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"What Happens to a Dream Deferred?"*

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

The Immigrant Story and the City of Beaverton present “DREAMs Deferred Live,” a two-day event featuring one night of soulful music and another night of moving storytelling. To kick off National Welcoming Week, we invite you to hear five compelling stories told — and lived — by members of our community who grew up with American values without feeling valued by America.

Both evenings are free of charge and can be viewed anywhere in the world.

On the evening of September 12, from 7-8:30 p.m., five storytellers from Mexico and Guatemala, all who entered the country undocumented, will share slices of their lives. This free event is made possible by the generous contribution of the Zidell Family Foundation.

Back in January before the world shut down, I started working with The Immigrant Story nonprofit to prepare for a live storytelling event called "DREAMs Deferred, Live!" which would showcase stories from people who entered the United States with an undocumented status. The initial group of storytellers had all been featured in a photo exhibition at the Oregon Historical Society called "What They Carried."

We began meeting with the storytellers on Saturday mornings, and our outstanding storytelling coach Erin Briddick (instructor of communication studies at Portland Community College) helped each person choose a personal story that represents a significant part of their immigrant experience.

I've been volunteering my time and talents as an assistant coach/storyteller wrangler. Getting seven people to show up on a Saturday morning was not always an easy task! But after one person dropped out early on, we were on our way! We were planning to hold our live event at Portland State University's Lincoln Hall on April 11.

Then the pandemic hit. Unfortunately, our dreams were deferred along with our event! After realizing we needed to cancel the April event, we moved it to become part of the City of Beaverton's Welcoming Week. Two more people dropped out, but two additional amazing storytellers joined...both of whom work for incredible nonprofit Adelante Mujeres, one of my new clients.

The five stories told by immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico will be broadcast on YouTube on Saturday, September 12 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. RSVP and share the Facebook event page. This is who you will be hearing from:

Petrona Dominguez will speak about her identity crisis after immigrating to the US at age five, not fitting in with the white kids or the Mexican kids.

Photo of Petrona Dominguez
Petrona Dominguez | Photo by Sankar Raman, The Immigrant Story

Heriberto (Eddie) Bolanos will describe how he escaped the school-to-prison pipeline and a gang after a school resource officer warned him he might end up in jail or dead if he didn't change his life.

Heriberto Bolanos
Heriberto Bolanos | Photo by Sankar Raman, The Immigrant Story

Liliana Luna will talk about protesting as “undocumented and unafraid” and getting arrested as an act of civil disobedience to force then-President Obama to take action on the Dream Act.

Liliana Luna
Liliana Luna | Photo by Sankar Raman, The Immigrant Story

Miguel Rodriguez will describe the long-awaited, poignant moment when he finally received his green card and was able to receive financial aid to complete his degree.

Miguel Rodriguez | Photo by Sankar Raman, The Immigrant Story

And Bernal Cruz will describe what it feels like to go home to your country of origin (Guatemala in his case), and how it’s not always what you expect it to be.

Photof Bernal Cruz
Bernal Cruz | Photo by Sankar Raman, The Immigrant Story

It has been such an honor and privilege to see how these stories have evolved over the months...and in the case of Eddie and Petrona, they were latecomers to the storyteller group and had to write and memorize their stories much more rapidly than the others.

And working with our storytelling coach, Erin Briddick, has been a pure joy. She's skillfully guided these people to their final stories, while offering warm encouragement, insights, and suggestions along the way.

On Night Two, Thursday, September 17), Gerardo Calderon and his ensemble will present vocals, instrumentals, and rhythms of folk musical traditions of Mexico and Central America, also on Youtube. RSVP and share on the Facebook event page.

I hope you can join us, or if not, view later! Every immigrant has an incredible story, and you won't want to miss these.

Soon, you'll have a chance to hear Sankar Raman, the founder of The Immigrant Story, share how he came to start this nonprofit on the Finding Fertile Ground Podcast.

*The title of this event comes from Langston Hughes' poem, "Harlem," and it is a take on the term "Dreamers," which refers to an immigrant youth who qualifies for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. They are also often called "DACA recipients." According to, "After Congress failed to pass the Dream Act in 2010 (despite 70 percent of Americans supporting the proposed legislation), the Obama Administration on June 15, 2012 announced a temporary program allowing Dreamers to come forward, pass a background check, and apply for work permits. The program is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and allows applicants to legally work, while being protected from deportation. DACA status must be renewed every two years, which means it does not provide permanent protection." Read more about the Dream Act, Dreamers, DACA, and Trump's continual efforts to shut out the Dreamers here.

Contact me if you can use some help with your writing, editing, communications, or marketing. With over 30 years of experience in the environmental consulting industry, I am passionate about sustainability and corporate citizenship, equity & inclusion, businesses that use their power for good, and doing everything I can to create a kinder, more sustainable, and just world.

Fertile Ground Communications LLC is a certified women-owned business enterprise, disadvantaged business enterprise, and emerging small business.

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