Would you harbor me?
Would I harbor you?
--Sweet Honey in the Rock
One artist, one writer. Two hearts.
We want to use our tools to amplify the voices of torture survivors and political asylees living in communities across the United States, and we are asking for your help to make it happen.
Together we will interview survivors and asylum seekers, creating conceptual artworks and poetic testimonials to document their life experiences. We believe this perspective on immigration is lost in the current debate, with disastrous effects. We want to help restore the American tradition of harboring.
What does it mean to harbor someone? What does it mean to need harbor? Try to visualize the threat of being tortured for speaking, for writing, for making art, for protesting, for living as you choose to live or for being who you are. Can you picture it? The shadow of the government agent or paramilitary force at your door, on the street, at your office…the realization that your power, your voice, your will are meaningless.
Imagine, too, having survived, however you managed it. Imagine having escaped. Imagine the journey to a new land, seeking refuge. Imagine—really imagine—being the stranger among strangers. Now imagine being that stranger in the midst of the atmospheric pressure gathering around immigration as it sweeps into the waiting storm systems of the war on terror and financial collapse…
The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement estimates that there are 500,000 torture survivors currently living in the U.S., although of course that number is always changing and is impossible to definitively substantiate. While conversations about immigration policy and reform focus mostly on voluntary migrants and undocumented workers, Harbor: Survivors Among Us seeks to document the lives and stories of a group that forms a small, little known, and extremely vulnerable portion of the larger category “immigrant”: torture survivors who are seeking or have gained political asylum in the U.S.
We are seeking funding for the first stage of our project, partnering with the Washington DC based organization Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) International, the only organization founded and run by torture survivors, to create a traveling exhibition of creative portraits and testimonies from torture survivors who are seeking or have gained asylum in this country. In the process, we want to engage members of the survivor community in the U.S. in a process of creative expression that takes seriously the articulation and presentation of their stories, and to educate the U.S. public about the stories and experiences of this population of migrants to the U.S.
These funds will cover travel, time, and materials to make beautiful, fine art portraits of survivors as they choose to be represented, accompanied by testimonial statements or witness poetry to be exhibited together in educational forums, community spaces, galleries, museums, and ultimately circulated via print and online outlets.
- (29 days)