By Melissa Noel
Class of 2012
The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s pilot radio show, Where I’m From, which took place Apr. 20, started with a statement: “This is a show for the new America, the majority minority America, where the question, ‘where are you from?,’ is not so straightforward.”
The declaration, by host and CUNY J-School radio instructor Jesse Hardman, set the tone for the two-hour show which took place onstage at Manhattan’s historic Webster Hall.
An enthusiastic audience enjoyed conversations with guests representing the talents and experiences of New York City’s diaspora populations. The show traveled from the Congo to Colombia, Pakistan to the Philippines, and Turkey to Taiwan through music and stories of migration culture, culinary traditions, and more.
Performers included Kinshasa-born musician Isaac Katalay and his “Lifelong Project” band. The tireless Katalay played before, during, and after the concert, guiding a 12-piece ensemble through songs inspired by his life both in the Congo and New York. “The music reflects everyone you see here, it reflects your idea of justice, your idea of ideology, it reflects your idea of joy,” said Katalay.
“Where I’m From” also featured photographer Annie Ling, who has been documenting migrant Chinese populations in New York’s Bowery neighborhood, Turkish coffee reader Saba Hocek, and journalist and immigration reform advocate Jose Antonio Vargas.
Vargas’s message resonated with many in the diverse audience, and he played off the program’s theme, bringing it back to the current debate on immigration reform. “I think the era of defining people as minorities is over,” he said, “Where I’m from is not just a place where we mow your lawns, raise your kids, and serve you drinks. We also are in your colleges and we’re all around you,” he said, “and where I’m from is a place where we’re fighting to be treated like full human beings.”