By Ibeth Villa
The non-profit organization Barrio Alegría has introduced a new project titled “Uncovering Immigrant Stories,” an eight-week workshop with a focus on giving immigrants in Reading a medium to voice their experiences. Through this project, Barrio Alegría hopes to change the perceptions many Americans have of immigrants. This community project is set to be held at Barrio Alegría’s location in Reading.
The project reflects the organization’s mission, which is utilizing the arts to give community members the opportunities to explore themselves, according to their website. Daniel Egusquiza, the executive director of Barrio Alegría, partnered up with Idalmi Rivera, a sophomore at KU and a Reading resident, to create this project. Rivera has previously worked with the organization on various projects.
“As the child of an immigrant, I have seen how unfair it is to have people create a narrative for them when they’re simply working hard to make a living for themselves and/or their family,” said Rivera. “I wanted to create a project that would give immigrants the chance to combat these unfair narratives by sharing their real experiences.”
“For Barrio, the project is to give the resources for a young artist to create her own project,” said Eguisquiza.
Rivera received The Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts Project Stream grant as funding for this project. Egusquiza said Rivera was among one of the two minorities who received this grant. She is not only in charge of organizing the program but will also be leading the workshops.
Through Rivera’s workshops, immigrants will create paintings of their stories. These art pieces will eventually be displayed on social media and at the organization. No art experience is required, and it is open for anyone who is willing to express themselves, according to Barrio Alegria’s social media posts.
“I want to target Americans who have an image of immigrants based off the narratives created for them so that [America] can create that image with real stories instead,” said Rivera.
While Rivera’s focus is on the general American population , Eguisquiza hopes to target a younger audience in order to give them opportunities to learn alongside Rivera.
Rivera and Barrio Alegria have seen involvement increase since March, when they started gathering volunteers. Although the project has currently been halted due to safety precautions against COVID-19, the organization is hopeful to continue it in the future.
“Now more than ever, we need to make sure that we are trained on storytelling and that we make sure that visual artists, writers, dramatists, dancers, etc, are utilizing their art forms to tell their stories,” said Egusquiza. “As we look into the future, it is clear that our methods of engagement are going to have to change; however, we have to maintain our basic premise: If we do not tell our own stories, somebody else definitely will.”