Over the course of the spring semester, 18 JMU students in Dr. Allison Fagan’s English 360 class have been working diligently and passionately on a digital project that seeks to ethically elevate the stories of past and present immigrants living in the Shenandoah Valley community.
With the guidance and support of their teacher and multiple experts from the JMU Libraries, these students explored previously collected oral histories that have been archived in JMU Libraries’ Special Collections, learned about podcasting and storytelling, and applied theoretical concepts from the course to create a new podcast series called Harrisonburg360: Real People. Real stories. One Community. Student groups produced episodes and contextual information and shared them publicly via Harrisonburg 360 as their end-of-semester project.
GN is a highschool senior who came to America at the age of two. He lived in many communities growing up, and finally came to settle in Harrisonburg, VA where he attends public school, and community college simultaneously. He is involved in SLI, the Scholars Latino Initiative with James Madison University, that provides mentors and guidance as he researches opportunities for higher education.
This episode was created in order to highlight the narratives of two immigrants in Harrisonburg, Zee AlKhater and Nasser Al Saadun. We draw attention to the similarities of their experiences as refugees, ranging from their time in the country they travelled from, Iraq, to their well-established lives in the Shenandoah Valley. While the episode does highlight the resemblance between the two stories, the overarching theme emphasizes the individuality and humanity in each of them. Referencing “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, we hope to establish a different perspective of “the huddled masses.” The word immigrant is established in the identity of many people, but the value of the person extends far beyond that label.
This episode of Harrisonburg 360, “Learning the Unofficial, Official Language of America,” discusses the expectations and troubles that immigrants in the United States face regarding learning English. We spoke with Ms. Melissa Menjivar-Fuentes in February of 2020, where she shared her story with us about her experiences as an immigrant in the Harrisonburg community. After speaking to her, we went back to the 1990s with the help of the James Madison University Libraries and Special Collections, taking a listen to two stories from Ms.Thu Huynh and Mr. and Mrs. Sasha and Tanya Reut. By looking at these different stories, this episode discusses the similarities and differences in learning English as an immigrant from immigrants in the Shenandoah Valley over time.
In the podcast episode “Ten Million Souls”, we explored the lives of two immigrants: Nasser Al Saadun and Ana Arias. Even though the two people come from completely different backgrounds, this episode explores the similarities that they have. Both Nasser and Ana have been through traumatic events in their home countries. But, they both also bring up the mental struggle of adapting to a new culture in the United States.