The coastal Oregon community of Newport is no stranger to using film as a tool for engagement.
For the past year, residents have been tackling tough issues at monthly community screenings organized by the Immigration Information Response Team, part of the statewide Rural Organizing Project and Not In Our Town’s national partner, Welcoming America.
Large audiences have turned out for the films that feature the human side of immigration. Earlier this year, the group screened documentaries Which Way Home and Welcome to Shelbyville. As part of International Peace Week, hosted by the Interfaith Community for Peace and Justice, the group is screening Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness tonight.
Joanne Cvar said Lincoln County’s demographic has changed in recent years with the influx of 4,600 Latinos. Many work in the area’s tourist industry, but nevertheless, the population change has been an adjustment for the community.
Their local screenings, for example, sometimes spark anti-immigrant letters in the local paper, but Cvar sees that as an opportunity to begin the conversation and respond. The team is working with the local PFLAG, also a partner with Not In Our Town, the Oceana Family Literary Center and others, to publicize tonight's event.
Cvar said she enjoys using film because “it talks about the other side of immigration. [We are] trying to work up some empathy for them as people, not just ‘aliens.’” The team’s mission includes helping educate others on “the dignity of all people in this country.”
The team also hosts forums with public officials on immigration issues and forums in Spanish to educate the Latino community about their rights. They work closely with a local nonprofit, Centro de Ayuda, and are currently working to get the county’s commissioners to pass this Welcoming Community Resolution. (Find Newport’s resolution and other sample proclamations here.)
“I just want people to live together and respect each other,” says Cvar, a 79-year-old advocate, “and realize what has made this country strong is the assimilation of people from all over the world.”
For more information on the film, visit the Light in the Darkness page. You can also find a screening near you or host one in your town. Not In Our Town offers numerous resources to help make your screening successful.