Monday, October 10, 2011

Raising immigrant voices: Immigrant Archive Project oral histories

*This article was originally published in the Viễn Đông on 10 October 2011. It was reported by Vanessa White.

ORANGE COUNTY, California—If people are unsure of where they came from, they may not know where they are going.
And some people have never looked behind them, or knew to turn around.
History has become something of a luxury in the United States with textbooks celebrating the accomplishments of a predominately small group of White, heterosexual, males, while quieting the voices of a larger American population.
Though, it has been said that the United States is a “melting pot,” and “we’re all immigrants,” the voices belonging to descendants of immigrants from European countries tend to be loudest, shouting throughout mainstream media and politics.
Voices belonging to immigrants, as well as descendants of immigrants from other continents, like Asia and Africa, tend to be mere whispers, if even heard at all.
However, there have recently been successful attempts to include the voiceless.
For example, In July, California added more diversity to future textbook requirements, becoming the first U.S. state to make the inclusion of gay, lesbian, transgender accomplishments mandatory in public school textbooks.
The new mandate also required schools to teach about the accomplishments of disabled, and Pacific Islander Americans; while schools were already required to include historical accomplishments by Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans and European Americans.
Contributing to raising underrepresented voices, Farmers Insurance is sponsoring the Immigrant Archive Project (IAP), an initiative aimed at orally spreading nationwide stories of diverse immigrants through the internet.
Imagine what the United States would be like if such stories had been historically included into the mainstream media. Will such stories strengthen or diminish U.S. cultural values?
Little Saigon, OC’s Vietnamese immigrant community
The end of the Vietnam War is credited with beginning a mass Vietnamese emigration to the United States, many settling in Westminster and Garden Grove, located in Orange County (OC) California.
Census data from 2010 shows that Vietnamese Americans are 6.1 percent of the OC population and according to an OC Health Needs Assessment, the group could form the largest Asian-American subgroup in California by 2030.

Stories of immigrants vary, as there were four “waves” in which Vietnamese immigrants arrived in the United States, including professionals, political prisoners, and low-income refugees.
About 700,000 Vietnamese are estimated to have immigrated to the United States since 1975, their stories not always heard, though represented by the over 1 million Vietnamese Americans living in the United States today.
In 2008, the IAP was established by the Latino Broadcasting Company (LBC), a nationally syndicated radio network owned by Latinos.
“Through this initiative we hope to preserve the struggles, dreams and accomplishments of America's vast and diverse immigrant population so that future generations may learn from their collective experience,” the IAP website reads.
First, immigrants and descendants of immigrants participate in recorded interviews. Then, in their own words, the stories are shared through radio, television, internet, and traveling educational art with listeners.
Immigrants and descendants of immigrants from all nations are welcome to participate.
Farmers is the first corporate sponsor of the IAP, as it has been “a part of Los Angeles’ immigrant community for over 80 years,” according to a Farmers press release. It considers the immigrant story as part of its essence, as several of its agents, employees, and policyholders share in the immigrant story.
Listen to stories, share your experiences
To listen and share immigrant stories, visit the IAP website at

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