These were among many statements collected in an open community forum for members of our immigrant and refugee communities to come together and talk about identity and needs. These recorded statements, along with stories of four immigrants and refugees collected at writing workshops, formed the narrative for Global Nashville Project’s contemporary dance, “Braid”, a community-based arts project made possible in part by funding from Metro Nashville Arts Commission. Ellen Gilbert and Global Education Center were essential community partners in this intersection of arts and social justice. Global Education Center artists Carlos Duran (composer), Alejandro Rivera (dancer), Camila Fyler (dancer), and Charlie Gilbert (interpreter) were vital collaborators in bringing this work of art to life, and Ellen was a potent force for reaching out to sponsors and connecting with diverse communities to have a voice in this project.
Ellen and Global Education Center have had my respect and admiration and support for many years. But in collaborating on a community project, I’ve grown closer to seeing from the inside what it means to be involved in the Global Education Center family. It is just that; a family. These are artists who create together, who care for each other, whose lives intersect beyond just Global Education Center’s extensive cultural programming. These are people who believe deeply in the importance and power of building bridges of understanding through the arts, and who bring the best of themselves to their work. And in doing so, they make our community and our world a better place.