STORIES OF IMMIGRATION AND CULTURE
As an organization with a background in community radio and ethnomusicology, Jack Straw Cultural Center is committed to helping individuals from different cultures preserve their stories and traditions, both for themselves and to encourage understanding in the larger community.
We have produced immigration programs with many different schools and community partners, each program designed to meet the particular student needs. Students participate in a one to three month residencies at schools and in our studios. Students create their audio stories through integrated arts curricula with teaching artists from several arts disciplines, including theater, writing, music, and technology. Students write poems and stories, read their stories out loud, write songs from their words, create sound effects to enhance their stories, and record and create a final audio piece. Our team also helps students create audio stories by selecting topics, conducting interviews, writing and recording narration, and editing and mixing their audio pieces.
FOSTER HIGH SCHOOL: STORIES OF ARRIVAL 2015-16
Stories of Arrival: Youth Voices is a community partnership project between Foster High School, Jack Straw Cultural Center, the Institute for Poetic Medicine in Palo Alto, CA, and KBCS 91.3 FM. Project Feast is this year's special project partner for Our Table of Memories: Food and Poetry of Spirit, Homeland, and Tradition.
Poet and project director Merna Ann Hecht, ELL teacher Carrie Stradley, and Jack Straw's team of artists worked with Foster High School English Language Learners, helping them tell their stories in English through poetry. In this year's project, students created poems drawn from their memories of food in the homelands. Jack Straw's vocal coaches helped students read their poems out loud in the classroom. The students then recorded their poems in the Jack Straw studios where the students received individual vocal coaching, provided each other with feedback, and helped the engineers with the recording process.
Students in our 2015-16 project came from Burma, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Nepal, Somalia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Stories of Arrival project culminated with an anthology, audio CDs, and this web page.
Foster High School is the only high school in the most linguistically diverse school district in the nation, according to The New York Times. The students are immigrants and refugees from across the globe. All have left behind members of their family on their journey here. They will most likely be the first in their families to graduate from high school.
"For the past six years it has been an honor for me to work with young refugees and immigrants from many different parts of the world. . . . The privilege of observing the vision and creativity of these young people and understanding first-hand how much they have to contribute to all of our lives has been a source of inspiration to me. Poets and peace-makers, they have learned how poetry transcendes the daunting task of expressing oneself in a new language. They have taken up pens and pencils, spoken with honesty and vulnerability, and discovered their own pathways for bringing the language of their hearts to the page."
"Throught the project I have witnessed my students grow in their willingness to share of themselves, in their command of the English language, and in their ever-evolving identities of themselves in the landscape of a new country. Not only did they develop the fine art of crafting poetry by deliberating over word choice, but also they have experienced a new way to use their voices with expression rather than the utilitarian English they use to navigate high school."
-Carrie Stradley, ELL Teacher, Foster High School
You can hear all the poems as they appear on the CD below.
Foster High School student with Jack Straw teaching artist Meg McLynn. All photos on this page by Sherwin Eng
Jack Straw engineer Daniel Guenther adjusts the mic
for a Foster High School student
Foster students in the control room with Merna Hecht and
Jack Straw engineer Tom Stiles