Poignant personal experiences give weight to ‘Immigrant Stories’

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As a child in the Philippines, Kevin Aliado envisioned America as “the promised land,” a place of joy, prosperity, and endless opportunity.

A man practices his story for an upcoming Immigrant Stories event.
Kevin Aliado, who is from the Philippines, is one of five people who will share their stories of immigrating to the U.S. at the “Immigrant Stories” event. (Courtesy Lisa Cantrell)

He was 12 years old in 2004 when he and his mother moved to Las Vegas, where she had landed a job as a nurse. On the long plane trip to his new country, “I felt like I was traveling to heaven,” Aliado said.

But his immigration story was complicated, tainted by racism, bullying, and a sense of isolation.

Though he became successful, graduating from Stanford University and working in technology, Aliado felt unmoored. Recently, he realized he wanted a different kind of career, one that would allow him to use his own experiences to help other immigrants.

On Wednesday, Oct. 25, Aliado and four others who are first-generation or second-generation immigrants will tell their stories on stage in the Hinde Auditorium at Sacramento State. The event, 6-8 p.m., is free and open to the public.

“Immigrant Stories” is presented by the nonprofit group Capital Storytelling, launched in 2018 by Sac State Associate Professor of Child and Adolescent Development Lisa Cantrell, and the University’s Dreamer Resource Center, which serves undocumented students.

Research has shown that listening to personal stories can lead to more positive perception of refugees, transgender people, homeless individuals, and others who have been marginalized by society. Wednesday’s event will help storytellers process their own immigrant stories and offer audience members a chance to better understand their backgrounds and experiences, Cantrell said.

“When you hear someone tell their story, you can see parts of yourself in that person, and you empathize,” she said. “It’s that connection that has the power to change your perspective on the world.”

The event is the culmination of a series of storytelling workshops conducted both on campus and in the community. The effort received funding from a Sac State Anchor Grant, the California Arts Council, and the city’s Office of Arts and Culture. It is sponsored by CapRadio.

“I wanted the space to talk about my childhood traumas and my journey, and get the tools to do it.” — Kevin Aliado

Aliado will discuss his transition from life in the Philippines to Las Vegas, then the Bay Area, and finally Sacramento. Others will tell immigration stories that originated in Mexico, Vietnam, China, and India.

“All of us have shared experiences, regardless of our upbringing,” Aliado said.

After he and his mother arrived in the United States, Aliado was a target of bullying at school and experienced overt racism, he said. Yet he persisted, earning a degree in Bioengineering at Stanford and later working in various technology jobs.

In recent years, Aliado felt a drive to “serve my community in a much more direct way,” he said.

“Making a lot of money and planning for retirement just didn’t feel like my purpose.”

Now he is planning to return to school with a goal of becoming a mental health therapist with a focus on helping immigrants.

He discovered Capital Storytelling after moving to Sacramento last year and learning about workshops aimed at immigrants.

“I wanted the space to talk about my childhood traumas and my journey, and get the tools to do it,” he said of the workshops, conducted at the Latino Center of Art & Culture. “It turns out that it has been a big part of my healing process.”

Aliado will share some of his most significant experiences as a new immigrant at the Wednesday event, including his first impressions of America, his first day of school, and his struggles to adapt to a new culture.

“Immigrating to a new country can be the loneliest feeling ever,” he said.

“I just want people to know that whatever they are going through, they are not alone. Help is available, and everything is going to be OK.”

About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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