Melting the Barrier through Songs: An Ideal Multi-Cultural Community for Ethnic Minorities

Author: Jittapim Yamprai (University of Northern Colorado)
Speaker: Jittapim Yamprai
Topic: Language, community, ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


The idealized human rights statement in America’s Declaration of Independence that proclaims inherent equality for all and rights such as the pursuit of happiness have been a long-term challenge for immigrants, refugees, and ethnic minorities residing in the United States. Recently, the number of Southeast Asian refugees, especially those from Myanmar has been flowing in consistently to escape their homeland’s internal conflict. Unexpectedly, the conflict continued in another community of greater diversity that has been struggling with racism for more than a century. Current news about immigration control and violent attacks in many cities, have threatened the refugees because of their birth, religion, race, and color with more challenges in addition to basic stability, security, inequality, cultural differences, and language challenges that were expected. As such, they could not feel accepted in the new community and never embraced the American dream. Aware of these problems, the research of Greeley Cultural Soundscape aims to melt down the barrier of differences with research objectives in studying how musical traditions and cultures of ethnic minorities residing in Greeley are practiced, maintained, and adapted in the States.

Through research methodologies of ethnomusicology and anthropology, the results of the research are transformed into a city soundscape database and a city multi-cultural festival that is organized by the researcher with the support of the city, the museum, the university, the downtown development association, and the refugee center. All share the same aspiration to bring peace and promote equality among diversity in the community. The festival gathered and united people of different ethnic backgrounds to present their culture together through music and dance performances: Jewish with Iranian, Rohingya with Burmese, American and African, etc., along with workshops and cultural education. It promotes the beauty of differences and initiates an appreciation for each other’s identity regardless of conflicts they have carried from their homeland and from the pressure of US government and various racists.

The event has proven to melt down the barrier of hate and bridged the differences with respect and understanding, providing minorities with the sense of belonging to the community. Through this research and creative project, all minorities can have pride and dignity in their identity. As a consequence, equality for all and the pursuit of happiness can be achieved and the idealized multi-cultural community can be established.

Keywords: Declaration of Independence, Southeast Asian refugees, Cultural landscapes