Immigrants share their stories at North Shore Community College

North Shore Community College student Fatima Jallow Nambouh speaks to the crowd gathered for the 39th annual Forum on Tolerance at the school. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN–As a young girl in the small Western African country of Gambia, Fatima Jallow Nambouh grew up in a place where poverty was not uncommon and life seemed unfair. Nambouh dreamed of being an agent of change for her community.

“People talked about Massachusetts not as a place that develops cars or other products but as a place that develops brains,” she said talking about how education drove her to emigrate to Massachusetts four years ago.

Nambouh, a North Shore Community College student, was one of three speakers at the Lynn campus during Thursday’s forum on tolerance titled “Respect and Inclusion: Supporting the Struggles of our Immigrant Community.”

She spoke in front of several dozen students, teachers, and community members telling her immigrant story.

“My biggest struggle coming here was finding a sense of belonging,” she said.

To help find that belonging she joined several clubs and extracurricular activities, invoking many she met to question how she does it all.
“I am giving back to a community that has supported me,” Nambouh said.

The forums, which the school has held for more than 20 years at the Lynn and Danvers campuses, stemmed from a Holocaust studies course but have come to address all aspects of diversity, said Forum on Tolerance Chairwoman Dr. Laurie Carlson.

“Hearing a human experience helps create empathy and understanding in the public,” Carlson said.

The two other speakers at the event were Rick Jakious, who served as Massachusetts district director for U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, and Attorney Maria L. Santos.

“It is certainly a troubling uncertain time for the immigrant community,” Jakious said.

Jakious talked about political climate surrounding immigrants in the country and told stories about people he and others have helped.

He also outlined several positions Moulton has taken on the issue; the acceptance of refugees into the country, especially Iraqi and Afghani interpreters who help soldiers, work against Muslim bans, helping to sustain Temporary Protective Status for certain Immigrants, and support for both sanctuary cities and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order.

Santos, a childhood immigrant herself who now practices immigration and nationality law, focused on DACA, which President Barack Obama put into place in 2012, and the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act, a legislative proposal that would replace DACA.

“What makes us special is not our similarities but our differences,” she said. “We need to accept each other’s differences and see each person as an individual.”

The forum concluded with a screening of “The Invisible Crisis: The Female Face of Forced Migration,” a film documentary film about the struggles of Central American women and children forced to flee from their homes because of violence and instability.

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