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“We have strangers among us…”

January 21, 2019 Published By Julie Arrison-Bishop

The PBS produced Becoming American, a documentary film series on immigration, is well underway at The House of the Seven Gables. This past week we enjoyed the film Welcome to Shelbyville, where the residents of a small Kentucky town struggle with the fear of change, cultural differences, and discrimination.

“Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.” Shirley MacLaine

Groups of residents in the small town are influenced by misconception and stereotypical narratives of the newcomers; only made worse by news articles printed about the new community without any direct interaction or communication with its members. The publications only feed the community’s fears and causes a certain sense of panic: “we have to redefine who we are, with all these new people (foreigners) coming in” expresses a concerned resident.

As tensions continue to rise the new immigrant group, grateful for the new opportunities provided to them in the place they will now call home and with their ESL teacher as a vehicle of empowerment; invite community members to sit with them and get to know them personally. The different groups start coming together and learning about each other, at times engaging in difficult conversations; only to realize that we have a lot more in common than we realize and that “there are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.” William Butler Yeats

The Settlement Program at The Gables provides ESL and Citizenship instructions for new immigrants in the North Shore. Click here to learn more. You can support our important work by clicking here.

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This post was written by Julie Arrison-Bishop