I Am My Story: Voices of Hope

Olive Bukuru, one of six women highlighted in “I Am My Story: Voices of Hope” on exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society. Image courtesy of Jim Lommasson

May 14 – August 22, 2021

  • Family-friendly
  • Free for Members
  • Researchers
  • Teachers
  • Handicap Accessible Friendly

Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Ave
Portland, Oregon 97205
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I Am My Story: Voices of Hope is an original exhibition designed by The Immigrant Story in collaboration with acclaimed Portland photographer Jim Lommasson. At a moment when our state and our country are entering a critical period of conversation about the erasure and underrepresentation of people of color, I Am My Story highlights the real-life stories of six young women from Africa who have made their homes in Oregon. They are survivors of genocide and the atrocities of war, they have lived through a traumatic break with the past, and they have faced prejudice and injustice in their new home. These six women have built their lives with courage and hope. Featuring photographic portraits and objects owned by the women, the exhibit offers a window onto the struggles experienced by communities of color, worldwide and here in Oregon, and the remarkable resilience and determination that rises up in response.

The six women featured in the exhibit, who began their lives in Burundi, Congo, and Eritrea, appear in larger-than-life photographic portraits, facing visitors with dignity and poise. Their voices take hold in the accompanying narratives, describing their individual journeys and sharing their perspectives on their experiences and their world. These stories of hope unfold different facets of the rich identities of these women: as Black, as African, as women, and as survivors.

The Immigrant Story is proud to present this exhibit in conjunction with Jim Lommasson, who extends his “What We Carried” storytelling project to include these objects women brought on their perilous journeys. Lommasson’s ongoing effort uses objects carried by refugees, including these six women, to describe the experience of fleeing one’s homeland under difficult circumstances and resuming life in a strange new land. The accompanying response offered by each immigrant speaks to the luminous inner life of survival and testifies to the unspeakable anguish of a life forever left behind.

The objects, portraits, and narratives all come to life and become personal, connecting viewers with the thoughts, joys, and fears of these young women. They shine a light on different facets of Black peoples’ experiences, from the multiple layers of adversity experienced by immigrant women of color and by survivors of war, to the strength of a person who has decided precisely who to become.

The I Am My Story exhibit is made possible by the generous contribution of the Zidell Family Foundation.

About The Immigrant Story

The Immigrant Story (TIS) is a nonprofit created by Sankar Raman in 2017 in Portland, Oregon. Raman came to the United States for graduate school as an immigrant from India. After the 2016 presidential election, he decided to use his photography and his passion for immigrant stories to create an organization that works to counter the climate of anti-immigrant rhetoric and violence. 

The Immigrant Story is made up of volunteer journalists, storytellers, writers, photographers, graphic designers, web developers, and marketing specialists who report on and disseminate stories of immigrants and refugees to advance a national dialogue about immigration and dispel myths about new Americans. Its vision is to provide curated and relevant content to enhance empathy and to create a more inclusive community.  

Over the past four years, TIS has become a community-oriented, collaborative arts programming organization. It has published the stories of nearly 200 immigrants on their website and organized 30 visual arts exhibitions and public events exploring the experiences of Oregon immigrant communities.

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