The pandemic changed the project, but it couldn't extinguish the goal of providing a space for refugees to share their experiences and stories.
Originally, the plan was to create a community museum. When the pandemic hit, collaborators on the newest Siena Project Incubator (SPIn) program had to pivot. Twelve AmeriCorps fellows, Vera Eccarius-Kelly, Ph.D., professor of political science, and Alison Schaeffing, Ph.D., director of service learning at Russell Sage College, approached the West Hill Refuge Welcome Center in Albany with a different idea — a fashion show.
"For Us, By Us" is a project on transnational identity that provides refugees a platform to tell and share their personal stories through fashion. Team members hope the project will raise awareness as well as highlight the refugees’ artistic contributions and the meanings behind their choices.
SPIn projects employ three-year models meant to develop deeper relationships with the partnering community through positive action. In addition to the fashion show, group members are researching museum exhibits’ history of employing colonization tactics and the implications that can have on oppressed and marginalized groups. They plan to continue working on the community museum in the coming years.
"It was really exciting to finally share all of our hard work with members of the community, and even more exciting to hear their positive responses and offers to collaborate with us in the future as we look to create a community museum for people who are refugees in future years. Even though the first summer may be coming to a close, our hard work has only just begun!”
Rosie Hren '21 and Michael Averill '21
"Mentoring such a diverse team on issues related to decolonizing a museum space has been a thought provoking and re-energizing experience. Students bring personal narratives of refugee experiences to our discussions, engage in an intersectional way with the literature of participatory action research, and focus on transformative experiences within the West Hill neighborhood."
Vera Eccarius-Kelly, Ph.D., professor of political science
"This blue outfit (above) is a two-piece set. The top is called iribaya (shirt) and the bottom part is called ipantaro. This is the most common for everyone of all ages. Usually, younger women would wear this as is or pair the iribaya (shirt) with a skirt (ijipo). Older married women would wear the iribaya (shirt) with another piece of igitange as their skirt. It is handmade and it is very versatile."
Jeanne Sinzinkayo '20