Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program presents the “Faceless America” Social Justice Project – The Heights
On November 2, second-year members of the Gabelli Presidential Scholars program at Boston College hosted a panel discussion on advocating for undocumented migrants as part of their social justice project, The Faceless America, at Gasson Hall.
“We have all found that immigration and in particular undocumented immigrants were not always covered so fully,” said Fran Hodgens, researcher Gabelli and CSOM ’24. “So we thought it was a good opportunity to educate people and connect them with resources. “
Marilynn Johnson, director of Global Boston – a digital history project on immigration in the Boston area – and professor of history in British Columbia, shared her work on urban social relations and discussed the history of immigrants to Massachusetts since the 1960s.
“Our openness to refugees has certainly been a century in recent years, especially after 9/11 a new fear brought on by the War on Terror, and the pandemic more recently we have seen a reduction in admitted immigrants,” Johnson said .
Denzil Mohammed, director of the Institute of Public Education at the Immigrant Learning Center, discussed the social impact of immigrants in the United States by founding various companies.
“They’ve always built businesses in the United States that grow into iconic American brands like Kraft Mac and Cheese – nothing is more American than that,” Mohammed said.
He also noted the ambition and entrepreneurial traits inherent in immigrants coming to the United States and Boston.
Mohammed ended his part of the presentation with a YouTube video about Yessy Feliz, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who started a pet business in Boston called Tails. Feliz became the first business owner in her family.
“When you start to investigate immigrant stories, there is a lot behind it,” Mohammed said.
Participants were then invited to the back of the room where the sophomores displayed posters representing different organizations that support undocumented migrants.
At one of the tables, Kenneth Heikes, a Gabelli and CSOM ’24 scholar, shared his experience with the YMCA of Greater Boston. He said it hosts various adult education and English classes in which immigrants learn about pop culture and can practice both reading and writing.
Hodgens featured his poster on the Office for Refugees and Immigrants which he says serves and hosts programs for immigrants to Massachusetts to help them be successful.
Discussing the birth of The Faceless America project, Hodgens said the Gabelli fellows made a list of organizations in their PULSE summer program, a Boston-based mandatory service project during the summer of the freshman year. After making a list of where they all volunteered, they found some similarities.
“We have reduced that to a few commonalities,” he said.
Hodgens said the researchers aimed to highlight immigration-related issues that might not be as well-known in the British Columbia community, such as the lack of affordable housing in Boston for immigrants.
“People have a wide range of talents, especially within the BC student body, so it’s a good idea to keep them on a loop,” he said.
As for the impact of The Faceless America project, Hodgens said researchers hope participants continue to have conversations about contemporary issues of undocumented migrants.
“Our goal is to bring in a wide range of students to get people to talk about some of these changes, because some are quite surprising,” Hodgens said.
Featured Image by Nicole Vagra / Heights Staff