This past Friday, the Taskforce for Immigration and Refugee Rights hosted its first event, an open mic night at The Motley Coffeehouse. Cozy and intimate, the coffeehouse was filled with 5C students eager to learn about the new organization while enjoying tea and baked goods from Some Crust Bakery.
Miriam Farah CM ’23 read TIRR’s mission statement aloud as students grabbed refreshments provided by The Motley and settled into the space.
“Our mission is to educate and empower our community at the 5Cs,” she said. “We hope to use the space and institutional resources to enact action and change that can better the immigrant and refugee communities at large.”
Although the task force is sponsored by the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights at Claremont McKenna College, TIRR is open to anyone within the 5C community. TIRR hopes to extend its audience to beyond CMC students by hosting 5C-wide events and encouraging students from all schools to join the organization.
“Not only do we want to work with students, but we also want to eventually collaborate with faculty and staff at the 5Cs,” Farah said.
The open mic night featured a wide array of performances, including short stories, acoustic covers of songs and stand-up comedy.
Camille Hermosillo CM ’23, performed an acoustic cover of “Amor Eterno,” a Mexican ballad typically performed at memorials.
“In preparation, I was thinking of my grandpa, my family and their struggles. [My grandpa] passed away three years ago,” she said. “The song reminded me of him: the laughs, the stories he would tell us, him coming from Mexico to visit us and bring us toys and candy.”
She also explained how her personal experiences tied to TIRR’s mission, which informed her decision to perform at this particular open mic night.
“It’s specifically for undocumented people and immigrants, and giving them the space to talk about issues that are not always a common topic in conversation,” she said. “I felt that this was definitely an opportunity to not only share my musical ability, but also express it in a way that ties strongly to my family.”
However, performances were not required to be topical to immigration and refugee rights.
Jocelyn Chen PZ ’20, for example, performed an acoustic version of Jorja Smith’s “On Your Own.”
“I liked that it was an intimate space where it was also open mic, so really anybody could perform anything they wanted,” Chen said. “I also liked that it was in a space dedicated to something as well, which felt more welcoming since it was introduced with a purpose.”
Attendees appreciated the diversity of people, perspectives and performances at the event. Sofia Rojas CM ’23 commented on how open mic nights give 5C students the opportunity to discover new people and ideas.
“I wish more people would come to these, me included. You come to meet people of different backgrounds and have an outlet to understand them better,” she said, describing how the vulnerability of performing allows students to understand each other on a deeper level. “You have people singing up there, which is definitely super personal.”
One of the event organizers, Sophia Ramirez-Brown CM ’22, explained how she and the other event organizers wanted to organize an event that would generate curiosity and increase awareness of TIRR, since it is a relatively new organization at the 5Cs.
“We wanted to do something that would attract people who are not solely interested in immigrant and refugee rights,” she said. “We wanted to attract people from any type of background and welcome them to perform or to come and just enjoy the space.”
She commented further on how the open mic night was not intended to be specifically about immigration, but rather to create a space for students to enjoy and learn more about the organization as the night went on.
“Some open mic nights can be very centered on one topic, but we are very open to anything and just want to create a space for the community to gather and to create interest in our organization.”
Ramirez-Brown talked about the future of the organization and what they hope to accomplish after their first event.
“[Our] ultimate goals are to foster a sense of welcoming and encouragement on our campus. We want to try and host trainings, Know Your Rights events and invite conferences to campus,” she said. “We need to become a little more established, so the way we want people to interact as of now is to join and share ideas and be open to learning.”
5C students who are interested in joining TIRR can email Miriam Farah CM ’23 at email@example.com with their name, school, year and email address.