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Fifth graders at Clippert Academy, senior citizens bridge the generations to share thoughts about Latino immigration, heritage, lives in Detroit

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If a picture is really worth 1,000 words, then the Latino community of Detroit is about to get at least an encyclopedia worth with Detroit Latinos: How We Got Here, How We Live Here, Then and Now. This use of digital photos documenting the immigration of Latinos to the Motor City both now and in the past is a social studies project for various fifth grade students at Clippert Academy in Southwest Detroit.

In classrooms, as well as other places throughout the city, the students will be able to use the visual aids to not only learn about immigration, but also discover their own cultural heritage.

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Clippert Academy is working with Living Arts on this project. Living Arts is a non-profit organization that engages Detroit youth, teachers and families in transformative experiences in the performing, visual, literary and media arts. The goal is to increase youth’s academic achievement, develop their leadership and artistic skills, and strengthen schools and communities through out-of-school offerings focused in Southwest Detroit.

The children were led by Living Arts Teaching artist Lisa Luevanos and Clippert teacher Emma Howland Bolton when they visited the La SED Senior Center in Southwest Detroit to interview residents about their own immigration stories and their lives here in Detroit.

The students spoke to those living there about their experiences in their native Spanish. They spoke of both personal histories as well as that of communities.  The topics discussed ranged from personal triumphs to personal struggles to overcoming prejudice.

The trip wasn’t all self-reflection and note-taking. The kids ate lunch with the seniors and joined them in a game of pool.


“The students had a great time and learned a lot. Their number one question was ‘when can we go back?’” says Howland Bolton, the student’s teacher.

Anyone who’s interest is peaked by these kids and their hard work can get a glimpse of it when the project goes public on Saturday May, 21. It will be available at the Ford Resource & Engagement Center at the Mexicantown Mercado, 2826 Bagley Ave.

Detroit Latinos: How We Got Here, How We Live Here, Then and Now is funded by the Michigan Humanities Council Heritage Grant. Living Arts also receives support from the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, Erb Family Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the Skillman Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) of the Corporation for National and Community Service, granted by the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

The immigrant experience has always been especially paramount to Detroit. This chapter can only add an understanding of not only the Latino experience, but the Detroit one.

Photo credit: Lisa Luevanos

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