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Immigration activist Angy Rivera shared her experiences during the first PAWTalks event. Photo by Megumi Gomyo.

Mosaic Center’s PAWTalks series begins with a powerful story of immigration

“What does undocumented mean?”

“To not be afraid.”

Halfway through Angy Rivera’s Peabody award-winning film, “Don’t Tell Anyone,” her little sister says that she is proud of her mother and older sister for their struggle as undocumented people living in the United States, and for the audience watching, it is easy to see why.  Her story is unique and inspiring, and she bravely tells it in the hopes that it might inspire others.

The talk and film screening, which took place on Thursday, Sept. 21, was part of PAWTalks, a new series inspired by TEDTalks and organized by the Mosaic Center. The series seeks to “educate people about social issues,” and “help students forge connections and maybe identify issues that they wouldn’t think about,” according to Carlos Turcios, the Program Associate for Diversity and Inclusion at the Mosaic Center.

The film screening, held in the Mosaic Center, brought students from all across campus to hear Rivera’s story — one that, in her words, is unique and tries to “tell a story about sexual abuse, and immigrant women and me and my mom, and single motherhood.”

Junior Becca Mann, a social work major and intern with the Mosaic Center who attended the event, felt that it had a powerful message.

“People have a lot of opinions about who the undocumented population is and what should be done about them,” said Mann.  “It was empowering to give her that space to share her own story instead of having other people share what they think they know.”

The film covers two and a half years of Rivera’s life in New York as an undocumented immigrant, the difficulties she faced and the decision she made to speak out and get involved in activism. She says she hopes her audiences will realize that “undocumented immigrants have a voice and can speak up,” and that “immigrant issues are about more than just getting papers.”

In “Don’t Tell Anyone,” Rivera documents her activism and her story of sexual abuse, which inspired others to reach out to her and tell their stories too. There are over 11 million undocumented people in the United States and many who experience sexual assault do not feel safe coming forward. Rivera explains this is often a result of their undocumented status, making them wary of those in positions of authority.  Rivera hopes that talking about her story will help share a different kind of immigrant story: one that shows they can have a voice.  While her assault did eventually lead to Rivera receiving a visa, she said she was angry that it took a violent crime for her to become eligible for citizenship and that she intends to continue to fight for immigrant rights.

The Mosaic Center is a valuable resource for students on campus that strives to provide a more interactive cultural learning experience for the school community. The next PAWTalk is scheduled for November 14.  More information can be found at the Mosaic Center website, and Rivera’s film can be found streamed from the PBS website.

Turcios hopes that people will come back and that “they will think about these topics and stories beyond just what they hear in the moment tonight.”