With our partners at UndocuBlack Network, United We Dream, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, and National Domestic Workers Alliance, Working Films created Stories Beyond Borders, a film series and power-building initiative that broadens the narrative about who is impacted by racist, inhumane immigration policies and shows people organizing in response. Stories Beyond Borders features five short films including Santuario, the story of Juana Tobar Ortega, a North Carolinian who has taken sanctuary to avoid being deported by ICE and separated from her family.
In the fall of 2019, we partnered with Apoyo, Carolina Jews for Justice, City of High Point, Civil Rights Center & Museum, Committee Action Popular, Compañeros Inmigrantes de las Montañas en Accion, Comunidad Colectiva, Department of Social Work at ASU, Faith Action International House, Hendersonville Resiste, High Point Museum, The Immigrant Justice Group, National Domestic Workers Alliance, NC ACLU, The NC Justice Center, Parkway United Church of Christ, Siembra NC, Southerners On New Ground, Turchin Center for Visual Arts, and YWCA High Point to host 10 screenings across North Carolina. The screenings provided opportunities to educate and inspire audiences while allowing them to hear from frontline leaders on the ways they can support local and statewide organizing for immigrant justice.
With anti-immigrant sentiment dominating the national conversation, Stories Beyond Borders provided a chance for audiences to learn about local impacts and talk with their neighbors about solutions. According to Rubi Franco Quiroz, Founder of Apoyo and host of the Hillsborough event, “The films were beautifully made. They were a good combination of heart wrenching and inspiring. I believe it’s a great way to introduce the many facets of problems our undocumented community is facing.” Similarly, Celeste Holcome with Siembra NC and host of the Winston-Salem event said: “I think it brought some awareness to the idea that people are actually assisting immigrants locally, and that their church or other orgs could directly assist immigrants.”
Beyond education, the events also inspired direct, sustained action. According to Sofia Mosquera, with the FaithAction International House, host of the Greensboro event: “Locally the screening created on the whole a lot of discussion, momentum, and energy around organizing and providing more public education around the issues. As a direct result, our agency is now seeing more volunteers, other agencies wanting to collaborate or become ‘allies,’ and generally more appetite in the community for more events of this sort. Overall, it was a huge success.” Mayra Stefania Arteaga, Statewide Immigrants’ Rights Organizer for the NC ACLU and host of the Charlotte screening said: “Some of the folks who showed up are folks who are our ‘verifiers’ who verify ICE activity this film helped them see the importance of why we organize against ICE activity. We had a lot of folks who reached back out and were interested in further supporting our work.”
Overall, these events proved that people lack the spaces for discussion and reflection of these issues. Filmmaker of Santuario, Pilar Timpane put it best when she said of her experience of the Boone screening: “It was really great and inspiring to see all of these films together and it was a packed event. I think people are really hungry for these conversations and are tired of having them in small echo chambers. Community gatherings like this one show people are ready to have these open conversations together and look at what it really means to support immigrants in our community especially in the 2020 election year.”