Sc Immigrant Songs | Live Connections

Immigrant Songs

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

“Sometimes, you have a feeling but you don’t know how to explain it for other people. But when you sing, you feel comfortable and like everything gets out of your heart.” – Esmat, 10th Grade, Northeast High

We’re honored to partner with HIAS PA on a storytelling and songwriting program. HIAS PA provides supportive services to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Most of the participants in the songwriting program — all teenagers — have been in the U.S. for less than three years and come from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Venezuela and Ukraine.

LiveConnections teaching artists Ami Yares and Blair Bodine lead Saturday 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 using a trauma-informed approach to songwriting. Support and English language learning guidance is provided by the staff of HIAS PA.

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.

All the students that participate in the “Immigrant Songs” residency are also enrolled in HIAS PA’s academic enrichment program which provides homework help, English lessons, and college and career readiness mentoring for refugee and immigrant teens attending public high schools in Northeast Philadelphia.

Project Team

Ami Yares, songwriter & LiveConnections teaching artist
Blair Bodine, songwriter, LiveConnections teaching artist & LiveConnections Director of Development
David Bradley, LiveConnections Founding Director
Valerie Harteg, HIAS Refugee Education Coordinator
Kinan Abou-afach, cello (2018)
Barb Adams, mixing and mastering (2018)

Thanks to our supporters

Project-specific support has been provided by the Douty Foundation, Sheila Fortune Foundation, Looking Out Foundation adn the Samuel F. Fels Fund (2017-2018).

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