'Stories of a New America' to highlight World Refugee Day

"They told us that when I get in America, nobody can judge you because of your skin, your language ... You can even celebrate your culture."

 —Refugee resettled by IRIS, depicted in the play "Stories of a New America"

The ground-breaking production “Stories of a New America,” recounting refugees’ experiences and strength in their own words, will highlight the 2017 World Refugee Day celebration on June 29 in New Haven.

The production by Collective Consciousness Theater will be hosted by IRIS- Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, Connecticut’s largest refugee resettlement agency. The performance is a series of vignettes that captures refugees’ stories of navigating cultural differences, romantic relationships, and even pet dogs.

“These stories relay the human aspect of one of the largest humanitarian crises in history, which is often veiled by political rhetoric,” said IRIS Executive Director Chris George.

“Stories of a New America” was developed through interviews with more than one hundred refugees resettled by IRIS. Since 1982, IRIS has resettled more than 5,000 refugees who were forced to flee their home countries due to persecution. In 2016 alone, IRIS resettled 530 refugees from Syria, Congo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tasty food from the refugees’ homelands, prepared by refugee chefs in partnership with CitySeed’s Sanctuary Kitchen program, will be prominently featured at receptions that will precede each of two performances to be presented on June 29.

The stunning Henry R. Luce Hall, 34 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven will host the evening’s receptions and performances. The first reception begins at 5 p.m., followed by a 6 p.m. performance; the second reception begins at 7 p.m., followed by an 8 p.m. performance. Each reception also will feature unique photography exhibits.

Tickets to the event are available now. The cost is $30 for general admission, or $50 for reserved seating that includes a $20 tax-deductible donation to IRIS. Those interested in purchasing tickets or attending the production can find additional information at www.irisct.org/wrd, which is the IRIS World Refugee Day website.

Each year, the official United Nations World Refugee Day in June honors the courage, strength and determination of the women, men and children forced to flee their homelands under threat of persecution, conflict and violence. IRIS’s event this year is made possible through the generous sponsorship of the Center for Transitional Living LLC, and the Yale Macmillan Center Program on Refugees, Forced Displacement and Humanitarian Responses.

The following was submitted to The Press by Ridgefield resident Ann O'Brien, who co-chairs the Ridgefield Refugee Resettlement Committee, and IRIS is the group that worked with them to settle a family from Syria in town late last year.