Songs & Stories: A Refugee Artist Series

The Center for World Music (CWM) is instituting the Songs and Stories series for the purpose of bridging San Diego’s growing refugee population with the public. In 2018 over 30 refugees living in San Diego county performed in public venues, free to attend, as a result of this initiative spearheaded by James Gutierrez (CWM board member) and Monica Emery (CWM Executive Director). Federal partnership with local humanitarian organizations rightly prioritize basic needs such as housing, health, and jobs. Yet, there are needs just as fundamental to all human life that remain a daily struggle for these families: the need for community, a sense of belonging, and the opportunity to speak their voice and be heard in their new home.

The program aimed to work directly with these local communities to identify performers and artistic leaders, and provide them the opportunity to creatively interface with the public, and immerse audiences in their traditions, journeys, and voices. The objectives were to (1) Demonstrate to the public the experiences and contributions of refugees through  traditional arts; (2) Present the performing arts as a vehicle for introducing deep cultural institutions in a safe environment, reducing the social distance between San Diego public and its refugee communities; and (3) Give voice to populations that are invisible and excluded.

This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit  Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of California Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This project was also made possible with matching funds from the Peacemakers Fund and through a partnership with the San Diego Public Library system. Financial support is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.

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