About Seattle

Melody yoshinaga

Cultural Joys & Pitfalls
(From the Newcomer’s own cultural perspective)

  • Ethnic celebrations put on by ethnic associations and organizations
  • Ability to speak native language with others who speak
  • Organizations which preserve and perpetuate culture and hand down to children
  • New chance at life opportunity
  • Ability to share own culture with others with shared experiences
  • Opportunity to share culture and language with larger community
  • Diverse population to share and learn about other cultures
  • Ethnic group may be held into to specific ethnic enclaves
  • Lack of understanding or misunderstanding of experiences of Horn of Africa immigrants and refugees
  • Lack of language accessibility in many places

Ayako Koyanagi

Through reading, conversations, and interviews, we have learned identity issues that newcomers from Horn of Africa experience. The identity issues include gender, power, generations, social status, and economic situations. Like Edger, Kerrie, Ann, guest speakers mentioned, reversals and changes in family and gender roles are seen in common and will be primary identity issues that newcomers are to face and confront. Male have to take care of house chores and kids. Especially for elders, this change in gender role is not acceptable.

Male will witness female status/power being expanded with opportunities of educations and employment. Male feel powerless especially for those who had education and were professionals like teacher/engineers/lawyers back home. Here in this new county, they are not guaranteed to maintain the same social, economic status that they had back home. They have to start their new lives with blue color jobs a lot of times.

Another identity issue is change in roles between parents and children. As children adapt to new environment quickly and learn new language fast with more exposures to society, parents need to depend on children due to language barriers and unfamiliarity of new world.

When identity issues are discussed at political and social levels, society categorizes people such as African and Asian rather than Ethiopian, Eritrean, Somali etc whether or not how people would like to identify themselves. People might offend you about identity because of ignorance or some other reasons.

Kerri Hamilton

Impact Across Generations of Population

We discussed the fact that most migrant communities often experience a growing gap between the older and younger generations. Much of our experience has been in observing the gap between parents and their children. The causes of this generation gap that we discussed were:

Children attend school in the US and are speaking, reading, and working in english all day, while the parents sometimes may not be literate in their native language let alone english. Meanwhile, the children may not be learning the native language, or only speaking the language at home. The difference in language skills can cause a gap between the generations and make it hard for parents and children to communicate.

The US culture is very different from other cultures that people may be migrating from. US culture has different expectations and norms when contrasted to other cultures. This can be another cause of the gap that grows between the generations: they were raised in two different cultures.

Upon migration into the US often both parents are required to get jobs. This often means that many duties that were assigned to a certain gender now must be shared. This can cause some difficulty when trying to communicate the need for these changes to the older generations that may not understand the need for changing gender roles.

As the younger generations of migrant communities grow up in the US, because of their level of education they often have greater opportunities in the US. This can apply to jobs, finance, and travel opportunities. The older generations may not get these opportunities. This can also be responsible for the gap between generations.

Edgar Hernandez

As shared by both Melody and Kerri, some cultural joys and pitfalls experienced by refugees and immigrants in Seattle perpetuate and impact generations. We also discussed the risks and rewards of living in Seattle.

  • Possible isolation if there are no community centers or if there are no visible community organizations.
  • As mentioned by Melody, there is a possible lack of understanding or misunderstanding of experiences of Horn of Africa immigrants and refugees. Also, lack of language accessibility in many places is also a possible risk.
  • Immigrants and refugees with children/young adults may also experience family role reversals where individuals with the language skills (English) take the lead
  • Feeling of community support may decrease (or the safety net provided by members of the community, as experienced back home, may disappear).
  • Cultural shock-not being able to adopt mainstream American culture and/or feeling of exclusion
  • Employment practices are different that back home, one may be required to begin from scratch. One's education and degrees may not be valued as much as back home
  • Cost of living is Seattle is rather high
  • Diverse population
  • Seattle being an "accepting" city-more inclusive that other states
  • Horn of Africa population is visible
  • There are some grassroots organizations that help Horn of Africa community members

Ann Strandoo

We discussed the impact on family members here and back home. Edgar and Kerri both mentioned role reversals and the shift in family power dynamics when kids become interpreters and elders feel a loss of respect on the part of the kids. Families and communities might experience increased instances of domestic violnece due to the stresses created by the new relationship dynamics.

I think a great example of the impact of migration on family here and back home was Lette's description of going home. Many family members become dependant on financial support from family in the US. This can create stress and in some cases resentment on the part of the provider who may feel family back home do not realize or appreciate the many sacrifices on their behalf.

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