Up next in our series of interviews with notable, in-the-know locals: Nestor Gomez, storyteller, 18-time Moth Story Slam winner, and organizer behind 80 Minutes Around the World: Immigration Stories, which takes the stage Saturday.
What was the inspiration behind 80 Minutes Around the World?
I am an immigrant; I was undocumented for a good 15 years after I arrived to the United States. I started telling stories three years ago in Chicago and other cities. In that time, I haven’t seen many people of color telling stories, and when I do, the stories are not usually about immigration. Given our current political climate, I think it’s important to talk about the immigrant experience.
What do you want people to take away from it?
There are a million immigrants in Chicago alone; everyone has a different reason why they came to this country. Some come to start a better life, some leave for political reasons, others are looking for asylum—this storytelling event gives people who are immigrants the opportunity to share experiences in their own words, and audience members a chance to see the different perspectives of the immigrant experience.
Who will be performing?
We have people from Nigeria, Ukraine, Jamaica, Mexico, and Guatemala. I want the show to highlight, not just the Latino perspective, but experiences from all over the world. We have a couple of [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] students sharing their stories, explaining why DACA is important to them, and to the immigrant community as a whole. We also have a couple of people who work with DACA students. I have an activist who was on the front lines to get DACA started. We have another young lady from Poland, who was the last in her family to immigrate here; she overstayed her visa and had to figure out a way to get her documents in order.
Why do you think it’s important to tell these stories right now?
It’s particularly a difficult time for immigrants in this country. Beyond just the [anti-immigrant] rhetoric, the government has created a hotline where people can report crimes committed by immigrants. It’s a way for the government to portray us as criminals. While there are a small percentage of people who do break the law, most of us who are here are law-abiding people who are trying to better ourselves. 80 Minutes Around the World is a way for us, documented and undocumented, to share our life, our reality, and our hopes.
Go: 80 Minutes Around the World: Immigration Stories takes place September 30 at 2 p.m. at the Edge 5451 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60660.