breakthrough beat: “Welcome to Shelbyville” explores what it means to be American
We’re a proud promotional partner of the film, Welcome to Shelbyville. The film takes you to small town, Shelbyville, Tennessee where the community experiences transformative changes with the arrival of hundreds of Muslim Somali refugees, combined with an already rapidly developing Latino population. Longtime Shelbyville residents (both white and African American) are faced with the challenge of integrating with this new demographic, and controversy erupts throughout the small town when a local reporter produces a series of newspaper articles about these newcomers. Shelbyville follows the overlapping lives of people in the heart of America’s Bible Belt: a Somali refugee, a white reporter, a fifth-generation African American resident of Shelbyville, an established Mexican immigrant, a Latina English teacher and various others with deep and tangled roots. The film captures the interactions between these communities on a back drop of immigrant identity in a time of an American economic crisis: factories are closing, and it is extremely difficult to find jobs. Tyson Foods, a local chicken plant, hires hundreds of new Somali refugees as they work towards building a life in this new land. The film details the experiences from the perspectives of both the newcomers and from those who receive (or refuse to receive) them. Most of all, the film highlights a relationship that fosters between both the Latino and Somali populations, as they find common grounds in their beginnings and their dreams of America.
Hawo Siyad, a recent resident of Shelbyville speaks honestly about moving to a new place. She says, “I came here to Shelbyville two years ago because I found a job here at Tyson Foods. I had always imagined America would be a place where I could work, find better education, and live peacefully. But most people are not welcoming to me.” Set on the eve of the 2008 presidential elections, the film voices an interplay of agendas: the newcomers, mostly of Muslim faith, struggle to make new lives for their families, leaders of this extremely religious town attempt to guide congregations through this period of great American “change,” and long-time residents of the community struggle to open themselves to integrating and interacting with these foreign newcomers.
Welcome to Shelbyville’s integration of race, religion, and immigrant identity is echoed in the experience fostered in our human rights Facebook game America 2049. As players search to find a Ugandan immigrant, Ken Asaba (played by Harold Perrineau from LOST) America 2049 addresses numerous human rights issues including immigrant rights, past and present immigration policies, and the space for immigrant identity in a country that still grapples with prejudice amplified by post-9/11 America. Yet, while America 2049 is set in the future, Welcome to Shelbyville illustrates the harsh realities of the immigrant’s struggle today.
Active Voice has developed Shelbyville Multimedia, a platform created to promote community. It aims to build harmony between Americans, immigrants, and refugees on a national scale. Active Voice has dedicated itself to creating engagement campaigns surrounding stories of immigrants and refugees for over a decade. They use documentaries, feature films, and have even developed a children’s museum exhibit in their effort to approach immigrant identity from various unique angles. Shelbyville Multimedia works to inspire Americans of all origins to get to know each other, to embrace their differences, and to take initiative in building stronger communities.
Tools you can use:
- Full-length and hour-long versions of Welcome to Shelbyville that are available to be screened in community settings.
- Resource materials including both a discussion guide and an event planning kit which allow viewers to pull themselves further into the issues raised in the film.
- Webisodes featuring new and updated footage, revealing the complex aspects of the narratives of the residents of Shelbyville.
- Social media tools, including an interactive website and a Facebook page to inspire community building on both a national and global scale.
For more information on watching the film, click HERE.
Click to learn about what you can do to get involved!
June 2, 2011 by Maya
Tags: active voice, African American, American, bible belt, Community, community building, documentary, human rights, immigrant, Immigrant Rights, integration, Latino, multimedia, Muslim, refugees, Religion, shelbyville, social tools, somali, welcome to shelbyville
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One Response to “breakthrough beat: “Welcome to Shelbyville” explores what it means to be American”
Posted: June 9, 2011 at 10:21 PM
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