‘Voices of a Highway’: Immigrant stories from Buford Highway shared in recordings

Sergio Monsalvo, a business owner in the Buford Highway corridor, is among the participants who will speak in Wednesday's "Human Library Project" event.

Credit: We Love BuHi

Credit: We Love BuHi

Sergio Monsalvo, a business owner in the Buford Highway corridor, is among the participants who will speak in Wednesday's "Human Library Project" event.

DeKalb County Public Library is partnering with a local nonprofit to record the stories of immigrants and others who call Buford Highway home.

“Voices of a Highway” will set out to record the stories of people who live and work along the ethnically diverse eight-mile stretch of road that runs through north DeKalb. From 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, viewers can join a video discussion and hear from 10 people about their experiences on Buford Highway.

The recordings are the latest in the library system’s “Human Library Project,” a storytelling series that allows marginalized and often-misunderstood groups to talk about their lives.

“The whole project is about is really about pulling stories beyond books, where you can really sit down with a human being and get those tidbits and details and emotional connections that you normally can’t get from a book,” Lily Pabian, executive director of We Love BuHi, said.

The 90-minute free discussion will be hosted by We Love BuHi, a nonprofit that works to document and archive immigrant stories from the corridor, which runs through Brookhaven, Chamblee and Doraville. Pabian said Buford Highway has been a home for immigrant communities for decades due to its affordability, proximity to public transportation and job market.

We are partnering with our friends from DeKalb County Public Library to present the Human Library Project. This year’s...

Posted by We Love Buford Highway on Friday, November 27, 2020

Pabian said her organization hopes to eventually collect stories from more than 100 immigrants to be archived in Georgia State University Library’s digital archives. She’s been working with DeKalb’s library system since early this year to collaborate on a story-sharing project to highlight the anecdotes collected so far.

However, the coronavirus pandemic changed the course of those plans, leading We Love BuHi to take the stories virtual. The “Human Library Project,” which has given a platform to convicts, refugees, homeless people and others to share their stories, was a natural fit.

Last year's Human Library Project theme was Justice in Georgia. Although we will be virtual this year, the goal is still the same: engage in conversations that explore the stereotypes and prejudices that separate us, as well as the similarities that connect us. Join us December 2, for the Voices of a Highway edition of the Human Library Project.

Posted by DeKalb County Public Library on Sunday, November 29, 2020

Pabian will be the keynote speaker and will host a panel discussion on topics including growing up along Buford Highway, education and small business ownership. They’ll also discuss how “generational exclusion” affected their families and communities, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that barred Chinese laborers from immigration to the U.S.

“We have 10 stories, myself included, where we really get to explore a deep perspective of what Buford Highway really means,” she said. “The biggest word for me regarding Buford Highway is ‘authenticity,’ and there’s nothing that says that more than its people.”

“The backbone of Buford Highway is the grassroots community,” Pabian said. “This is still a community that immigrants recognize as a welcoming area.”

In addition to Pabian, the speakers will include other nonprofit leaders, various small business owners and educators.

The Zoom call can be accessed by visiting dekalblibrary.org or by clicking this link. The video will be archived on the library’s website after the event concludes.

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