Nonprofit Invites Iowans From Refugee Families To Share Stories Through Audio, Video, And Artwork

ArtForce Iowa launched #KnowJustice, The Legacy Collection on Monday. They will help families digitize photos, recipes and other memorabilia to preserve history.

DES MOINES, Iowa – Christine Her attended Des Moines schools growing up, but never heard of her family history in class.

Her father, Meng Her, was a teenage soldier and Hmong refugee from Laos – part of a community and a story that was completely ignored when discussing the Vietnam War in class.

“When we think about what South East Asia is today, we can’t even talk about what it is today without acknowledging the history of what happened there. “Ms. Her said. “And why these countries and these people were fighting for liberation from oppressive regimes.”

The story of his father, told in a 32-minute documentary, is the first work of a part of a collection called #KnowJustice, the Legacy collection. The collection is ArtForce Iowa’s latest project, aimed at empowering Iowan refugee families to tell their story in their own words.

“A lot of times it’s not our people telling our stories, and that’s so essential in this story collection,” Elle said.

She, who has been the Executive Director of ArtForce Iowa since 2017, now invites other Iowans to work with the nonprofit to share their story through audio, video, photo scanning and creation of ‘works of art. The stories will be featured on a website launched on Monday, KJLegacy.org.

On the site, people can find the information to submit their own stories.

She wants the people of Iowa who come from refugee families to share not only the stories of their family’s travels, but also how they lived and loved.

“A lot of people just want to hear the travel stories of refugees and immigrants, and we are much more than that,” she said.

She says one of the main reasons for this project is to create empathy and understanding, even for people like her own father.

“With the increase in hate crimes in Asia, it makes me think, maybe if people can see people like me as real beings, as people who love and suffer and experience grief, loss and joy, that they won’t want to hurt me “she said. “They’ll be like OK – they’re humans like me.”

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