Immigrants continue to tell America's story

To the editor:

On Wednesday, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and Berkshire Community College were fortunate to host a presentation by H.T. Chen and Dancers, a New York City-based dance company currently in residency at Williams College. It shared the story behind its new production, "South of Gold Mountain," which tells, in the form of dance and images, the little-known story of Chinese immigrants to the American South, based on three years of oral histories and interviews.

This is America's story. They came in search of a better life. Treated as second class citizens, they met with racism and their children were banned from local schools, but they persevered and gave back to their new communities in many ways.

Their story reminded me of my great-grandparents, who immigrated from northern Italy to Arizona, where they too were treated as second class citizens. As a child, my grandmother was not allowed to swim in the community pool or play with the "white" children.

The American story is one of constant struggle between our base impulses of fear of anyone different from ourselves — whether they are Irish or Italian or Catholic or Jewish or Asian or Hispanic or gay or disabled or any number of other categories — and our higher impulses of love and generosity, of recognition that we share a common humanity. We all harbor fear in our hearts. But we all harbor love and understanding too. Those are the impulses we must nourish and share.


I look forward to welcoming refugees, our next wave of Americans in this country of immigrants, to our community with an open heart. And I encourage everyone to see "South of Gold Mountain," which is being performed one night only this Saturday (Oct. 1) at Williams College's '62 Center for Theatre and Dance at 8pm. Tickets are only $10 general admission, and $3 for students, and can be bought at the door.

America is made up of millions of immigrant stories — my family's and yours — and together all tell the unfolding story of our country.

Megan Whilden, Pittsfield