Imogen Thomas on: 'Learning not to be silent...'

GMT 15:17 Tuesday ,04 March 2014

 Migrant Voice - Imogen Thomas on: 'Learning not to be silent...'

Imogen Thomas

In 2013 I was introduced to the Migrant Voices charity by Dena Arya. She invited me to participate in the Face to Face (F2F) project. This was a series of workshops taking place in order to encourage people, migrants and ‘natives’ to integrate, learning from and working with each other. The aim of these workshops was to teach us, as a group and as individuals, as migrants and as locals, ways to make our voices heard over the general hubbub of life, for migrant and non migrant participants to get to understand eachother better, as well as to take a stand when necessary, to support each other’s rights and needs. I attended three out of four of the workshop series: photography, social media, and media. I was born in London, England in 1992 to a line of predominantly English ancestors. London is a diverse city, full of people from a range of countries, nationalities, cultures and backgrounds, all living and working together. I consider myself to be an open-minded, friendly and inclusive person. However, Migrant Voices and F2F taught me to listen and take notice: Yes, I did and have lived and studied among people from various backgrounds. Yes, I might listen to and be fascinated by their stories of family and foreign countries and cultures. But what did I know of their experiences and the challenges some of them faced? Nothing. I don’t pay much attention to the media, finding “News” stories to be depressing and overwhelming, with no suggestion of what we, the general public, might do to improve ongoing situations in our own communities and around the world. So instead, I chose to ignore the news, to ignore the stories and try and adapt and fit in to my own world and meet my own needs. However others might not find this so easy. Migrant Voices and the F2F project reminded me that whilst maybe I can choose to just walk on by, a migrant might not be so immune to being slated in the press. As a white, native citizen of Britain, I experience cultural and national privileges that others may find themselves barred from. I don’t find myself scapegoated by the media, pushed back and forth by policies that politicians use to curry favour with the public, reviled and blamed for the generic problems any and all countries find themselves faced with. The Face2Face project taught me that we need to be active, not passive. As a people, as neighbours, no matter what colours we are or where we are from, we need to actively look for each other, to open up communications and learn from both our diversity and our similarities. We need to work together to address national (and international) issues. We need to be strong advocates for human rights, not “whatever people we deem worthy” rights. If we are quiet, if we walk on by, then we allow alienation and segregation, we allow discord within our communties and solve no problems. The F2F project provided all those attending with skills and information on exactly how to do that. On where to find information, on how to use information accurately, on how to articulate our opinions and needs and to insist that our voices are heard and taken notice of. I’m not a migrant, but as Elie Wiesel and Desmond Tutu have so articulately stated: Neutrality in situations of injustice and oppression is impossible. To be silent is to enable the oppressor. To be silent is to choose the wrong side.


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