The fabric of a city is woven of many threads, and Lynn, Massachusetts, is particularly colorful. The city’s history of industrial success—especially at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries—paved the way for a profoundly diverse population to settle in the area, as people from numerous countries sought better opportunities. The boom years are long gone, but diversity is an evolving mainstay. One can move through the weathered, industrial-looking city, with its rundown buildings and overhear multiple languages at once: Spanish, Russian, Arabic.
Out of Lynn’s approximately 90,000 residents, almost 30% are foreign-born compared with 13% for the United States as a whole. This includes a large population of Dominicans, who came to Lynn looking for jobs in the shoe industry, or dozens of recently arrived Iraqi refugees, who fled the sectarian violence that intensified in their country after the American-led invasion in 2003.
About the project
“After graduating from college, I spent 10 months living in the Boston area and commuting to Lynn everyday, a city with an infamous reputation, both within and out of the state. I was working for Raw Art Works through the Lewis Hine Fellowship, a program that pairs up young graduates with a non-profit organization in Massachusetts to produce documentary work for them. Lynn’s diversity struck me from the very beginning—I had never been to a place quite like it. Its industrial decay—which is evident through the city’s architecture—and its profound diversity, make of this a very unique place. I was surprised to learn that Lynn is a hub for refugees who arrive in the United States and that in the public school system, students speak over 60 languages. These are only a few of the facts that illustrate how Lynn is, in its own way, a slice of the world. My intense interest in immigration and the context I found myself in, made it very clear that I had to gather the stories of the immigrants and refugees I met during my stay. I met numerous people who left their home countries fleeing poverty or war, or whose lives have been touched by this phenomenon in one way or another. I hope that this project sheds even more light on an issue that has gained national attention over the past years. Hearing personal stories of individuals who have experienced this sort of—oftentimes forced—mobility first hand, opens up new ways for us to understand that immigration is much more complex than we imagine, that the right to migrate (or the right not to migrate) is not given to all of us, and to remind us that like in any other issue, there is a human side to it. I also hope that this project will serve as a celebration of Lynn’s diversity. “