Burma Night in Fort Wayne on March 6

Posted in burmese, ethnic event, fort wayne indiana, refugee, Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 3, 2011 by yearningtobreathefree

Download BurmaNight Flyer.

 

Join the fun on March 6th 6-11 pm, 216 E. Washington Blvd.

What do you think of the News-Sentinel editorial?

Posted in burmese, fort wayne indiana, immigrant, media, refugee with tags , , , , , , on February 23, 2011 by yearningtobreathefree

The Fort Wayne newspaper, News-Sentinel, recently printed an editorial about our city’s population of legal immigrants. That would include those of refugee status who have been given a new home because their home country isn’t safe or fit for them to make a life in any longer. The short editorial raises some questions to consider so I’d like to encourage you to read it at the link below and then add your thoughts, please, to the comments section of this blog post. Please remember to return to this page to post your comments here in this forum after reading the editorial. You may also want to post in the comments section under the newspaper’s editorial.

Please remember that civility rules on this blog and I will not publish a post that is mean spirited. I value your participation if it constructively adds to our city’s consideration of immigration and refugee resettlement.

You’ll find the editorial online at:

http://www.news-sentinel.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011102180326

Burma soldier turned opposition supporter speaks out on Burma election

Posted in burmese, documentary, fort wayne indiana, Myo Myint, refugee with tags , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2011 by yearningtobreathefree

 

Myo Myint. © 2010 John Gevers. All rights reserved.

The former soldier from the Burmese military regime about whom I write on this blog (see Feb. 28, 2010 entry below) had his thoughts on Burma’s elections published in the UK’s Guardian. I only recently ran across it and wanted you to have a chance to read Myo Myint’s take on things in his troubled homeland. The documentary about his life, entitled “Burma Soldier,” will air on HBO in May and, hopefully, a debut of the film will occur locally in his town of resettlement, Fort Wayne, Indiana, shortly before. Dates will be announced here when known.

The link to the article in the Guardian is below:

www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/05/burma-election-myo-myint-cho

Karen celebrate New Year in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Posted in burmese, documentary, fort wayne indiana, Karen, refugee with tags , , , , , , , on February 8, 2011 by yearningtobreathefree

Karen traditional dance

Click here for video of Karen traditional dance.

The Karen people from Burma in this video, many of whom are refugees and who now call Fort Wayne, Indiana ‘home,’ gathered on January 30, 2011, to celebrate their New Year. This video showcases their traditional dance and music.

The 2:40-minute video is part of “Yearning to Breathe Free,” a documentary exhibition produced by John Gevers and NEW MEDIA BREW, Inc. It is copyrighted and all rights are reserved.

Still photographs from the video:

Karen traditional dance

Karen traditional dance

Karen traditional dance

Karen traditional dance

Video of images from documentary exhibition

Posted in Buddhist, burmese, documentary, muslim, refugee, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2010 by yearningtobreathefree

I produced this video featuring images made thus far for the documentary exhibition, Yearning to Breathe Free. Of course, there will be more to come, but I wanted a more engaging way of displaying my work up to this point.

Video and images © 2010 John Gevers, NEW MEDIA BREW, Inc.

Burmese soldier turned promoter of democracy. Myo Myint, part one

Posted in burmese, documentary, Myo Myint, refugee with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2010 by yearningtobreathefree

Myo Myint in Umpiem Mai refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border, June 2008. © Nic Dunlop. All rights reserved.

It is time to begin telling the story of a Burmese political refugee who has become a friend of mine since we were first introduced nine months ago. Myo Myint’s story is an amazing and inspiring and horrific tale. I will bring his life’s many facets to you in installments in the coming months.

If this whole endeavor I’ve named Yearning to Breathe Free should end prematurely and never result in a fully produced exhibition and/or documentary, at least I have met Myo Myint. We share the same middle-age decade, possess similar body types — except he’s missing some of his, and we share a love of literature. Oh, and we both like beer.

And that’s about where our similarities end. Our life experiences are vastly different. So different that it’s almost laughable . . . but for the fact that his tales make you want to cry. And herein lies the poignancy of our having met and become friends — a Westerner born into a democratic, free land and an Asian born into a one-party-ruled, brutal land — now both living in the middle of America.

A benefit, I think, to the United States of America opening her arms to offer refuge to those needing a new home is a rich worldly awareness that refugees bring into the lives of all of us.

So. Where to begin telling you about Myo Myint? For nearly five years now, a soft spoken, courageous Irish-born photojournalist and author, Nic Dunlop, has worked to share Myo Myint’s story in a documentary film. The movie is nearly finished and will soon air on HBO. I’ll post its air date here when it is known.

As an introduction to Myo Myint and my own storytelling of his life, I am posting the movie trailer here. Thanks to Nic’s kindness and permission, I will be illustrating Myo Myint’s considerable tale on this blog with Nic’s photographic images, as well as with my own photos, video, and scans of the few articles Myo Myint was able to conceal as he smuggled himself out of Burma and the torment of hell . . . .

Burma Soldier feature documentary, directed by Nic Dunlop, Annie Sundberg, and Ricki Stern.

A LeBrocquy Fraser / Break Thru Films production.

Cultural diasporas in our midst

Posted in burmese, documentary, immigrant, refugee, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2010 by yearningtobreathefree
Merrilee Beckman of Iowa City, Iowa, wrote the following after viewing Yearning to Breathe Free blog entries. I found her information on cultural diasporas in today’s world so helpful that I asked for approval to post her thoughts as a blog entry. She attributes many of her thoughts to the writings of Jeremy Rifkin, author and social thinker.
Guest blogger Merrilee writes:
I know the Burmese focused on here were pushed out of their country by a vicious military who have no moral qualms about the death of their own people.  They are a people with a powerful sense of communal and religious identity.  It used to be that immigrants to our country assimilated fairly quickly.  Most of them were more than ready to leave their pasts behind and become Americans.  The whole idea of ‘starting over’ was part of the American Dream.  Today it is so different.  The entire world is experiencing a great migration upheaval.

Isa Lawan Dambazan, born in Nigeria in 1964, keeps one foot in Nigeria and one in Fort Wayne, Indiana, because he has family in both places. © 2009 John Gevers.

Two worlds at once
Millions of humans are in transit each year, and these immigrants bring their culture with them, existing in tight knit communities that keep their cultures intact abroad. Immigrants always did this to some extent but it’s different now because of all our communications technology allowing people to be in two worlds at once.  In the past you’d migrate to a country to stay. You’d write letters home but they took so long that it was hard to keep contact with family and friends in the old country.  The old cultural ways stayed alive for awhile but inevitably faded. Today an immigrant can use the Internet and cell phones to make contact with relatives left behind both constantly and instantly.  Cultures are becoming de-territorialized and mobile in a way that couldn’t be conceived before.  They are no longer bound by geography.

A cultural diaspora in Fort Wayne, Indiana. © 2009 John Gevers.

Split loyalties and allegiances
Cultures are becoming transnational and global, and cultural diasporas have split loyalties and allegiances in a way they didn’t before.  Many of the immigrants are poor, discrimminated against, jobless, and living in squalid conditions in what amounts to ghettos, and because they stick to themselves they are often regarded with suspicion and fear.  And, of course, when the economy is suffering it’s feared they’ll ‘steal’ valuable jobs from the rest of us.  The vast majority of all these immigrants are peaceful, law-abiding citizens.

A Burmese refugee who is now resettled into an apartment complex in Fort Wayne, Indiana. © 2009 John Gevers.

Retaining a cultural diaspora in our midst
For centuries, a people and culture were inseparable from their property and territory.  No longer.  Again, sophisticated communication and transportation technologies now allow cultures to stay linked socially across myriad national boundaries. You can see why people like these gentle Burmese need to retain a cultural diaspora in our midst.  It gives them a way to keep their sense of identity while negotiating their way in a radically strange, new world.  The Burmese in Fort Wayne are one node in a whole postnational network of diaspora going on today. They hold onto their cultural identity as a way to be “both here and there.”  Cultural diasporas are increasingly living in multiple places with multiple loyalties, and it’s the job of their host countries to find ways to help them interact across traditional boundaries.  Having lost the comfort of their geographical boundaries, they must now discover a way to bond with those of their host culture in a way that will draw them into a real community.  How to find a new shared purpose that is as powerful as the bond of their cultural identity?  For them, and for us.

From Burma, a refugee resettled in Indiana, maintaining homeland tradition. © 2009 John Gevers.

“Us-them” divisions and a shared sense of meaning
One of the biggest differences between people like the Somalians in Minneapolis or the Burmese in Fort Wayne is that in modern Western societies there is a highly honed individuality and fewer gender differences/roles.  Both men and women here engage in all kinds of activities that aren’t permitted by tradition-bound, communal cultures.  But when individuals (that’s us) have a shared sense of meaning and undertake a cooperative effort to achieve a common goal,  then the “us-them” divisions tend to disappear, and those cooperating in the common endeavor blend into a single “us-group.”  Those who were “them” become part of “us.”  All stereotypes and prejudices are based on “us-them.” So we have to find a shared sense of meaning.  We have to find opportunities to simply mingle with one another.  That gives us chances to recognize our common humanity.

Mother and child from Burma. © 2009 John Gevers.

Contact is essential, empathy crucial
Contact is essential — interacting as social equals, the way you did when you went to take the pictures posted here.  Empathy is the crucial ingredient for an “us-us” perspective where we can see them involved in the same kind of human activities, showing the same basic human emotions, we have.  That’s what your photos in Yearning to Breathe Free do for a wider audience. They creatively turn strangers into “us.”  You can see their peaceful culture reflected in their faces and in the courtesy they extend. The power of these  beautiful photos takes away the fear of knowing there is a group of foreign immigrants living “near us,” and actually makes you want to meet some of them and get to know them better.