Musings on 21 Cartas

Photo by Adolfo Cantú-Villarreal.

Photo by Adolfo Cantú-Villarreal.

21 Cartas is about finding commonality.

As we head into our concerts this week, I hope that people come away from 21 Cartas seeing themselves reflected in the words of these women. Or, if not themselves, then their parents, or grandparents, or whomever in their family was the first to come to the United States.

I hope that audiences will explore the possibility of not seeing immigrants, asylum seekers, or refugees as others but as a continuation of their own stories. And then, the question becomes: why would we do this to ourselves? Why would we do this to our own families?

It's amazing how many intersections you uncover when you approach a project like this. I was having a conversation this morning with a law professor at Lewis & Clark College, and I learned that Stephen Manning who created the Innovation Law Lab was a student there. So this professor was very aware of the legal (ethical, moral… ) issues that were driving his desire to create an initiative like this. (Innovation Law Lab designs software that makes it easier for non-lawyers to provide legal aid to those seeking asylum in the United States.)

Edna and I have been working on this project for over a year, and I’ve been thinking about it for a year before that. It's been a privilege to share the stories of these brave women who have risked everything for their families. It’s been a privilege to make so many connections in Portland’s immigrant communities. I think as artists we have this responsibility to be curious to be inquisitive, but we also need to recognize that we have a responsibility to shape the narrative. 21 Cartas has allowed me the extraordinary opportunity to elevate a narrative, to share stories that are not my own but that resonate with my own. For that, I feel richer as an artist and more whole as a person.

— Darrell