Sc Immigrant Songs | Live Connections

Immigrant Songs

Teaching artist Ami Yares playing guitar with a singing student in a classroom

“You get a chance to say what you want to say around the people that have the same feeling. You feel comfortable and safe. It’s good that people can know what you’re feeling, cause they’re actually facing the same thing.”
—Salawat, 11th grade

We’re honored to partner with HIAS PA on a storytelling and songwriting after-school program for refugee and immigrant students. Most of the participants — all teenagers — have been in the U.S. for less than three years and come from Syria, Sudan and Afghanistan.

LiveConnections teaching artists Ami Yares and David Bradley lead weekly sessions on collaborative songwriting, focused on building creativity and confidence, while also supporting English language learning. The sessions provide a safe and supportive environment for students who have experienced trauma and dislocation.

Through music, students have opportunities to share their unheard stories, develop valuable communication skills, connect with one another and build bridges of cross-cultural understanding.

Listen to "Diamond"

The song “Diamond” came from a story that program participant Salawat, an 11th grader originally from Sudan, shared as a participant in a panel discussion after a performance of The Diary of Anne Frank at People’s Light (directed by David Bradley, one of the teaching artists for this residency).

Salawat told of standing up for her right to wear her hijab in her middle school, after the principal had told her she wasn’t allowed to wear it. The song became an anthem about self-respect and standing up for who you are, even in hard times.

“I think the message of the song is don’t give up on something that you want, especially your religion,” Salawat said. “It’s your dream. And it’s your life. Nobody can stop you.”

 

Song Lyrics

“LONELY BIRD”

I was afraid
I didn’t know where to go
When the bell rang, When the bell rang
Drowning in words
I went round and around
When the bell rang, when the bell rang

I was the only bird
Sitting in my nest alone
Singing by myself

I couldn’t speak back
All I knew was yes and no
When the bell rang, when the bell rang
The flock heard me
No one spoke my language
When the bell rang, when the bell rang

I was the only bird
Sitting in my nest alone
Singing by myself

Infinity friend… someone dancing
Infinity friend… I felt stronger
Infinity friend… there were two of us
Infinity friend

I’m not the only bird
Sitting in my nest alone
Someone’s singing by my side
Someone’s singing by my side

“DIAMOND”

I want to wear it, I want to wear it
I am a diamond
I shine like starlight, Through the darkness, Of the night

I want to see it, I want to see it
I am flying
Like a kite, Like a wish, Like a legend

It’s my choice
It’s my life
Because I’m me
You can’t be me

I want to feel it, I want to feel it
I am a tree
I am strong, And swaying, In the wind

CHORUS

Respect comes first
You can’t stop me, It’s my right to be strong (2x)
To save myself….

I want to dream it, I want to dream it
I am a planet
High in the sky, I can take you, Anywhere

END ON CHORUS

“I WANT TO BE FREE”

I need, I need to focus on my life
I want to be free
I need, I need to help the children learn
They want to be free

I need, I need to make my family proud
Because they love me
I need, I need to focus on my life
Because I want to be free
I want to be safe
I want to be happy
To live my life

REPEAT:
I need, I need to focus on my life
I want to be free
I need, I need to help the children learn
They want to be free
I need, I need to make my family proud
Because they love me

I need, I need to focus on my life
Because I want to be free
I want to be safe
I want to be happy
To live my life!

About Our Partners

HIAS PA
Driven by the Jewish value of “welcoming the stranger,” HIAS Pennsylvania provides legal, resettlement, citizenship, and supportive services to immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from all backgrounds in order to ensure their fair treatment and full integration into American society. HIAS Pennsylvania advocates for just and inclusive practices.

Northeast High School
Founded in 1890, Northeast High School is one of the oldest public high schools in the city. With more than 3,300 students currently enrolled, it is also the largest school in the district. More than 60 languages are spoken at the school. 20% of the students are currently in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program and half of the students have been English learners at some time in their academic career. The school takes an innovative approach to meeting the needs of English language learners. They recently created a Small Learning Community called the Academic Language Program, described as a “school within a school” for ESOL students. All the students that participate in the “Immigrant Songs” residency are also enrolled in HIAS PA’s after-school enrichment program which provides homework help, English lessons, and team-building activities for refugee and immigrant teens at the school.

Project Team

Ami Yares, songwriter & LiveConnections teaching artist
David Bradley, LiveConnections Founding Director
Valerie Harteg, HIAS Refugee Education Coordinator
Blair Bodine, guest songwriter & LiveConnections Director of Development
Kinan Abou-afach, cello
Barb Adams, mixing and mastering

Thanks to our supporters

Project-specific support has been provided by the Douty Foundation, Samuel F. Fels Fund, Sheila Fortune Foundation and Looking Out Foundation.

We’re grateful for the numerous foundations, corporations and individuals who support our programs. See a complete list here.