When we move from one place to another, we take with us our habits, food, and culture. Our lifestyle influences the new environment and people that we encounter. There will be conflicts between the different cultures, but immigrants have been able to resist oppression and discrimination of their culture and prevent it from dying by using various methods to keep it alive.
On September 12, 2015, the Tamejavi fellows presented the Grand Finale of the Tamejavi Culture and Art Series, focusing on the human side of migration. Fellows and our team members used music, food, and poetry to tell the journeys of migration from our homeland to the United States. Musicians from the Punjabi community in Livingston, Igbo community and the Salvadoran community in Fresno, performed together on the same stage. This was an example of how beautiful our culture is when we come together. Despite the fact that our native languages are different, the music we play speaks a universal language to our ears.
We also shared our traditional food with the community that came out to celebrate with us. We told the stories behind the Food from the cultures of India, Cambodia, Zapoteco and Hmong. We celebrated the way food has been essential in preserving our culture. The story of food is a story of migration. Food products get import from one country to another, crossing borders and oceans in order to create a diversity of dishes. Recipes get passed down from parents to children just like how our stories of immigrants seeking new opportunities and refugees seeking asylum, especially to children who did not experience the mobility and diaspora first hand.
At The Plaza main stage, story tellers and poets brought us the narratives of the humans who struggled in a new land and the conflicts we encountered. The Zapoteco story told us about those who left their homes to the United States and the friends, families, land and crops left behind, that define who they are and what their culture is. The El Salvadoran poets spoke of the civil war that killed their people, and forced thousands to leave their country to seek refuge elsewhere. They, too, have to leave their friends, families, and the many things that define their culture. The Cambodian story told us about the war in Southeast Asia that resulted in the genocide and massacre of thousands of people.
Then we have children of these immigrants and refugees. These children growing up in the United States living in two culture: the culture of their parents’ homeland and the culture of their parents’ new home. Sometimes we seek how different we are from each other with something as simple as realizing that one’s culture do not have a bread. How do we remove the shame that we feel about our history or the shame about how different our culture is from the mainstream culture(s)? We acknowledge and celebrate our differences. We embrace our differences and we learn to appreciate what we have as we learn to appreciate and celebrate what other communities and cultures have to share with us.