Welcome refugees to America

The Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse (ACTS) members have just scored free tickets to the 2017 Syracuse International Film Festival, a night that shed light on many important topics.

The ACTS Youth Council, made up of primarily Somali refugees or children of refugees, will meet with 150 other refugee students from Syracuse schools and surrounding areas.

The first event the students will be able to attend on April 21 is a three-part cultural celebration series that may hit home with some of the students. There will be music from an international musician, Samite Mulondo, who was able to escape Uganda as a refugee under Idi Amin’s horrific rule.  The night will continue as students watch Disney’s award-winning film “Queen of Katwe,” a film about a Ugandan girl who overcomes struggles in order to become a chess champion.  Students will also be able to watch “Song of a Refugee,” a documentary by Syracuse native Glenn Ivers, about how Samite’s music impacted refugees in camps in Uganda.

While this annual festival is dedicated to culturally and artistically showing films of people’s lives, the act of allowing student refugees to attend for free could not come at a more appropriate time. After Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons in a gas attack on civilians, the U.S. reacted by launching Tomahawk missiles in order to combat further fire from Syrian government.

As a nation, we are at a time politically where refugees are a topic of discussion in our everyday lives, a shift that has taken place within the past decade.

After understanding more about the situation in both the Middle East and in Europe, one can see that refugees are people struggling in underdeveloped countries.

They can very well live in a city like Syracuse, even with extensive and complicated backgrounds.  By being a sanctuary city, according to Mayor Stephanie Miner, Syracuse shows the rest of New York State that acceptance of people regardless of their geological background is to be valued. By providing services to refugee students, it sets an example of how other organizations should be able to understand their audiences, and provide messages to others about how to better understand this intense political climate people are now living in.

The importance of the Syracuse Film Festival and its partners allowing refugees to attend for free can also impact U.S. citizens. As this festival is determined to help individuals grow in their understanding of political issues, audiences can see that the refugee crisis is not something happening in a far-away land that is never on the news. Students captivate and inspire people around the world and offering this event to refugee students opens citizens’ eyes that much more.

Mundolo commented on the event in Syracuse saying that he is proud to perform in such an understanding city.

When asked what the importance of such an event is Ivers said, “For me, it underscores how special Syracuse is. It has always welcomed refugees.”