“For women, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action….The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.”
— Audre Lorde
Open Communities is partnering with the Niles Township Parents’ ELL Center in Skokie to hold weekly immigrant writing workshop with the idea of encouraging immigrants to express their sentiments, concerns and struggles by writing. Niles Township has the fastest growing immigrant population in the Chicago area. The ELL Center, which was founded and is solely funded by the 8 school districts in Niles Township (Skokie, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, and parts of Niles), serves hundreds of immigrant parents from 55 countries who speak 45 languages. The pilot writing/research/action project involves over a dozen parents from countries ranging from Kyrgyzstan to Egypt and from Poland to Mexico. It is facilitated by Dr. Janise Hurtig of the Community Writing Research Project, affiliated with the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The participants, mostly mothers and grandmothers, are interested in learning to write in English or improve it as a way to be able to send letters to their children’s school teacher, talk to their neighbors or to integrate in their community. Every Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., participants discuss and write about different topics, from the life in their home country, their arrival to the U.S. to what they like most about the community in which they live. Since the third week we had 8 consistent participants, each of them continue writing and seem comfortable sharing, asking questions and showing interest about the experiences and stories with others.
“I had lived in Skokie for 3 years; my husband was already here when I came from Russia. I remember, my first day here was like in a mist, we didn’t understand what was happening,” wrote one woman. She added, “I liked Skokie so much because it is a convenient suburb with good public transportation. I like to walk to the stores and school; I like so much the parks and the library. It was pleasant that a lot of my husband’s friends invited us to their houses. I still have very good impressions of our first day in the United States.”