From Authors to Leaders: Supporting Immigrant Communities took place at Brookdale’s Long Branch Higher Education Center (HEC) on March 27. The event was a discussion about the many issues and barriers immigrants encounter in their daily lives. It specifically focused on law, housing, health care and interactions with police officers – key areas given the difficulty immigrants face with these issues due to the language barrier and cultural differences. Brookdale students, faculty, administration, and staff joined with Long Branch local officials, law enforcement officers and community leaders in the discussion and series of skits designed to enhance mutual understanding.

To help members of the audience understand the experience of an immigrant, two local community members delivered welcoming remarks in their native languages. Cecilia Rodriguez, student services associate at Long Branch HEC, spoke in Spanish. Luciana Silva, head of the Brazilian Help Center in Long Branch, then addressed the audience of more than 75 people.

“We wanted to put you in the shoes of the immigrant here in Long Branch,” said Tonya Garcia, director of the Long Branch Public Library.

David Perez, social worker at the Long Branch Public Library, echoed that sentiment, and led a series of role-playing exercises.

“It is very important that we all work together to understand each other,” said Perez.

Several discussion participants aimed to dispel misconceptions about immigrants and their reason for wanting to come to the United States.

“Being an immigrant myself, I just wanted to say that we are not here to mess up your country,” said Silva. “Ninety nine percent of immigrants are just here to take care of our family.”

In addition to the discussion about the immigrant experience, the Long Branch Public Library will post Brookdale’s Global Read text Pointed Toward the Sun on its website to encourage a virtual conversation. The multidisciplinary text featured articles, essays and reflections from Brookdale students and staff on their immigrant experience. Brookdale’s Donna Pope, professor in the English department, compiled the text.

Photo caption:

Anita Voogt, associate vice president for strategic partnerships, addresses the crowd at the Global Read event at the Long Branch HEC. Voogt organized the event at the Long Branch HEC.