As explored in the Block Museum 2019 exhibitions Caravans of Gold and The Leopard (Western Union Small Boats), nations around the world have long been shaped by migration. On February 28, 2019 the museum hosted a panel to examine urgent issues of migration taking place in the US, Chicago, and Evanston. Drawing upon a range of perspectives, the panel considered the ethics of witnessing, self-reliance and resilience, and responsibility in a time of refugee crisis. The fascinating discussion interrogated the legal, social, political, and human implications of our histories as nations of migrants.
Galya Ben-Arieh contextualized the US as a “nation of migrants,” and spoke to the range of paths by which people arrive (including religious persecution, political asylum, economic opportunity, etc). Ben-Arieh brings experience as an immigration attorney, organizer, and scholar, including founding and directing the Center for Forced Migration Studies at Northwestern (2011-18) and working currently on the development of the Refugee Knowledge Hub.
Seemi Choudry, in her role as Director of the Office of New Americans (ONA) for the City of Chicago’s Mayor’s Office, focused on what Chicago is like as a resettlement location—how the government and community provide different opportunities to immigrants, and how our structures and systems can challenge and serve.
Mirabel Womila (Wiryen), spoke from her own experience as a migrant, and also discussed the work of United African Organization (UAO), a coalition of African community-based organizations that promote social and economic justice, civic participation, and empowerment of African immigrants and refugees in Illinois.
Jajah Wu, Deputy Program Director of Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights discussed the recent family separation issues at the U.S. Mexico border and shed light on the situation of unaccompanied minors and families seeking asylum.
This program was co-presented by The Block Museum, the Northwestern Program of African Studies, and the Refugee Knowledge Hub, a community-based partnership providing leadership, knowledge, and support for refugees and asylees in our community.