Immigrant, refugee stories focus of Beaverton Library photo exhibit

Washington County

'We the People' photo exhibit now on display at Beaverton Library through Feb. 28

BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN) — The Beaverton Library is currently hosting a two-part photo exhibit relaying the stories of immigrants and refugees in our community.

The first part of the “We the People” exhibit are six portraits of local Muslim women wearing a traditional hijab, with short introductions drawn from interviews where they give their responses to the 2017 MAX train attack. The incident allegedly happened after the suspect targeted two teenagers, including a Muslim girl who wore a hijab, with slurs; the suspect, Jeremy Christian, stabbed the three strangers who came to their defense. Only one survived.

The non-profit The Immigrant Story is the organization behind the exhibit. Sankar Raman, the non-profit’s executive director, took the photos himself over the course of a year immediately following the attack and traces the community’s perspective on the matter, from fear to healing. The photo series is called “Who We Are: A Portrait Exhibit Honoring Muslim Women in Our Community.”

Sankar Raman documents the life experiences of six Muslim women as part of an exhibit at Beaverton Library. January 22, 2020 (Sankar Raman).

“We want to make sure everyone feel welcome in our community. And we want to make sure these folks…felt they are part of our community, they have a very strong sense of belonging,” Raman explained.

The second part of the exhibit is a photographic document of the objects carried by Iraqi and Syrian war refugees. Often they are things like a single photograph of their family or a religious text. But there were some surprises, such as one person’s entire antique tea set, another’s Barbie collection and one person’s American flag flip flops.

The photos of the objects also have the handwritten narrative of their owners’ escape from war to the United States, often in their native language.

Portland-based Jim Lommasson is the photographer behind this series in the exhibit. He collected the photos from participants from all over the United States.

“I think what happens when the viewer looks at the photographs is we start to ask ourselves: ‘If I had to leave tonight what would I take with me?’ And so that process, I think, builds empathy,” Lommasson said.

Portland based photographer Jim Lommasson collected the objects of people escaping war in Iraq and Syria for his photo series, What We Carried, currently on display at Beaverton Library. January 22, 2020 (Jim Lommasson).

Lommasson’s photo series, called “What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of Civilization” has traveled to multiple venues across the U.S., including for an exhibit at Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration last summer.

The Immigrant Story is a local non-profit that embarks “To document, narrate and curate stories of immigrants in order to enhance empathy and help promote an inclusive community,” according to its website.

The exhibit at Beaverton Library will be up until Feb. 28.

On Saturday, Feb. 1, Beaverton Library will host author Abdi Nor Iftin as part of their One Book, One Beaverton community-wide reading event to talk about his book, Call Me American. It’s put on in part by The Immigrant Story and occurs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Immigrant Story also has two other exhibits on display in town, one at Oregon Historical Society, called “DREAMs Deferred,” and one at Portland International Airport, called “There Is a Land Over the Ocean.”

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