Oral History: “Destination America”
“Destination America,” Oral Fixation’s packed collaboration with the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts & Letters Live and SOLUNA International Art & Music Festival, was a night to remember, celebrating the amazing endurance of the human spirit through the true stories of immigrants and refugees!
To start off the evening, youth guitar ensemble La Rondalla from Oak Cliff played a lively set. Then, SOLUNA resident artist Monte Laster presented a stunning film entitled Destinations, which featured each of the storytellers interacting with a work of art from the Dallas Museum of Art that resonated with their journey.
Mexican-born Francisco Moreno shared how he grew up in Texas feeling like a “coconut”: brown on the outside and white on the inside. He learned to find the balance between fitting in and honoring his roots through exploring his identity as an immigrant in his art.
The adorable Zarni White charmed the audience with her tale of how different her life is now versus growing up as a dirt poor orphan in Burma. From “gross” Western-style toilets to needing to follow the rules of the road when driving, Zarni highlighted the changes in her life while also sharing how she’s been able to give back through her work with refugees in Texas.
After only four months in America, Ghazwan Altaie bravely shed light on how the American invasion of Iraq altered his life forever. As a refugee in Jordan, he initially was horrified when his mother became friendly with an American relief organization. But with time and exposure to special people dedicating their lives to helping victims of war, Ghazwan realized the humanity in all people and he too found joy and fulfillment in helping others like him.
With spitfire grit and charm, 80-year-old Basil Sideris shared memories of his life as a boy in Greece during WWII. His 21-day boat trip to America to visit an uncle resulted in a life-changing permanent move and a heartwarming love story. Keeping wisdom gained from the old country, Basil found happiness and success as an American citizen.
The lovely Cecilia Lazcano told of how unsafe conditions in her hometown of Mexico City, and her desire for a Master’s degree, propelled her to move to Texas at age 32. Once here, she struggled to learn English, but eventually discovered a hearing loss was the root of the problem. She’s since completed her Masters and found joy in her career working with at-risk populations.
Peter Thiong, a former “Lost Boy of Sudan,” took us through his 21 years as a refugee in Africa, after he was forced to flee his home at age 11 because of war. With bravery uncommon at such a young age, Peter persevered through incredibly difficult circumstances by holding true to guidance given to him by his father and mother. Today, he holds an MBA and works at UTSW.
Closing out the evening was the beautiful and powerful Linh Matthews. With dignity and grace, Linh took us through her privileged young childhood to the devastating effects of Ho Chi Minh’s Communist takeover. Her family eventually escaped on a boat built by her uncle only to be taken by Thai pirates then transferred to a camp for Vietnamese boat people. Her remarkable delivery brought the audience to tears.
After the show, glowing audience members poured out of Horchow Auditorium and into the DMA Atrium to meet the vibrant cast of storytellers and thank them for so bravely sharing their journeys of coming to America. A wonderfully diverse crowd enthusiastically reacted to the powerful beauty and humanity expressed in the stories. The energy in the museum was fantastic!
Stay tuned for the announcement of Oral Fixation’s 5th season dates and themes coming to you in June!