After spending such a great time in Cleveland and taking everything in, Goran and I want to thank you for your hospitality and friendship. We were very inspired by your kindness and culture. It was very special to see how art can transform into advocacy and result in meeting like-minded people. Having lunch at your office was very meaningful to the both of us and I’m sure many others felt the same.

After spending 18 months on Turkish-Syrian border and trying to bring the voice of those people here, we were finally able to see the fruits of our dedication. And I’m sure you all feel the same way when you reach out and make all those changes in the lives of refugees and immigrants. As an immigrant, I always found it difficult to communicate our needs to people. It always felt like people will listen but nobody will actually help. After seeing what Global Cleveland, Cleveland Public Theatre and the people of Cleveland do for the immigrant and refugee communities, I found hope. I was very inspired by the Thomas Jefferson School; as you said, it’s the mini United Nations.

I’m so glad that we took that tour and had the privilege of meeting the dedicated people who help the children and families make their dreams come true. Many people talk about the American dream but few people know what it means. For us immigrants, leaving everything behind and being stripped of our identities makes everything so hard for us to adjust and accomplish our dreams. But when we feel welcomed irrespective our ethnic, religious and political backgrounds and are given a chance to educate ourselves and live a peaceful life, that’s what I call the American dream. Many of us don’t have the same opportunities in our own country due to lack of freedom and acceptance. Here in America, we find that acceptance leads to a sense of belonging. When you belong to a society, then you can give back to that society and that’s what many refugees and immigrants end up doing. And one of the best examples of that was Mr. Garcia at the Thomas Jefferson School. He was a student at that school and went on to complete his education and came back to the same school to give back to new generations of immigrants and refugees. He knows every current student at that school along with their backgrounds as well as the classes they are in. It was heartwarming to meet someone like Mr. Garcia along with the many other inspiring principles, teachers and students of Thomas Jefferson School. I believe Cleveland as a city with its welcoming open-hearted culture is underrated and its story should be heard by all; especially by immigrants and refugees.

Your organizations are great role model for Americans who believe in unity and making change. We, as a country, are going through tough times but we can also show that most of us believe in one another and hold no prejudices. As a filmmaker and activist, I see a great story to be told about Thomas Jefferson school with all the different age groups and backgrounds living under one roof and one flag to make their dreams come true. I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon about how to make such a project happen.


Apo Bazidi