Artists Across the Country Respond to Anti-Immigration Measures
Art has been known to have the power to inspire social change, to uplift and to give a voice to those who have been silenced. Due to ongoing crackdowns on immigrants in the U.S., many are questioning whether America is still the land of immigrants - and if it is, many wonder if it can re-discover its immigrant soul.
Some artists say that getting in touch with one's own roots can help Americans find more empathy in their hearts when the situation is tense and anti-immigrant sentiment is at its highest in the history of modern times.
All over America, artists are taking initiatives to support immigrant families in the time of crisis, and many people are turning to art to find answers to uncertainty and division.
For example, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York is partnering with the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) to recruit more than 100 art institutions to voice opposition to Trump's executive order on immigration, subject to wide criticism and several tensions in USA.
Back in January, Americans for the Arts organization has issued a statement on refugee ban, calling for dialogue and mutual understanding that can be brought through art. Arts Advocacy Day and initiatives to contact the Congress were among the actions taken by the organization.
In July, a group of artists worked with local immigrant communities in Pittsburgh to create public art installations to strengthen human connections and to create exchanges with local neighborhoods.
This month, Jurgis Did (Didziulis) a Colombian-Lithuanian artist and creative campaigner, has come to California on an artistic pilgrimage in order to inspire local Lithuanian Americans re-discover their roots, and to show Americans that empathy starts from getting in touch with one's immigrant past. He believes that getting to know one's ancestry can be a fun experience, and hopes this idea will inspire Americans of all origins to be more curious about their family lines.
"I trust that our initiative - where we meet people of all generations, sing and dance together, have lots of fun, and also have conversations about our roots - is helping develop tolerance, respect and empathy to other immigrants," said Jurgis Did about the project, called ToBeLT (To Be Lithuanian). "This can also be a good lesson to all Americans. Only by embracing their diverse backgrounds, American people will be able to free themselves from judgement towards those they see as "aliens."
Others seem to agree: "The success that our country enjoyed in the early part of the 1900s was due in large measure to the millions and millions of immigrants who poured in from all over the world, who built the steel mills, and the roads, the cities-all the infrastructure," said Martin Sheen in an interview for The Nation. "We stand on the shoulders of immigrants."
The situation that America finds itself is not that new. There have been prejudices before, and leaders who fought against them. Franklin D. Roosevelt, for example, had famously said: "Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists." These truths are valid also today.
ABOUT JURGIS DID AND TOBELT PROJECT
Jurgis Did (Didziulis) is a Colombian-Lithuanian, who has lived as a boy in Philadelphia, the U.S. He is Social Alchemist, Edutainer, Creative Campaigner, and a musician, having formed the famous Lithuanian InCulto band in 2003. His colorful background, ranging from Eurovision to EU consultant, allows him to transcend formats effortlessly and connect with audiences in arenas packed with thousands of people, corporate boardrooms, government institutions, and kindergartens alike. He is also a social activist, who uses music and adjacent art forms for social impact. His initiatives, that often combine his album or single releases, are full-blown campaigns exploring what it means to be human in modern times, and inspiring social change. He gave a TEDx-Stockholm talk on his program called "From Spectate to Participate," which inspires the audience to be creators of the show through engagement and participation. More at jurgisdid.com.
ToBeLT is an initiative that searches for global Lithuanian identity through community-building pilgrimage. It seeks to bolster unity and empathy by cultivating inclusive and pluralistic identity that appreciates diversity. More at tobe.lt.