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Lansing welcomes about 600 refugees every year. Artists want to share their stories.

Moe Naing Israel and his wife Mi Thanda own the popular Naing Myanmar Family Restaurant on Lansing’s south side. ";

Mid-Michigan, and particularly the Lansing area, has long been a landing spot for refugees.

To share their stories, a group of artists in Lansing has put together a storytelling exhibit and a book called Refuge Lansing: Stories of Resettlement in Mid-Michigan.

Jeremy Herliczek, the photographer who came up with this idea, and Erika Brown-Binion, executive director of the Refugee Development Center, joined Stateside at our Live Show to talk about the project.

Why focus on Lansing refugees?

“Refugees add so much,” Herliczek said. “It’s a celebration of what refugees bring to our communities.”

“They’re heroic to me,” Brown-Binion said about the refugees she works with. Lansing has been accepting about 600 refugees every year for the last two decades. Brown-Binion said that refugees come from all over the world looking for a safe place to build a new life, and Lansing is the place for it.

“They have become part of the fabric of this community and really have built lives here and are just part of our city,” Brown-Binion said.

Where the project came from

Herliczek described a feeling of frustration among the artists he knew, and a desire to “make a difference in the world.” The artists came up with a way to tell the stories of the refugees in the community.

“The current political climate has sort of an us-vs.-them feeling when it comes to immigrants and refugees in this country,” Herliczek said, “and we wanted to change that conversation to a ‘we are them’ conversation, because this is a country based on immigration.”

The traveling exhibit shares 12 different refugee stories, and the proceeds from the book go to the 4 refugee resettlement agencies in Lansing.

Listen above for the full conversation. 

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