Students, faculty and community members gathered to explore stories about American migration and cultural identity at the Your Story, Our Story event on Monday, organized by students in Asian and Asian American Studies 480S: Community Engagement.
The event was part of Your Story, Our Story, a national initiative of the Tenement Museum in New York City that works with colleges, schools, libraries, museums and community groups to share stories of an object or tradition that has special meaning in relation to cultural identity, migration or immigration and aims to examine the evolution of the American identity through the expression of culture and tradition.
Lisa Yun, an associate professor of Asian and Asian American studies and English who teaches Community Engagement, said the class enables teams of students to collaborate with community members on research projects that are sustainable and accessible to the public. According to Yun, the exhibition was initially meant to encourage students in the class to research their family history; however, the students found that they were passionate not only to learn about their history, but to teach others to do the same. Yun said students worked closely with the director of the Tenement Museum and visited the organization to learn more about the national project.
At the event, the walls of University Union room 108 were lined with pictures and stories about various objects and recipes related to the students’ cultural identities. Hayly Czubinski, a junior majoring in English, said the students who participated in the class had the opportunity to submit their stories to the national project and wanted others to do the same. Those running the event encouraged attendees to contribute by providing a general framework to research their own stories and find objects or traditions in their family that might be of importance to their cultural identity.
“I hope that those who came out today take this as an opportunity to learn more about their family, because through this project, I learned things about my family that I didn’t know at all because I never looked into it — that was my favorite part of this,” Czubinski said. “We did a lot of research, and we were all really passionate about it because all of these things are something that really means a lot to each of us.”
Dario Hernandez-Arroyo, a sophomore majoring in biology, said he enjoyed learning about the different cultures and coming to support his friends at the exhibition.
“My dad immigrated here from Ecuador, and my mom came from El Salvador, so I’m a first generation [American] — a lot of the stories here represent things that I’m familiar with,” Hernandez-Arroyo said. “I had a lot of food, music and culture ingrained into my childhood, so now I get to come here and see these stories that are similar to mine, and it is really interesting.”
Yun said she plans to continue to hold the event in coming years to teach her students about the importance of their family histories and the diversity of their heritage and backgrounds. She said she hopes to expand the project to those outside Binghamton University’s campus.
“As this is our first year, we plan to continue to expand the project, and the goal is to include more of Broome County,” Yun said. “We want this to be a community project to help people learn more about the diverse community of Binghamton as well.”