In the summer of 2015, the world was focused on Idomeni - a small village on the Greek-Macedonian border, where thousands of new refugees were finding themselves trapped every day. But the story of Idomeni as a crossing point started years before. Vasilis Tsartstanis, a resident of a neighboring village, was the first to begin taking photographs, videos and written testimonies of the perilous journeys of those he saw traveling north. Years later, his work offers unique insight into the history of this migratory route and the struggles of those who have taken it.
This summer, he combined his materials with the work of other photographers, filmmakers and journalists working at critical crossing points to create an exhibition. Beginning in Greece’s famed Bensousan Han, the exposition will be traveling around Europe for the next six months.
I’m proud to have my work on display alongside his and honored to represent the critical Spanish-Moroccan borders found in Ceuta and Melilla. I believe these borders - the only European borders found on the African continent - are the frontlines of a little seen battle against Africa’s rapidly expanding population of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. This exposition will help bring their stories to light.
More images from the next stops on our expo trail (Italy, Spain, France, Germany, UK) coming soon...!
What happens when 20 American college students and
10 college-aged migrants and refugees living across 4 continents
spend 1 semester working together
to create solutions to our global migration crisis?
THEY EXCEED ALL EXPECTATIONS.
"For many college students, the growing global migrant and refugee crisis may seem a tragic but distant reality.
But for 20 Emory students, the challenges faced by our world’s displaced took on real-life dimensions this semester through an anthropology seminar that had them working together with migrants and refugees from across four continents.
"Anthropology 385: The Migrant and Refugee Crisis" created a first-person understanding by requiring students to work with community partners, understand their lives and needs, and propose sustainable solutions to address their biggest barriers to success.
The course was designed and taught by Dr. Isabella Alexander, a cultural anthropologist and Assistant Visiting Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Emory University. Her research focuses on the socio-political realities of transitional migration in some of our world’s most critical border regions, and her connections to displaced populations in Atlanta and around the world made community partnerships with her students possible..."
Anna, Kavelle & Maryajose (Colombia - US)
A platform for DACA recipients to share their stories, raising public awareness about our country’s current immigration policies and the contributions undocumented migrants make to our communities.
Alison, Neehal & Eva (Syria - Lebanon)
An online database providing refugees (in their native languages) with health literacy and info on low- and no-cost clinics, medication and healthcare resources in their communities.
LAWYERS WITHOUT BORDERS
Gordon, Kevin, Shoba & Rafael (Mexico - US)
A legal aid program connecting undocumented migrants in the U.S. with law students seeking to learn more about immigration law and local firms seeking to donate pro-bono hours. (Specializations: Labor abuse, citizenship, business incorporation)
MORE THAN A MIGRANT
Adama, Mialovena, Mamadou (Guinea - France) & Bah (Sierre Leone - Morocco)
A platform for African migrants to share their stories and report abuses, raising public awareness about our world’s largest migrant population and providing human rights advocates with critical info on the types, locations and frequencies of abuse on a global scale.
GENERATIONS OF DIVIDE
Abbe, Sarah & Saeed (Syria - Brazil)
An educational program to fight racism against refugees in the largest refugee-receiving country through videos on Syria and Lebanon’s unique history, and interactive classroom experiences led by local college students in high schools around the country.
Lilla, Trishanne & Maryajose (Colombia - US)
An app providing undocumented high school students in the U.S. with info on colleges and universities open to them, and connecting them to low- and no-cost application resources in their communities.
Alina, Peter & Mona (Syria - Lebanon)
An online marketplace for migrant and refugee artists to sell their work across borders, and connect with other artists in their new communities on collaborative art projects.
THE MIGRANT ACTION MOVEMENT
Jazmin, Natalia & Rafael (Mexico - US)
An anonymous platform for migrants to report abuses, providing organizations and individuals fighting for migrants’ rights with critical info on the types, locations and frequencies of abuse in the U.S.
THE RESETTLEMENT PATHWAY
Yasmeen & Asalah (Syria - Italy)
A step-by-step program providing refugees with the financial literacy education and resources needed to manage their transition to independence over their first twelve months in a new country.
FRIENDSHIP BEYOND BORDERS
Konya, Mikaila, Sophia, Alyssa & Khatera (Afghanistan - US)
A peer mentorship program connecting refugee and non-refugee girls to support one another and raise cultural understanding throughout their high school journeys.
Almost every day, I receive messages from the ‘brotherhoods’ - bands of migrants hiding out in the forests surrounding the two Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco’s northern mountain region. The brotherhoods come together along lines of shared nationality. The youngest boys are usually 11 or 12 years old, and the chief of each group is one of the elders - a young man in his early to mid twenties. Most of the ‘brothers’ have traveled thousands of miles on their own, fleeing war or poverty in their home countries and dreaming of a better life just past the Morocco-Spain border. When they’re fortunate enough to have a few old blankets or plastic tarps to share between them, they couple these supplies with tree limbs and ‘rope’ made by tearing apart old t-shirts to construct makeshift tents. Piling into each tent, 10 or 12 brothers will sleep side by side on the ground, protecting themselves from the cold winds and rains that settle over the mountains during this time of the year. These are the happiest messages that I receive - messages like this one from the Guinean chief, which included photos of his brothers proudly building a safe place that they could call home.
#TheBurning #Brotherhood #UntoldStories #MigrantCrisis #Africa
And these are the saddest messages that I receive - messages like this one from the same Guinean chief, which this time included photos of the makeshift tents that his brothers had so proudly built just days before now burned to the ground by last night’s police raid on their forest home.
#TheBurning #Brotherhood #UntoldStories #MigrantCrisis #Africa #PoliceBrutality #BLM
First and most importantly, to all of you adding your voices to the #MeToo movement, I hear you, I believe you, and I thank you for bravely sharing your story with the world. Your story is meaningful, not because it's one of thousands of that have been released today, but because it's yours. Our words are powerful not in their numbers, but in their singularity. One person who you know was sexually harassed or assaulted. And whether it was your daughter, your mother, your neighbor, your colleague, or a complete stranger, that is one person too many.
Secondly, I want to shine a light on the fact that calling forth records of harassment and assault - numbering them in our social media newsfeeds one by one - assumes a truth that is deeply troubling to me. It assumes that not EVERY woman you know has at some point in her life been sexually harassed. It assumes that not EVERY woman you know is harassed with such regularity that it defines how we move through our work lives, our social lives, and our public lives. It assumes that sexual harassment and assault against women are not ubiquitous around the world.
#MeToo. But I think that should be assumed.
Step one: Let's recognize the scope of this problem.
Step two: Let's ask ourselves, what are we going to do about it?
In the 65 million who are displaced, there is the story of one. In the thousands who have already lost their lives in attempted crossings this year, there is still the story of one.
One whose mother holds tight the shoes he wore when he was small and who all through the night wailed to any god who would listen. Begging for the months passed to be washed away, for the miles walked to be reversed, for her son to be standing beside her again. She wails still, feeling the weight of her mourning heavy on her - the full weight of mourning a death the world is silent to. Does no one know she lost her son last night? Does no one cry? Does no one remember the way he used to tuck his shoelaces into those little shoes because he was too stubborn, too fast, too eager to run into the world to learn how to tie? She remembers how he clung to her as a child, how he strayed from her as a boy, she remembers how he hugged her tight that last morning before he left - too stubborn, too fast, too hopeful about what the world was holding for him.
In the 65 million, there is still the story of one. One whose life is over before 15, whose feet carried him 3,000 miles towards the promise of a future, whose hands lifted him up and down again into a wall of wooden batons. In the masses, may we remember the one.
You are seen. Your story is heard. Your life is remembered, and my brother, you will be missed.
I'm honored to be speaking at the Center for Civil and Human Rights for #worldrefugeeday... If you're in Atlanta, please come out and show your support!
"Most foundational to our international human rights law is the belief that all citizens of the world should be guaranteed the right to seek refuge in other countries when driven out of their own by war or poverty."
For some of my friends, a donation of $30 might not seem significant. It might be hard to imagine how $30 could change a life. For some of you, a donation of $30 might not even seem worth the effort.
But for just a moment, imagine the total amount your family spends in a month - maybe it's hundreds, maybe it's thousands. Imagine your community was just destroyed by the worst natural disaster ever witnessed in your lifetime. Tens of thousands have been forced out onto the streets, hungry, many still searching for loved ones in the rubble. Now imagine, your son or brother or father or husband sends you all that you'll need to survive this month and start rebuilding the place you called home. He tells you this donation came from someone who he's never met. Someone who lives oceans away. Someone who cared enough to change your life forever.
Isn't this how we start to restore our faith in the human potential for good? One person at a time. Caring about one person at a time.
For one more week, every dollar donated to THE BURNING at this link will go directly to those affected by the devastating mudslide in Sierra Leone.
There are a lot of crises demanding our support right now, and I know Sierra Leone’s mudslide hasn’t been making front page news. But last week, the capital city was destroyed by a massive mudslide that left 500 dead and 600 still missing. More than 20,000 lost their homes and their food supplies for the year. While it's easy to feel powerless in the face of a crisis like this, I know some of you are seeking ways to channel emotion into action in these difficult times.
I want to offer you the chance to change a life this week.
There's a hidden forest camp in northern Morocco that's home to thousands of Sierra Leoneans and other West Africans - thousands of young men and boys who are prepared to risk it all in the hopes of helping those they left behind. But like many of us, they're feeling powerless. Ibrahima, 16, tells me, “It’s an even greater tragedy to have nothing to send home when our families need it the most. All I can do is look at this photograph of my mother standing over the place where our house was.” Jalloh, 14, breaks down as he tells me about his two sisters who are still missing and his father's tireless efforts to find them. "Even if they're dead, my family wants to give them a proper burial."
Next week, I’m going to help each of the boys from Freetown send a donation home to their families. Between now and then - for the next seven days - every dollar donated to THE BURNING at this link will go directly to these boys and their families.
The average monthly income for a family in Sierra Leone is $30. The average family lives on less than $1 a day. How much are you going to spend today? How much could you spare?
Your donation can change a life.
"Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development" - Kofi Annan
Heard about DACA in the news? Now hear about it from your community. Watch this weeks video posts here!
This week, I was thrilled to officially join the Speaker Series at Atlanta's most innovative high school - TNS - and speak to the newest generation of change-makers about how they can be the change they want to see in the world.
The topic? COMMUNITY.
"The community I feel most a part of is one you might not expect when first looking at me.
It's a hidden community - hidden in the forests that cover the mountains around a town called Zoutia.
It's a changing community. Depending on the time of the year, it's as small as 10,000 or as large as many tens of thousands.
It's a young community. In fact, it's made up of young people who are just your age. The youngest is usually 11 or 12 years old and the 'elders' are 24 or 25, but the majority of them are teenagers just like you.
It's a male community, with around 90% of the population being boys and young men.
It's a diverse community - comprised of individuals from across the African continent. Most are coming from countries in Western and Central Africa - countries like Sierra Leone, the Congo, and Cote D'Ivoire - and they live together in 'brotherhoods' that are divided along lines of nationality and common language.
This community is home to those who have lost their parents to war or poverty and who, as the eldest in their families, were expected to set out in search of a better life. It's their responsibility to provide for their younger siblings and their own communities offered them no way to do that, so they journeyed north, often traveling thousands of miles on their own until they reach their final border crossing.
Now, who can tell me where this community is?"