By Juan Pacheco, Community Peace Mobilizer

On May 30, 2018, members of LAYC’s Latino Youth Leadership Council (LYLC) announced the release of their anxiously awaited graphic memoir, Voces Sin Fronteras: Our Stories, Our Truth at Busboys and Poets’ 14th Street location in DC. The book was made possible through the tremendous determination and bravery of 16 recently arrived Latino immigrant youth and successful collaborations with Shout Mouse Press and skilled graphic artists.

The book was a year in the making, beginning with a month-long workshop led by Shout Mouse and a team of teaching artists in summer 2017. The youth authors share their personal immigration experiences, conveying them through text and comic-style dialogue and illustrations. Youth have also presented their book at public speaking engagements throughout the greater DC region.

We are so proud of the youth who, through their illustrated stories, are bringing awareness to the deep, personal impact immigration journeys have on youth and their families. At the book launch, the young authors eloquently expressed why it was important for them to tell their own stories and define who they are. They hope their readers will be motivated and transformed by the lessons found in their book. Although these youth and their families have suffered unimaginable trauma and face daily challenges, such as a lack of access to critical resources and ongoing discrimination, their compelling stories focus on self-motivation and hopefulness, two powerful characteristics that help them move forward no matter what obstacles are in their way.

Here is a selection of youth quotes from the evening:

“Being part of a minority that suffers from many injustices such as prejudice, inequality, and racism, I feel that my American dream is something difficult but not impossible to achieve. For me the American dream is like a puzzle; every morning when we go to our jobs, schools, or just for a walk, without realizing it, we start an adventure in search of the pieces that we need to complete our dreams and goals. That’s what my comic is about. To give hope to other young people to continue to be able to complete their American dreams…I want young people also to fight for their Salvadoran dreams, their Cuban dreams, their Venezuelan dreams, the dreams of all our countries….We have to fight for our human dreams.” – Brenda*

“I see this book, and what I see is the courage, determination, and empowerment of we, the young people who have had a long process where we looked into our soul, into our heart, only with the noble purpose of sharing a little piece of our spirit to others.” – J.J.

“We will need help from the community to continue our mission because together we can make long lasting changes.” – Erminia

With humility, heart, and power, April spontaneously spoke on behalf of the whole group at the release party. She addressed the audience and their program coordinator, Juan Pacheco, expressing why the book was so important, why the LYLC group is invaluable to youth such as herself, and why members of the LYLC have not given up the fight to make sure other recently arrived immigrant youth have resources and feel empowered.

This book, presented with side-by-side English/Spanish text, serves many purposes. It is a social justice tool that gives youth who generally go unnoticed and unheard a voice and a platform. The book is also an educational tool that informs, engages, and inspires its readers and, most importantly, provides hope to other immigrant youth facing similar circumstances. Furthermore, it is an English-learning tool that can and will empower countless youth to learn English. It is also a healing tool that social workers, counselors, and therapists can use in their work with immigrant youth. Finally, the book is a fund-raising tool; proceeds will support ongoing LAYC activities that benefit other recently arrived immigrant youth.

Copies of the graphic memoir are going fast. Click here to purchase your copy online. To order for pick up, please email info@layc-dc.org. Include “Book order: Voces Sin Fronteras” in the subject line.

PURCHASE YOUR COPY HERE

*All names have been changed for privacy.

We would like to thank the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and UnidosUS for generously supporting this project.

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