This Monday is World Refugee Day. It’s a day for celebrating the culturally rich communities that now call Seattle home. It’s a day for remembering the experiences of our neighbors. It’s a day for recognizing our continuing journey toward a more just world, where there is a place for every member.

In the spirit of community building and connection, two members of the MarketShare team attended an intimate roundtable discussion at the Museum of History and Industry Friday afternoon, the topic of which was the experience of different refugee and immigrant peoples, specifically in the city of Seattle, and more broadly, the world.

The discussion, led by Soya Jung the Co-Founder of Change Lab,  focused on shedding light on the intricacies of the refugee crisis by discussing topics that are generally glossed over in larger discussions. Two participants in the panel were Sameth Mell, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Rajana Society, and Maru Mora Villalpando from the Northwest Detention Center Resistance.

Sameth is a Cambodian refugee who came to the states with his mother when he was three years old. Maru is a Mexican immigrant. Both participants referenced their own personal experiences as members of the refugee and immigrant communities, as well as made reference to their work within these communities to cultivate connection and work for just and peaceful change.

Faced with the complicated and politicized nature of the refugee crisis, searching for change canbe a daunting task to undertake. The question becomes, where to begin? Maru had an answer. She encouraged us to start locally and learn about the specific issues of the immigrant and refugee groups in our communities. Her organization is hosting a demonstration at the detention center in Tacoma on Sunday that would be a good place to start.

 Sameth agreed with her about starting locally and emphasized the importance of social organizing and creating spaces like his organization’s event on Saturday for immigrants and refugees to speak about their experiences. Story telling is huge in Southeast Asian communities. Creating spaces for these stories to be told, for people to learn with their immigrant and refugee neighbors and to become allies creates a domino effect of community members beginning to stand up for the oppressed members of their community.

The stories shared by the members of this panel, calling for community growth and solidarity reflect the goals and mission of MarketShare. We believe that by building a place for diverse people to come together, led by members of our immigrant and refugee communities, we can to break bread with one another and we can make Seattle a better city.

Learn more about the events this weekend with the Rajana Society and the Northwest Detention Center here and here.