Category Archives: Identity

Hyde Park isn’t just any port in Syria’s civil storm

By Nicki Kaplan, Medill, Immigrant Connect

[Check out these companion audio stories and on Amal’s life-changing experiences and on PARR, Partnership for the Advancement of Refugee Rights, both by Nicki Kaplan.]

Ever since the University of Chicago planted its roots in Hyde Park in 1890, it has been a beacon to the world. Now, the tree-lined university community along the city’s south lakefront has become a port of entry for Syrian refugees who are no longer welcome on America’s shores.

As Donald Trump was settling into his alien role as President of the United States, Hyde Park was extending a welcome to Syrian families who may be among the last clusters of refugees admitted into the U.S. from that part of the world for the foreseeable future.

Marina Rioux, president of the University of Chicago student group, Partnership for the Advancement of Refugee Rights (PARR), says the language barrier for refugees who barely speak English hasn’t stopped community efforts:

Listen to Rioux describe the welcome.

It is hard enough for refugees to resettle in a city and country they don’t know. It takes a village, as it is often said, and here it’s a village of resettlement organizations that work together to make Chicago feel like home. For the Syrian community in Hyde Park-Kenwood, these efforts are imperative.

There is a Syrian refugee community support team, Sirat Chicago, that uses Muslim traditions to support arts, education, service and community building initiatives for the refugees. They enter the picture after the refugees have already fled poverty, violence, and war, navigated with help a complex resettlement process that has placed them in Chicago, received financial, educational, and emotional support from resettlement agencies that tends to last for three to six months.

At the heart of the village is the Syrian Community Network, which links the families to Sirat Chicago and other organizations such as the Hyde Park & Kenwood Interfaith Council and PARR.

Suzanne Akhras Sahloul, founder and president of Syrian Community Network; Dorothy Pytel of Augustana Lutheran Church of Hyde Park; and sisters Nadia Khan and Saffa Khan, members of Sirat Chicago, are key players who serve to offset the often strident and menacing voices that fuel the immigration debate.

Pytel says the refugees’ arrival has tightened the community.

Listen to Pytel explain the importance of the village to strangers.

Sahloul says a key advantage is that the organizations and refugees are in the same place.

Listen to Sahloul recognize the importance of community to those who’ve lost theirs.

Nadia Khan says that ironically the “Muslim ban” that became Trump’s ignominious badge of honor is helping, because it’s bringing people and organizations together to fight it.

Listen to Khan see a gift horse in Trump’s mouth.


Trump administration sparks introspection in Desi communities

The Trump administration has made the choice for the Desi communities. The dial has turned from a quiet sense of safety to an angry sense of injustice. For them, it is disconcerting to sit by and pray that they not be next. In this era, is there the luxury of apolitical stance? Some of the difficulty in organizing is the conflict within the community itself. Histories of anti-black racism and Islamophobia within the South Asian community presents particular challenges and problems that divide Desis and contribute to political silence. Continue Reading

Are Indian parents doing anything differently since Trump’s election?

By Amit Mallik, Medill, Immigrant Connect “Mom, are we going to be kicked out because we’re brown?” Abhinav* came back home from first grade at his Salt Lake City school in February, just a few days after Donald Trump was elected President, and expressed genuine concern to his mom, Tanseem*, who immigrated to the United… Continue Reading

Chicago’s Chinese-American community plans, thrives and quietly mobilizes

Improvements along with the expansion of the community southwest into neighborhoods such as Bridgeport and McKinley Park demonstrate how the Chinese-American community is thriving. Still, many in the community feel vulnerable. President Trump’s executive order banning travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries and ICE’s stepped up deportation efforts have chilled the air for members of this bustling community. Continue Reading

Korean-Americans for Trump: Hearing from an emerging minority within a minority

The value of local business to the Korean-American population and Trump’s appeal to business owners are a natural match, says Itak Seo. “The stability of the economy in the Korean community is not in a good state, especially beauty businesses, dry cleaning businesses—those businesses are going down. In Trump, people are expecting some type of improvement in every industry. The Korean community thinks that’s the proper way of managing the country.”
Continue Reading

The Indian-American dream come true: Three sons ten years apart and an admiring father

By Amit Mallik, Medill, Immigrant Connect My father is walking with my two older brothers and me along Lake Michigan in Chicago. It’s a misty morning and as we get to Oak Street, he pauses. He has something to tell us. It could be almost anything. He has attained the American dream. Born in 1949,… Continue Reading

The penetrating sound at the center of my Dominican community

By Isabella Soto, Medill, Immigrant Connect The raking, grating sound of the güira punctuates the humid and heavy South Texas night air. It’s the wee hours of the morning and Tio Julio, the lean, bald-headed life of the party, has broken out his güira, an instrument that is fundamental to the merengue and bachata music… Continue Reading