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Free event at Sac State to amplify the voices of immigrants

An educator who grew up in India, Meghna Bhat, pictured at a previous event, is one of six people who will speak about their experiences at this year's event presented by the nonprofit group Capital Storytelling and Sac State's Dreamer Resource Center. (Sacramento State file/Ravin Pan)

As the child of traditional Mexican parents, Diana Medina has seen the world through a different lens than many of her American peers.

“Our cultural experiences color the way we look at things,” said Medina, whose parents emigrated from Mexico to the United States before she was born. Growing up in Southern California, “I was Mexican in our home, and American outside of it,” she said.

Ximena Ospina shares a story about her life as an immigrant during the 2021 Immigrant Stories event.

On Friday, Oct. 28, Ximena Ospina, pictured at a previous event, and five others will take the stage to talk about their journeys during the Immigrant Stories event at Sac State. (Sacramento State file/Ravin Pan)

On Friday, Oct. 28, Medina and five others will take the stage at Sacramento State to share personal stories about the lives of immigrants.

The public is invited to the free event, scheduled for 6-8 p.m. in the University Union’s Hinde Auditorium.

“Immigrant Stories” is a presentation of the nonprofit group Capital Storytelling, launched in 2018 by Lisa Cantrell, a Sac State associate professor of Child and Adolescent Development, and the Dreamer Resource Center, which serves undocumented students and their families.

Cantrell said research has demonstrated that listening to personal storytelling can lead people to develop more positive perceptions of refugees, transgender people, homeless individuals, and others. Friday’s event will help storytellers process their immigrant experiences, offering the audience opportunities to better understand their backgrounds and interactions, she said.

“For the storyteller, it gives meaning to our experiences and helps us understand our lives,” Cantrell said. “For listeners, the stories create empathy. You see the person as an individual, not as a stereotype. You care about them.”

Sac State graduate student Ximena Ospina is among the Oct. 28 storytellers.

Ospina was 7 when her family immigrated to California from Colombia through the political asylum process. Although some of her relatives followed them to the U.S., she missed her home country and feared becoming disconnected from her Colombian identity.

Stories shared among her family members kept her grounded.

“Listening to stories of the motherland kept me fueled and connected to home,” she said, even though she did not return to Colombia for many years.

“All of us are just trying to find home.”

Cantrell said she wants to use storytelling events to help foster compassion and understanding in Sacramento and beyond.

“The United States is so polarized right now,” she said. “I think storytelling can fix a lot of that.”

Meghna Bhat shares a story about her life as an immigrant during the 2021 Immigrant Stories event.
Meghna Bhat and five others will share personal stories about the lives of immigrants Friday, Oct. 28. (Sacramento State file/Ravin Pan)

The event also will feature stories from Kimberly Gomez, a first-generation Mexican American who coordinates the Dreamer Resource Center; Nancy Awad, a Sac State student from Egypt; Meghna Bhat, an educator who grew up in India; and Vahideh Allahyari, a Sac State student from Iran.

Medina’s story will focus on the first time her father, who had little formal education, was able to help with her homework. She was in the seventh grade and needed to create an art project. Medina’s father, a woodworker, helped her build a Ferris wheel using Popsicle sticks.

“I will always remember it, because it was something he could help me with for school,” she said. “It was a tiny moment, but very meaningful for me.”

Cantrell launched Capital Storytelling in 2018 with funding from Sac State. Since then, she has led events, workshops, and classes throughout the city attended by nearly 4,000 people.

“Immigrant Stories” originally was scheduled for 2020, but the pandemic postponed plans.

“We didn’t revisit it until this year,” Cantrell said. “We really want it to be a space to elevate and amplify the identity of immigrants.”

Medina said she hopes the audience will recognize that, regardless of their backgrounds, people can find common ground in their experiences.

“I hope that they will find little bits and pieces of themselves in the stories that they hear,” she said.

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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