On Tuesday, March 5th, we sat in on a story time at the Lakewood Public Library involving small children around age five. The event emphasized the immigrant experience as the librarian read aloud books like We Came to America by Faith Ringgold. The children also participated in exercises meant to demonstrate our similarities regardless of our race, culture, or if we immigrated to the United States from another country. For instance, even though people in different countries might eat a different kind of food (i.e. tempura or stew) all of us enjoy a midday meal.
The children also joined together in a chorus of the Sesame Street song, We Sing with the Same Voice. Towards the end of their time together, the youngsters colored outlines of the Statue of Liberty and joined together once more to sing a chorus of This Land is Your Land.
The gathering was part of a series of presentations inspired by an interactive exhibition titled Traveling Stanzas: Immigrant Voices that will run until April 30th, 2019. The exhibit was created by a partnership between the Lakewood Public Library, Friends of the Lakewood Public Library, and the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University.
This exhibit utilizes creative writing tools and activities in order to acknowledge “the unique experience of immigrants in our community” and that the display is composed of “original poetry written by people in our community.”
We also read that, “prior to the exhibit, teacher and artist Katie Daley, worked with groups from the Cuyahoga Community College’s Aspire ESOL classes at Taft School, students in the ASIA, Inc. After School program and students from Garfield and Harding Middle Schools. During these workshops, students were engaged with writing prompts and exercises to write verse that reflect experiences from childhood, their home countries and daily life in general.”
It is fitting that this series take place in Lakewood because it is a very progressive community that respects the civil rights and civil liberties of all of its inhabitants. In fact, in early 2017, in the aftermath of President Trump’s executive orders on immigration, its city council unanimously passed a resolution that re-affirmed the community ‘s “commitment to hope, equality, tolerance, inclusion, and optimism.”
The resolution read, in part, that “the Lakewood of today is a city of Americans and Lakewoodites whose diverse backgrounds have enlivened our city life and contributed to the city’s unique character, and our shared experiences have instilled in Lakewood the values of empathy, compassion, toleration and understanding…We find our strength both in our common bonds and in our differences.”