When multimedia storyteller Swati Ali left her native country of India for the United States five years ago, she hungered to connect with other recent immigrants who shared the experiences of making a new home halfway across the world. But when searching for immigrant stories online, Ali noticed a glaring lack of range when it came to immigrant narratives.
“All I found on the internet were stories that were serious or grim—stories that just made me sad and depressed,” Ali, now based in Portland, said in an Indiegogo campaign video earlier this year. “Of course, those stories need to be told, but I felt that it was time to also create a space where we could share the fun stuff—stories that make you laugh.”
Earlier this week—on July 4, 2018, AKA 'Murica’s 242nd birthday—Ali finally had the chance to share the joy of immigrant stories through We the People, a web series that splices sociable interviews with immigrants who hail from more than a dozen countries into concise, themed segments. Ali worked with a small team to finalize and create the project after a successful crowdfunding campaign closed in the spring.
In the first episode, “Beginnings,” immigrants discuss what brought them to the United States, their names, and mixed feelings about accents, amongst other topics. A forthcoming episode, “Food,” showcases folks from France, Brazil, and Dominica separately recalling the shock of portion sizes in the US, the difficulties of relearning how to grocery shop and cook at home, and the cuisine they miss. Even as the series seeks to highlight the "good," there are many stories that don’t sugarcoat immigrants' inevitable hardships, from navigating stereotypes to bureaucratic labyrinths.
While each episode could have easily held my attention and spent 10 times longer focusing on each person and their individual journeys, We the People fills a much-needed void. Even in the face of dark political times, Ali's series uplifts and provides a platform for immigrants and refugees to tell their own stories in their own words.