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Listen to these personal stories about immigration, being a Black man and more

Host Jamie J. Brunson and Executive Producer Elisabeth Perez-Luna at the Commonspace launch event. February 24, 2017 Category: FeaturedMediumResults
It can be the personal stories, whether they’re told from the first-person perspective or through the arts, that best expose the intimate problems people struggle with in the country.

A new storytelling collaboration between First Person Arts and WHYY, titled “Commonspace,” uses individuals’ stories to help Philadelphians feel more in touch with the pressing issues of our society — or more specifically, according to the website, the projects aims to be a “springboard for processing today’s headlines, and feeling a bit more connected the world.”

So what is “Commonspace”? Hosted by Jamie J. Brunson, executive director of First Person Arts, it’s a combination of a radio show, podcast and live event series in which each episode will contain personal audio stories dedicated to a specific topic. The first episode last month was about what it’s like being a black man in America today, and the just-released second episode is all about immigrants.

You can listen to both episodes on iTunes or Stitcher.

The ambitious project, which is supported by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, launched officially last night at an invite-only event at WHYY where some of the storytellers for the second episode, titled “Immigrants: Home of the Brave,” gave some live previews of the stories they told on the podcast.

Those stories include suspenseful ones like Nimisha Ladva’s, currently a visiting assistant professor of writing at Haverford College, where she shared at a previous First Person Arts event how she and her family became citizens by turning themselves in as undocumented immigrants.

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And then there’s the story from Catzie Vilayphonh, creator of Laos in the House, where she includes a hilarious audio snippet of a conversation between her daughter Aditi and her mother to illustrate how the Lao language is mixed in with broken English in her household to create “Laolish.”

In between these stories, we also get to hear from the team behind “Commonspace” and how the topic plays a part in their lives. And the immigrant episode opens with a powerful reading of “The New Colossus,” the poem etched into the base of the Statue of Liberty, by the one and only Sonia Sanchez.

Want a chance to tell your story for “Commonspace”? You can pitch the story here. Or if you’re feeling daring, the project will be hosting a live audition event at the Asian Arts Initiative and Philadelphia Youth Playwrights space on Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 6 to 9 p.m. — they need volunteers for that, too.

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