Centuries ago, pilgrims settled in the United States to eventually start what would become a nation of immigrants. Since then, immigration has become a hot-topic political issue, and immigrants are often cast as outsiders.
However, a group of Boston University students are working to end that stigma.
College of Arts and Sciences sophomores Yiran Yu and Lara Werneck are co-presidents of the new online story-sharing platform “migration tales.” The goal of the platform, Werneck said, is to use storytelling to eliminate stereotypes and prejudice about migrants, create empathy and foster inclusivity.
“There’s such great diversity within migrant experiences,” Werneck said, “but in society, it’s just jumbled up into one stereotype, or just a few stereotypes, that are supposed to represent and symbolize the experiences of thousands of people.”
Werneck describes migration tales as a “startup multimedia project” that is currently in the process of applying to be an official BU club. She said her co-president was inspired to create the project after interviewing an immigrant for an anthropology assignment.
The platform published its first two stories Jan. 15. Since then, two more stories have been released, with each one following an immigrant or second-generation immigrant through their journey.
Werneck said she co-created the website because, as the daughter of immigrants, she felt it was important for others to understand immigration.
“While I was in school, I realized the disconnect that there is between Americans and immigrants,” Werneck said. “There’s a lack of awareness between the two.”
The organization is looking to recruit a Diversity and Inclusion Chair to ensure they share stories of immigrants from diverse age groups and communities.
One of the primary goals of the project is to eliminate stereotypes about immigrants — a goal Iris Fitzsimmons Christensen, College of General Studies sophomore and a writer at migration tales, said is especially important to her.
“It’s so ironic to me that a lot of the people who have those negative stereotypes, if you go back far enough in their family tree, they were immigrants at some point too,” Christensen said. “That insensitivity is just mind-blowing to me.”
Werneck said the power of storytelling can help defeat pervasive stereotypes surrounding immigrants by helping to humanize the issue.
“With these true, authentic stories, people are going to be able to put a face to the name of an immigrant,” Werneck said, “not just assume and believe what they hear out there.”
Anna Marroni, a junior in the Questrom School of Business, agreed it is critical to have a platform where migrant voices are heard, especially in today’s political climate.
As the community outreach chair, Marroni is responsible for reaching out to different organizations to collaborate, as well as finding people to share their story.
Going forward, Marroni said she wants to further educate their readers by providing them with approachable and accessible resources.
Christensen agreed, and said stories are a great way to capture interest in an engaging way.
“A lot of resources that you look at can just be a huge block of dense text and it can be really intimidating,” Christensen said. “Producing and distributing stories that are easy to understand and easy to relate to also is something that a lot of people can read quickly and understand.”
The organization also has a “research” tab coming soon to the website.
While the platform focuses on immigration stories, Werneck said, politics couldn’t be completely excluded due to the highly politicized nature of the topic. However, she hopes the website helps people see the humanity behind the issue.
“At the end of the day, we’re all human,” Werneck said. “Everybody’s trying to live a better life.”
Werneck said one thing she took away from creating migration tales is that starting a new and explorative project doesn’t have to be scary — especially if there’s passion behind it.
“I learned to not be afraid to start something if you know that something amazing can come out of it,” Werneck said. “When you put a bunch of amazing, talented, intelligent, passionate people together, it’s unstoppable.”
Yiran Yu, associate features editor for The Daily Free Press, is a co-president of migration tales. She was not involved in the editing of this article.