn Dolan, Michael Owens, and Paula Ospina.
Professor: Meredith Davenport