We are all neighbors: Photographer documents history of new Ohioans

Tariq tarey/ Photo source: Tariq's website

When immigrants flocked to the United States over a hundred years ago, their first point of entry was Ellis Island in New York.

That history is partly what prompted photographer Tariq Tarey to train his lens on the face of today’s newest Americans.

“The European migration was well-documented,” he said, referring to footage of beleaguered Polish, Irish, and Italian immigrants arriving in search of new opportunity after long, exhausting boat rides.  Tarey feared the stories of modern migrants, including resettled refugees like him, would be lost.

He arrived in this country on a plane, a refugee from Somalia, twenty years ago, seeking asylum from the conflict back home.

“I didn’t want the history to be lost,” he said.  So, after finding a camera at a flea market, he started taking pictures.

As the director of refugee services at Jewish Family Services in the area, he was meeting and working with another group of people experiencing political upheaval: recent arrivals from the Bhutanese-Nepali community.

“We share a story,” he said.  Though he may not share the exact religion, food, and language as that of the Bhutanese-Nepali community, he felt his own experience coupled with his ongoing work with arriving refugees gave him a unique entry point to their experience.

Over time, as Tarey has helped people find jobs and create new lives in Ohio, he slowly began to learn the individual stories.  He visited temples, and went to schools where they were learning English, as he had years before.

 Only then, he began to take photographs.

“You have to do your homework, your legwork,” he said of his approach.  His partner on the project, Doug Rutledge, provided the written text to go with his pictures.

 Then, they brought the show to the public, first to the Ohio History Museum.

He didn’t go to an art gallery, he said, because “I wanted to make sure the Bhutanese-Nepali belong to Ohio’s history.  They’re Ohioans.  They are part of the culture now.”

The show is up now at the Rutherford B. Hayes Museum in Fremont, Ohio, and will next open at the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati.

And Tarey continues his work as a visual ethnographer.  He’s begun another project on a different population who are helping to reshape Central Ohio, the Congolese people.

“In America, you belong to the soil,” he said.  “What unites us is not tribal, it’s not religion.  It’s the Constitution of the United States.”

Tariq Tarey’s photographs:  http://www.tariqtarey.com/neighbors

Video interview with Tariq Tarey from PBS’ Broad & High:


Have a diaspora story you’d like to see us tell? Know of someone in the community who is doing formidable work? We’d love to hear about them. We are in particular seeking stories about women and elders and how they’re integrating into their new communities.

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Lisa is most proud of her work as the founding board chair of the Bhutan Media Society, which produces the all-volunteer Bhutan News Service, begun by Bhutanese refugees back in the camps in Nepal and continued now in diaspora. She also serves as contributing editor. For her use of social media in leading a cooking group on Skid Row in Los Angeles, she won the Downtown Women’s Center a $25,000 Halo Award.

Before Lisa Napoli wrote Radio Shangri-La, she’d worked for CNN, as a technology reporter in the early days of the Web at The NY Times, in a similar capacity at MSNBC, and also at the public radio show Marketplace. (In that order, and with a variety of other jobs in between.)

Her biography of the late philanthropist, Mrs. Joan Kroc was published by Dutton in November, 2016. You can find more about this new book, titled Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave it All Away, here.

She also loves to talk about the themes in Radio Shangri-la in front of groups large and small, which she has done around the world. And while she is happy to hear about your trip to Bhutan, or recommend tour guides, please note that she is unable to arrange for volunteer opportunities (after many mostly futile years of attempting connections) or to consult on how a visitor might alter their itinerary (as most guides are following a route proscribed by their tour agency.)

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