Storytellers, poets, and musicians perform works inspired by their immigrant experiences
Dr. Annecy Baez was born in the Dominican Republic, but grew up in a mostly Jewish neighborhood in the Bronx during the 1970s. She said she liked hearing the stories of the people she lived with and even took a Jewish literature class in high school, which she loved. But she said she couldn't find stories that she could connect to.
"There was no Spanish literature, there was no African-American literature," Dr. Baez said. "There was no literature about what it was like to live in the Bronx."
That's one of the reasons that Dr. Baez decided to become a writer and read part of her memoir at a special Bronx Museum event, called (Im)migrant Experiences from the Bronx and Lower East Side.
Lauren Click, the Bronx Museum's Public Events Manager, said she hopes the event encourages people to share their stories about growing up as immigrants in the Bronx. She also said she hopes the event will help dispel negative perceptions that some may still have about the borough.
"We wanted people to talk about sterotypes that we encouter all the time," said Click. "What it's like here, how people live here. We wanted people to come and tell their own stories about good and challenging times in the Bronx."
(Im)migrant Experiences is part of the museum's ongoing program called Bronx Stories. The program features performing artists from the Bronx such as poets, spoken word artists and musicians performing at the museum. Each performer chooses a piece of art they feel most connected to, and perform in front of it. The artists will use material they have already created, or write new material that relates to how they interpret the artwork. Click said that often times, it draws upon their experiences in the Bronx, and in this case, as immigrants.
Visitors are led throughout the museum by a host. The event ends with an open mic session where museum goers are allowed to share their own stories about living in the Bronx, being immigrants or the art they have seen.
(Im)migrant Experiences will feature three performers: Dr. Baez, a poet and author; Donna Bailey, a spoken word storyteller; and Intikana, a hip hop artist. Visitors will be guided by comedian Bill Santiago. Each performer has already been led through the museum and chose one of the exhibits to stand in front of and perform. For Dr. Baez, that was Sarah Sze's piece called Triple Point (Planetarium). She said the sculpture reminded her of the human body and trying to understanding it through art. She says this is a major part of the memoir she will be reading for the event.
The event was a collaboration with City Lore, a cultural heritage organization located on the Lower East Side. Click said the museum and City Lore wanted to find a way to work together on a project. They realized the neighborhoods' immigrant community was a shared connection. The first part of the event at City Lore was held in May.
Immigrant Experiences will be on Friday from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Bronx Museum.