Urging people to take a stand on immigration reform, JCUA hosted an evening with poet Kevin Coval, titled “Immigration and Its Discontents: Stories and Schtick,” Thursday, June 13, 2013.
by Jessica Kim Cohen
JCUA Intern, Communications
Throughout the evening, Jews and non-Jews alike shared their immigration stories, describing both their family’s arrival to the United States and the life that followed.
The event was headlined by author, spoken word artist and slam poet Kevin Coval, founder of “Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival” and Artistic Director at the non-profit organization “Young Chicago Authors.”
Kevin read excerpts from his newest book Schtick, which explores Jewish assimilation in America and the consequences of Jews shedding their minority status. By reflecting on the Jewish American story, one grounded in immigration and diaspora, JCUA hoped to remind others of the Jewish responsibility to take action for immigrant justice.
Contesting the assertion that homogeneity will lead to peace, Kevin described his point-of-view by quoting and explaining the lyric “going to war with the melting pot” from Wu-Tang Clan’s “Protect Ya Neck.”
“I believe we should maintain specificity,” Kevin said “I contest this idea that we have to become very boring and wonder bread. It’s better when there’s flavor, or any maintenance of culture. Like I said, I love Jewish noses! Or that joke, ‘there are two Jews, and three opinions.’ I love that we debate everything. What constitutes as a deli is a hot-button issue in my family.”
Other participants included Kalman, an immigration lawyer, who told the story of his great-grandparents, grandparents and mother’s long and winding journey to America; Stephanie, an undocumented citizen from the Philippines and Jorge, an undocumented citizen from Mexico.
“I have always believed in global human rights, I have always volunteered, and yet still people think that something is wrong with me,” Stephanie said, elaborating on her experiences being undocumented.
Stephanie’s message rang clear, illustrating the struggle of the millions of undocumented citizens throughout the nation. “These are mothers, and these are fathers, looking for work, without criminal records, yet our government spends money detaining then. We should have the rights other people have, especially when we are giving back to this country so much.”