While the Earth Sleeps We Travel


In these artworks, Madysen Thomas and Faye represent themes from While the Earth Sleeps We Travel, edited by Ahmed Badr. They highlight issues of belonging and emphasize the power of storytelling by refugee youth. Faye’s drawing is inspired by Badr’s poem, "An Invitation to the Displaced," and she explains that it "represents the feeling of belonging and knowing that you always have a seat and a space to be heard." She notes that "many refugees were able to find this space through Badr's invitation to be a part of his book that allowed them to "speak" through their words and art." In her poem, "Community," Kayla makes a similar observation about the need for safety and belonging in order to tell difficult stories, picturing refugees "Fleeing to America / To remain safe / Long enough to tell their story / Coming together to make a living library."

Catelyn Charette highlights the impact of viewing artwork by refugee youth, explaining, "In While the Earth Sleeps, we travel through the doors art and interpretations take through refugee stories. The power this artwork displays shows more emotion and stories than simply words may."

While depicting desolation, the creators of these anonymous artworks recognize the restorative nature of writing and storytelling. The creator of "The Power of Storytelling" explains, "stories are utilized to honor those who come before us, remember previous memories in a new land, and connect with others who may be struggling with the same things." In "Words from Refugees" by an anonymous student and the poem "Broken/Unfinished" by Michaela, both students incorporate phrases from the Conventions of Care exhibit that was installed in Morris Library during Fall 2022. Using the poetry fragment, "Are they broken or unfinished?" as a prompt for her own poem, Michaela writes, "How could I / possibly begin / to answer / that question."

In this poem and drawing, Alexis Guerrero Montano represents a family member’s immigration experience through "a butterfly…that only had a tiny pinhole, that one tiny opportunity to finally escape, and she took it. Breaking free, even with having little to nothing to take with her on her journey." In the poem “Assimilation,” Max Contreras writes about the topic “from the eyes of a child born a citizen,” recalling everyday experiences of adjusting to a new culture: 

The cashier asks a question
Mom doesn't understand
The cashier asks louder
Mom doesn't understand
Sneers and looks from the line

I found myself turned into an anchor
Given no choice
But to hope for a future

Kaylee Louima's photo references a line from Erwin Zareie's story in While the Earth Sleeps We Travel: "Everywhere you go, the sky is the same" (p. 14). Inspired by this quotation, Louima writes, "It represents commonality and encourages us to explore ways to create change within our own communities." Isabella Kalb's artwork is a collage of the post-it notes she used to record her thoughts about While the Earth Sleeps We Travel. Kalb explains, "I combined them all to portray a person inside of a house, or one of the universal refugee symbols." The anonymous artwork "Pens of Change" symbolizes "how a refugee may have started out as someone in control of their life, but slowly lost some control, but there's still hope at the end of their journey for them to become a new person who has control over their life again." Below, Yogi Dave's artwork invokes birds as symbols for refugee journeys.