Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Changing the Narrative

Changing the Narrative
Philip Chukwueke, MBA student

During the week of our program’s immersion in Rome, I was afforded the opportunity to hear from different organizations that work to assist refugees and FDPs, in their plight to seek humanitarian aid as they hope to achieve asylum in Rome. We’ve heard from representatives of different organizations, such as the Jesuit Refugee Service, Guidi Invisibili, Save the Children, and Médecins Sans Frontières (“Doctor’s Without Borders), as they describe their respective organizational efforts to assist FDPs and how they’re efforts have been impacted by the increasing anti-immigration sentiment that has been sweeping through Rome and all over the European Union. However, of all of the organizations, Guidi Invisibili left a lasting impact with me.

This organization within Labortorio 53, whose mission has been to help change the negative narrative that of migrants, refugees, and forcibly displaced persons in Rome. They’ve been doing so by conducting sound walks: audio guides which give listeners a fully immersive experience of individuals who have traveled from their respective homes, all the way to Rome, in the hopes to reclaim their lives and escape the horrific environment that has plagued their home country.

With the audio guides, listeners can follow the steps the storyteller took as they first arrived to Rome, trying to figure out where to go, all while navigating in a dramatically unfamiliar environment filled with people that don’t look like them and speak an unfamiliar language. This immersive experience that Guidi Invisibili provides for participates, is extremely significant when it comes to trying to understand what refugees and forcibly displaced people have to endure in the hopes the achieve the slightest chance of achieving asylum

Furthermore, the audio guides and sound walks provide a way to combat the negative, anti-immigration narrative that has swept through Rome, Italy, and all of Europe. By giving people an opportunity to essentially try and walk in the shoes of refugees and forcibly displaced people, it can help counter the inaccurate portrayal that such people are portrayed in the media.

When I think of such inaccuracies, I’m brought to an article that I stumbled upon: The Manufacture of Hatred by Daniel Howden of News Deeply, where people, in Hungary were interviewed and inaccurately describe migrants as “dirty” and “violent” and that they are “mostly young men who don’t want to work.”

Another article, Immigrant Stereotypes Are Everywhere on by the Atlantic, reports how the media continually plays a role in the negative perception of immigrants. The images seen are then consumed by an audience, and for many, are taken as factual representation that influences their view among people whom are trying to reclaim their own lives in another country. Changing the narrative, with the help of Guidi Invisibli can have an immense effect. Guidi Invisibli could be the first step to resolving the Europe’s two-faced migration reality, and change the current sentiment of people who are looking for more than just a new home.