What We Bring

City Lore Presents:

What We Bring: New Immigrant Gifts

Spotlighting the Contributions of Artists from
New York City’s Immigrant Communities


What We Bring: New Immigrant Gifts adds to the national dialogue on immigration, bringing in to focus the cultural contributions of new immigrants.  With this exhibition, we mark the 50th anniversary of the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act, implemented in 1968, which inaugurated a new era of immigration from Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean. What We Bring celebrates the rich layers of creativity, tradition, and increased cultural diversity that the law set in motion, especially in New York City, where 6-in- 10 residents are first generation or the children of immigrants.

The 31 artists, some widely known, some known primarily in their own communities, span 25 countries and artistic disciplines ranging from music to cooking, poetry to dance, visual arts to theater.

After a four-month run at City Lore, we have plans to travel What We Bring to each of the five boroughs. A national tour is also in the works. The exhibition is funded by The National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew Mellon Foundation, along with the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. The exhibit is cosponsored by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance and the CATCH


Exhibit Opening

Friday April 6th, 2018
6pm – 9pm

Exhibition dates:
April 6th – September 16th, 2018

The gallery is open for viewing Fridays 2 – 6pm, Saturdays and Sundays 12 – 6pm, and by appointment. To schedule a visit outside of regular gallery hours, email Molly at molly@citylore.org.

Free and open to the public.


The City Lore Gallery
56 E 1st ST, New York, NY 10003

Rockwood Music Hall: People of Earth

Wedday, April 11th @ 10:!5 PM

POE returns to Stage 2 at this legendary NYC venue


Rockwood Music Hall
196 Allen St, New York, NY 10002, USA

What We Bring to Jazz: International

Friday, May 18th @ 7 PM

Contributions to Americas Classical Music

A dialogue and performance with Carolina Calvache, Alma Micic, and Héctor Morales bringing Colombian, Serbian and Peruvian perspectives on jazz. Curated by Tom van Buren. | Price: $10


The City Lore Gallery
56 E 1st ST, New York, NY 10003

What We Bring: Stories of Migration

Sunday, May 27th @ 3 PM

A multimedia theater piece tracing the true stories of 5 immigrant/first-generation artists from Afghanistan, China, India, Ivory Coast, and Peru, interweaving their tales of migration with performance. Directed by George Zavala. | Price: $15


Teatro Sea, Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center,

107 Suffolk Street, NY, NY

What You Bring: Creating Theatrical

Saturdays, June 2, 9, 16, & 23 @ 2 PM

Portraits of NYC Memories

Dramatize and perform memories and interactions with NYC landmarks and characters––actual or fictional––in this four-weekend theatre/playwriting workshop for all ages and abilities! | Price: $50 for the four sessions | To register & for more info: citylore@citylore.org OR alvin.eng8@gmail.com

What We Bring: Stories of Migration

Tuesday, June 5th @ 6 PM

(Abbreviated Version)

A multimedia theater piece tracing the true stories of 3 immigrant/first-generation artists, interweaving their tales of migration with performance. Directed by George Zavala. Co-sponsored: Madison Square Park Conservancy. | Free


Madison Square Park, 11 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10010

Arts Framing the Struggle: The Intersection of Art, Immigration & Activism

Sunday, September 16th @ 3 PM

The final program marking the closing of our exhibit, What We Bring: New Immigrant Gifts. This panel discussion will look at how artists use their vision to promote and transform the immigrant experience in NYC. | Price: $10



Thanks so much!


Hector Morales; Peru; Afro-Peruvian drummer and jazz musician. Object: the cajón. 

Mi relación con la música afro-Peruana y criolla empezó desde el día en que nací. Esta es la música que mi padre tocaba para nosotros en casa.

“My relationship with Afro-Peruvian and creole music started since the day I was born. This was the music my father loved and the music he played for us at home.”

I must have been about 9 years old when, after a party, someone left a cajon, a Peruvian box drum, in my uncle’s house. The cajon or “box drum” is simply that, a box. Boxes are typically used to store or carry objects like cloth, groceries or documents; in my homeland Peru, they carry much more than that. The cajon, is our national instrument, a simple wooden box that was turned by the afro-Peruvian community into a drum. The cajon is the carrier of the musical traditions brought to Peru by African people brought as slaves during the years of the transatlantic slave trade. While all the adults were busy talking, I sat on the cajon and started playing along with the creole music in the background, and since that day I became the official “cajonero” of the family.  

When I came to America I brought a cajon with me – I used it as a suitcase for my t-shirts and clothes.  But there were many things in that cajon and in me that the x-ray machine at JFK could not catch – my thoughts and dreams and the rich musical culture of the coast of Peru. The cajon was the catalyst for this journey of growth and discovery. It allowed me to grow deeper roots to my own music but also to grow branches, expand and make connections with other closely related musical traditions such as jazz, Arabic and African music.

Peruvian drummer and percussionist Hector Morales blends the sounds of diverse musical traditions such as Afro-Peruvian, Jazz, and Latin Music into his playing as well as his composition.  Hector is currently based in the NYC area where he leads his band “The Afro-Peruvian Ensemble” and participates in other musical projects with upcoming young artists of the NYC scene. He has been featured in videos produced by LP and Congahead and has performed internationally on stages such as Lincoln Center Outdoors, BAM, The National Museum of Peru, “Society of Musicians and Composers of Chile Auditorium”, the Jerusalem Music Festival and the Smithsonian Folk Festival. Hector graduated from the prestigious William Paterson University Jazz Program and has been teaching in NYC schools since 2003.


Sidiki Conde; Guinea; dancer, choreographer, musician. Object: Krin log drum.

“Don’t think too much about your disability.  Think about what you can do for society and be grateful for this life.”

All my education was in traditional music and dance.  I lost the use of my legs when I was fourteen. Because of my disability, my father sent me to his village, Mansalia near the city of Kankan. One day, there was a big dance festival in the town that dance inspired me and opened my mind. I forgot my pain and was full of happiness.  One day, my uncle Nam Famoroko asked me what I wanted to do. He was blind but played the djembe (drum) so well. He played and I danced on my hands, beating the rhythm on the ground.  He taught me how to play the drum. We played for the people and they gave us rice and money, and so I came into my job. We formed a group to play for baby naming ceremonies and festivals.

And then someone from the city of Kankan came to see us play, and invited me to join the Orchestre National de Kankan. I was with them for five years, and then we performed at the national festival in Conakry. So that is how I travelled, group by group, all the way to the United States. I met Kemoko Sano and joined Les Merveilles de Guinee. He was my teacher about art and dance and he gave me hope. First we toured in Guinea and after that we went to Mali. Then we had a chance in 1998 to come to New York City to perform at Lincoln Center.

Kemoko Sano’s tribe used the krin.  They transmit messages like the telephone.  When I first saw this, I asked him how they played it and he explained it to me.  Before Les Ballets Africains would perform, they would use the krin.  He gave it to me.  Every time I play, I think of Mr. Sano.

Sidiki Conde is a dancer, drummer, and singer from Guinea, West Africa, who despite losing the use of his legs when he was 14, followed his dream to become a dancer. In 1986 he joined the dance company Les Merveilles de Guinee as rehearsal master, and performed with them internationally.  In 1999, Sidiki founded Tokounou, named after his tribal village, with veterans of les Merveilles and Les Ballets Africains. Through Tokounou’s song, dance and musical arrangements, Conde celebrates the traditional arts of Guinea and chronicles his unique journey as a person with a disability. In 2007 he was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts with a National Heritage Fellowship. Sidiki leads mesmerizing performances that will thrill audiences with the power of the human spirit. Tokounou offers performances and workshops in traditional West African song and dance for adults and children of all ages and abilities.


Malini Srinivasan; India; classical Bharatanatyam dancer. Object: ankle bells.

In Tamil: “sila nErangaLiL mikavum azhagAna parisin kooda kadantha kAlaththin sOkamAna eNNangaLum sernthu varukiRathu; sila nErangaLil athu (manathin) viduthalaiyai sAththiyamAkkukiRathu.”

“Sometimes the most beautiful gift also comes with sad thoughts from the past; and sometimes it brings with it the possibility of liberation.”

What my parents brought to America was dance, a family of three children, and a strong will to bring India with them to America.  My mother studied Bharatanatyam dance in India from a young age; she learned from her mother and from a great Guru. Ironically, though this art was passed on from mother to daughter, neither woman called herself a ‘dancer.’ They were ‘dance teachers’ because women of their community were forbidden from dancing after puberty; it was considered obscene for a woman to show herself on stage.

My mother and grandmother gave all the children in our family the gift of Bharatanatyam dance: the stories, the music, the colorful costumes, and of course the ankle bells that keep the rhythm. But more than anything, this gift of dance gave us a vibrant experience of being in our bodies. My mother and grandmother were always conscious that we should feel proud of this gift, and unafraid to dance.

I am the first woman of my family to become a professional dancer who experienced none of the approbation formerly attached to the act of dancing.  As part of my participation in What We Bring I am developing a dance performance that explores this process of passing down of the dance from mother to daughter. Through pure movement, hand gestures and facial expressions, the dancer will tell the story of being given the gift of dance, and what that means to different women at different times.  Sometimes the most beautiful gift also comes with the heavy weight of the past; and sometimes it brings with it the possibility of liberation. And sometimes, the gift carries both.

Malini Srinivasan is a third-generation Bharatanatyam artist and the disciple of world-renowned artist Sri C.V. Chandrasekhar. She began studying Bharatanatyam at a young age with her mother and grandmother. She lived in Chennai from 1999-2004 to pursue her study of dance and its allied art forms such as Nattuvangam, Carnatic vocal music, Kalaripayattu, Yoga, Sanskrit and Tamil. A critically-acclaimed soloist, Malini has choreographed solo and group Bharatanatyam pieces, including Being BecomingOde to Love’s Arrows and Tejas-Luminous. Malini has presented her work at prestigious venues including The Smithsonian Folklife Festival (DC), The LaMama Moves! (NYC), The Music Academy (Chennai), the Wasserkiche (Zurich), and the New York Fringe Festival

Based in Queens, NY, Malini is committed to spreading a deep understanding of Indian classical traditions through teaching. She has been a visiting artist/lecturer at Princeton University, Wellesley College, UNC Asheville, and others. She is an Adjunct Lecturer at the Asian & Asian-American Studies Department at SUNY Stony Brook, on the dance faculty of Chhandayan, and a Teaching Artist with City Lore. Visit www.malinisrinivasan.com


Sahar Muradi; Afghanistan; poet, performer, educator. Object: Hafiz’s Book of Poetry and Prognostication.

یا حافظ شیراز

ترا به شاخ نباتت قسمم میدهم

…اگر راست بگویی برایم باره ین سوال…


Oh, Hafiz from Shiraz,

I promise you to your branch of sugarcane [your sweetheart],

If you tell me the truth about this question….

I think I became a poet because I grew up with the tradition of turning to poetry to settle my heart. In my family, as with many other Afghan and Iranian families, if we had a decision to make and needed guidance, we would turn to the great 14th-century Persian poet Hafiz. With his Divan, or collected works, in hand, we’d recite the invocation above, silently pose our burning question, and then open the book at random. Whatever poem we landed on would be our response. We’d interpret it line by line until we had our answer. And Hafiz always answered.

 I learned this tradition from my mother, who grew up consulting Hafiz for everything. She turned to him on whether she’d pass exams at school, on which subject to study at university,  and even whether to marry my father. But her most agonizing question came in 1982, just three years after Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan and one year after my father, like thousands of others, was forced to flee the country. He had been blacklisted for speaking out against the unpopular, communist government and for managing my grandfather’s knitting factory. My mother was left with three children and torn if she should leave her homeland and family and make the difficult journey to join my father overseas.  She turned to Hafiz, and, like always, he answered. When I was three years old, my mother, my two siblings and I made our long journey from Kabul to Peshawar, Pakistan, to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and eventually to New York City, where we reunited with my father. 

In the U.S., we’d also reunite with Hafiz. This small, worn, leather-bound copy of his Divan came from my father’s father, who had originally purchased it in Iran and gifted it to our family. My grandfather, who joined my father here, gave us the book when we arrived to New York, and we have continued the family tradition of consulting our poet-seer ever since. As new immigrants, our hearts–and lives–would feel unsettled for some time, and Hafiz rightly knew we would need all manners of guidance.

Sahar Muradi is a writer, performer, and educator born in Afghanistan and raised in the U.S. She is the author of the poetry chapbook [ G A T E S ] and co-editor of One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature.  Sahar has been the recipient of the Stacy Doris Memorial Poetry Award, a Kundiman Poetry Fellowship, and an Asian American Writers’ Workshop Open City Fellowship. She has an M.F.A. in poetry  from Brooklyn College, and M.P.A. in international development from NYU and a B.A. in writing from Hampshire College. Sahar works at City Lore, where she is Director of Poetry Programs and Associate Director of Education Programs.  saharmuradi.com


Cindy Campbell; Jamaica; the “Muse of Hip Hop.” Object: poster of Bob Marley. 

“My street has been renamed ‘Hip Hop Boulevard.”

My family immigrated from the beautiful island of Jamaica when I was a small child. My father, Keith Campbell was really into music and he loved Bob Marley.  Reggae and hip hop are cousins – Jamaica had the “toasting” on the mic and speakers. So, if I’m here with hip hop and Bob Marley is there with reggae – he has to be invited. That’s why I brought his picture as my object.  

In America, we lived in the Bronx at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue.  On August 11, 1973 I rented the recreation room in the building to give a back-to-school party. It became the first hip hop celebration. We just wanted to get together some money to buy clothes for the first day of school.  My brother DJ Kool Herc, now rightfully credited as  the founder of hip hop, brought all his equipment down from his room.   

Herc’s love for the drums and bass became famous for extending the beats on the songs using two turntables.  He was playing music partly for the B-boys, a name he coined for the break dancers. The B-boys needed to show their moves and to do that they needed the beats to go longer, so he extended them.  I was a B-girl back then, also. 

So hip hop came about not from illegal, drug or counterfeit money or blood money but from a family just trying to make things work.  We changed the world. You no longer had to be in a gang –you could be a rapper or an MC, DJ or a Break Dancer. Something special was happening at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, back then.  It’s like someone waved a wand over the neighborhood.  In 2016 the City of New York renamed the street Hip-Hop Boulevard.

The “First Lady of Hip-Hop” Cindy Campbell was the catalyst for the humble beginnings of Hip-Hop.  In 2007, Cindy and DJ Kool Herc’s contribution to have 1520 Sedgwick Avenue remain as affordable housing was recognized by the United States of America Congressional Records Proceedings and Debates of the 110 Congress First Session.  Cindy continues to encourage and work together with her legendary historian brother D.J. Kool Herc. She is always scouting for the next vision of the future. Cindy holds a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She is a former Miss Black America Beauty Pageant Contestant and a licensed cosmetologist.  She earned her esthetician license with the prestigious Christine Valmy International School of Skin Care and Make-Up and holds a Real Estate License with the State of New York.


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