Last December, It's Been A Minute producer and Neiman Visiting Fellow Anjuli Sastry posted a callout for family histories from immigrant communities of color. Responses by immigrants who came to the United States from all over the globe came pouring in, with unifying themes of assimilation, identity, and bridging different cultural worlds. With these intergenerational stories, Where We Come From will explore how exactly immigrants of color and their descendants answer the question 'where are you really from?' but in their own words, with each other. The audio-visual series pairs oral histories with video and photography to get an intimate, immersive view into each storyteller's life.
Where We Come From will debut the first week of Immigrant Heritage Month with two video episodes on Tuesday, June 1st, and an audio story on All Things Considered in the same week. More video and audio episodes will come out over the course of the month.
The series centers immigrant communities of color so they can tell their own stories.
"I am South Indian, and my grandparents immigrated here in the 1960s. Growing up, I didn't always hear stories about immigrants like my family and when I did, it wasn't always centering them or was more about the news of something happening to them," Sastry explained. "I wanted to make something that honored these voices—the histories you don't always learn about in the classroom but are integral to the fabric of the U.S. nonetheless."
Sastry, who also co-founded the Marginalized Genders and Intersex People of Color Mentorship Program at NPR, will explore a wide range of topics in the short-run series, from language and food traditions to racial justice and immigration advocacy. By choosing to focus on intergenerational conversations, these issues are discussed directly between community members themselves, rather than an external party or an interview about a given news event.
"Often these conversations are already happening—sometimes they are questions asked of elders or family members across generations, at dinner tables, on the phone, in the car," said Sastry. "I remember my grandpa sharing so much with me about growing up in India and also coming to the U.S. But when he passed away, there was so much I was left still wanting to ask him. I hope (and I've heard) that this series allows people to ask the difficult (or fun) questions and provide a bonding opportunity to learn more about our own histories and where we come from."
Listeners will hear a few voices they might recognize, like New York Times food writer Priya Krishna or bestselling author Luvvie Ajayi Jones, along with stories from regular folks, their friends and family, and even NPR staff. The series will run throughout the month of June, with audio dropping into different podcasts and news programs, and video episodes dropping on YouTube.
"This series is for immigrants of color to hear themselves in a way they may not have before—knowing you're not alone in what you're going or have gone through when it comes to being in the U.S., no matter what generation immigrant you are."