Everyone has a story to tell, they just need a platform to tell it. By hearing those stories, we can better understand the communities where we live.
That's the idea behind Tea Rozman Clark's work with immigrants through the nonprofit organization Green Card Voices. Speaking at The Garage Thursday morning as part of the Morning Fill Up series, Rozman Clark laid out the mission of her Minnesota-based organization.
Green Card Voices attempts to bridge gaps between immigrant and non-immigrant communities by interviewing immigrants and having them tell their stories as part of an oral history. The interviews have taken place in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and will soon be coming to South Dakota. Green Card Voices then turns those interviews into online videos, books, podcasts, exhibits and other materials.
Currently, Green Card Voices has interviewed more than 300 people from over 100 countries. "We felt it's important to create a platform where immigrants could share their own story, in their own voice," Rozman Clark said Thursday morning.
She notes that each story is unique, and when we hear each person's story, we get a better understand of the fabric of a community.
Her organization looks to meet viewers and listeners of these stories in the "comfort zone," of their home. Rozman Clark says after those people listen in their comfort zone, they will then moving to a "learning zone," and have a better understanding of others.
Rozman Clark, who earned a doctoral degree in cultural history specializing in oral history recording, can easily relate to interviewees because she is also an immigrant. She is a first-generation American from what now is the Central European county of Slovenia.
During her time growing up in the former Yugoslavia, she worked in refugee camps during a lengthy war in her country. The people in those camps were in that situation not because of their actions but the actions of others in power, she said.
"Completely by no fault of their own but exclusively by external forces, they have everything in their lives taken away from them."
Rozman Clark said making the decision to be an immigrant isn't easy for most families, even when immigrants get to their new home. "It's creating a life for you from scratch, in many ways," she said.
In Minnesota, Rozman Clark said she "doesn't have a high school friend she can call" and talk about "the old days."
She said many people assume that once immigrants get to the United States, they will magically be able to achieve the American dream. But for most, that simply isn't the case.
However, through understanding, we can make everyone's lives richer, Rozman Clark said. "We really need to take the time to listen, understand and to really try to imagine the best in others because we jump to conclusions that are not very good. Really try to see the humanity in all of us."
Rozman Clark preaches "intentional diversity" in society as a way to understand the country and bridge the gap between different cultures.
She makes sure her daughter invites people from several different backgrounds to her birthday party even it if would be easier to only invite people who look, act and think like her.
"You have to, at one point, say you cannot just do what you have always done or what feels comfortable," she said.