'Immigrant Magazine' Gives Voice To A Range Of Communities
ARUN RATH, HOST:
When Pamela Anchang came to United States from Cameroon 20 years ago, she had a problem. Like a lot of immigrants, she felt that she didn't see herself in the media.
PAMELA ANCHANG: I just felt like there was a void. Yes, there are tons and tons of magazines out there, but most of these magazine and newspapers target themselves. So, say, you read India West or Africa Times. What are the chances that someone non-African or non-Indian would pick that up? So essentially you're preaching to your own choir.
RATH: Ten years ago, she started the Immigrant Magazine to provide a bridge to those different communities with stories from a wide range of perspectives.
ANCHANG: Immigrant stories are not just about a crisis situation. Immigrants don't always want to see themselves as victims.
RATH: Right now, on the site, there's a story about palliative care in the Chinese-American community, a Korean TV show that tackles mental illness and a new album from a Guinean musician. Pamela Anchang's own immigrant story started in 1994, when she left Cameroon. After a spring of multiparty politics took off in the country, her cousin was one of the opposition leaders who challenged the president, and her family felt unsafe.
ANCHANG: We were politically targeted. Socially, I felt - in the university - harassed. So I left Cameroon under those conditions, you know, thinking, you know what? Let me go to a place where I can be myself, where I can thrive.
RATH: When she came to the U.S., she started working as a teacher and a computer engineer. But Anchang dreamed of being a journalist as a child, so she started writing articles about Africa and her life back home.
ANCHANG: It turns out I had no place to publish them. There was nowhere to share my experiences.
RATH: Living in Los Angeles, she met immigrants from all over the world and started hearing remarkable studies. She found out that she wasn't the only one who didn't feel she had a voice.
ANCHANG: And so I decided - I said, you know what? If we don't have a place to tell our stories, I'm going to create mine.
RATH: She founded the Immigrant Magazine as a print magazine in 2004. Now it's a website and online newsletter. One of the stories that's meant the most to her over the years was an interview with a Filipina immigrant.
ANCHANG: Virgelia Villegas is her name, and I was doing this interview with her. And in the middle of the story, she said, Pam, I came to the United States because my mother paired me up with her business partner. I was only 16. And I moved out here, married to this guy. I had two children. And a few years later, I became a widow.
She told me, I only have a high school diploma. And so she turns around now, and she's giving back. She has built a compelling enterprise of cultural pageants. Now, she doesn't call them beauty pageants because she's really about forming young women in the Latino community and the Asian community.
RATH: Stories like this, about success and triumph, are the ones that Anchang wants to get out, to uplift immigrants and their commute. Most of the contributors to the magazine are freelancers, and she's not able to pay them yet, but hopes to in the future. Money for the magazine comes from advertising and sponsorship. She has a lot of goals for keeping this going and growing. They're adding video components and working to produce pilot shows that can be sold or syndicated.
Though the site is mostly features and Q and As and isn't overtly political in nature, immigration is, of course, a heated political issue. I asked Pamela Anchang if, as the editor of a magazine like hers, it's hard to cover a community without also becoming an advocate.
ANCHANG: You know, as I'm editing articles, I get all kinds of articles, and I try to be as, you know, fair as possible. I like to present both sides. However, my side is a humanitarian stance, so my political stance is purely advocacy. I also work with organizations who actually are grooming immigrants for leadership so they can turn and run for office, so that maybe the more of us are in office.
We can begin to maybe really then pass that message across because if we don't have any representation, politically speaking, how are we going to change any laws or make the laws to adapt to our interests? So we - yes, I do have interest in political...
ANCHANG: Yes, I do. It takes politics to make changes, so that's something that I do not neglect.
RATH: That's Pamela Anchang, the editor and founder of the Immigrant Magazine.
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