Storytelling in Queens

It was standing room only as the audience listened to people’s real-life stories: escaping the Taliban via their dad’s wrestling scholarship, creating a punk band with undocumented immigrants, and finding a complete stranger jumping into their car who would become their children’s nanny.

Queens Documented, a new quarterly storytelling and arts series, debuted this month at Elmhurst’s Terraza 7 and celebrated the borough’s ethnic diversity through storytelling, poetry and music about the immigrant experience.

“Queens is so international and so diverse and that’s one of the defining characteristics of the borough and that’s one of the things that I love the most about Queens,” said Bridget Bartolini, founder of the Five Boro Story Project, a citywide storytelling initiative.

The series organizers hope that as Queens residents share their stories and art, neighbors will get to know each other and be inspired to be more active in the shaping of their neighborhoods.

The Five Boro Story Project organized the series in partnership with SEVA NY, a Richmond Hill-based immigrant advocacy organization, with funding from The Laundromat Project.

“One of the only ways we can relate to someone is to know their story,” said Gurpal Singh, executive director of SEVA. “We had like 60 people tonight learn about these stories. I can almost guarantee that the stories they heard connected to their own story.”

The next storytelling event is slated for October. For more information go to Five Boro Story Project.

Cesar R. Bustamante, Jr. is a Queens-based multimedia journalist who specializes in data visualization and video storytelling for the web. Follow him on Twitter.

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