This fall, the Phoenix Legal Action Network (PLAN) held its first immigrant storytellers event, En nuestras propias palabras/In our own words, to give immigrants a platform to take back the microphone and share honest, personal stories of life in Arizona through oral storytelling and art. To accompany the event we have created a space to share their stories and art digitally on our blog.
Originally from Oromia, Sena, a Black Muslim womxn, is the chief of staff at the Arizona coalition for change. Within the last 3 years, Sena has made her mark in Arizona. She led a statewide team to register more than 10,000 people to vote during the 2020 election and co-founded of the Oromo youth association which supports, empowers, and transforms the message and lives of the Oromo/Ethiopian community in the united states and abroad. Sena's intersectional experience catalyzes her passion for social justice advocacy which she believes is imperative for restoring humanity and holding institutional systems accountable. She hopes her experience inspires others to join her in bettering our communities.
Patient Nday Ngoy
Patient is a democracy rights activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). After numerous politically motivated arrests and beatings and the murder of his mother, Patient and his family fled the DRC in 2016. In December 2021, with PLAN’s support, Patient, his wife, and his son received asylum. Patient works and attends graduate school in hopes of providing the best life possible for his wife and three children. And he looks forward to the day he becomes a U.S. citizen and can cast his vote in a democratic election.
Jovana is Phoenix born and raised. She has been organizing and fighing with her community against the injustices in the immigration and criminal system since 2007. Her relentless efforts reunited more than 400 families and she continues this work today as organizing director & legal strategist at the Arizona Democracy Resource Center. Jovana is excited to be a storyteller and participate on the PLAN board of directors because her mission in life is to bring "that justice, that clarity, that humanity back" to earth.
Paola Zavala Chairez
Paola is from Mexico and moved to the United States in 1986 when she was five years old. Paola explains, "I consider myself to be an American, but just don't have the documents to prove it." Paola has been fighting in immigration court since 2019 for the right to remain here with her family. With legal support from PLAN and the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, she received conditional approval for permanent residence and is now just waiting to receive it. With residency, Paola hopes to be able to go back to school, afford a car and a nice place for her and her four children, and to save up enough to help her kids go to
Diana would describe herself as an artist, a daughter of immigrant, "and basically the first person in her family to make a life" in the U.S.. Growing up in a working vlass family she was often left alone. During this time she began expressing her creativity by putting the things she would imagine onto paper. She desrcibes this time as one of reflection. Now, with her own artwork, she hopes to inspire the same in her viewers.
Oliverio was born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico. He is a multimedia artist whose practice includes painting, music, murals, mosaic art, films, photography, and being a teaching artist and a scholar of the ancient Mesoamerican cultures. " I'm interested in social themes like history, culture and symbolism. I'm inspired by color, nature and music. The essence of my artwork expresses the energy and personal passion that is reflected in a song, a painting or a public art project."
Joe is from Durango, Mexico; he came to U.S. at nine years old. He has lived in the US for more than 50 years. Growing up he always had an artistic spirit. He loved to spend time drawing and imagining new ideas. Later in life, Joe struggled with drugs and landed in prison, this is where he began making sculptures from toilet paper. "Instead of dwelling on how bad it was gonna be and have that dominate me, I promised myself I was just gonna focus on perfecting my art, and so that's what I did." Afterwards, Joe successfully fought with PLAN and The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project to have second chance to keep his legal residency. Joe is proud of the new path he is on and finds great joy in his role as father and grandfather.
Miros grew up in Mexico. During the Pandemic Miros started taking ceramics classes at the Phoenix Center for the Arts; she had been hooked ever since! Growing up Miros expressed herself through music by playing the clarinet. As an adult, she did not have the resources to continue pursuing music, but through ceramics she feels she has a new opportunity to express herself and reconnect with her passions. Miros is also a community resource navigator with Poder in Action, where she is working with PLAN to reimagine attorney-community relationships.
Bertica Garcia Dubus
Bertica was born and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The beauty of the island was her first inspiration for becoming an artist. Her earliest memories of favorite things involve drawing pads and pencils. Over the course of her career, she has participated in exhibitions in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. Now she shares her knowledge and love of art with nearly 300 students as an art teacher at St. Theresa Catholic School in Phoenix.