Here’s a brief summary; though her video (transcript below) is worth the few minutes of your time.
The time has come for the stories from the darkness, from the ragged edges of silence, to be given a voice, and the help that is needed – to shine a light into some of the most painful conditions that a human being can endure – the almost impossible to comprehend existence as an exile. “Children of a Different Sky” presents these stories to the world… and collects donations which will be passed on to organizations working to help the dispossessed human tides of our era.
Hello, my name is Alma Alexander… and I am one of the unmoored.
I have been lucky enough in my lifetime not to have been one of those truly adrift – I have never been forced out of a home, or a country, or made to go to strange places I could not understand, against my wishes, terrified and frozen. But I left the country of my birth aged 10, never to return there permanently to try and re-connect the severed roots. This does not mean I ceased to love it – this is the ground where the bones of my ancestors are buried, where their ghosts walk yet if such things can be; this is the place where the river I love so much runs eternally between shores of mud and thistle and weeping willow, the place where a sliver of my spirit lives still, lives always. And I understand, on that visceral level, what it means to be FORCED to leave a place one calls home.
I feel for the children whose early – whose *only* – memories involve bombs and fire and fury and guns and bullets and dust and blood and loss and grief. I feel for the emptiness I see blossoming behind their eyes, underneath the pain, the inability to understand why such things can be. I understand the way an older child might feel when torn apart from those first precious friendships with one’s peers, from the security and warmth of a family home; when witnessing the carnage of a hot war blowing up around them, none of their doing, something that they can do absolutely nothing about and that is completely capable of destroying everything they have ever believed to be true, like a dragon breathing a plume of flame on their lives and leaving ashes behind.
I watch these driven people who have lost everything climb on overladen boats which sink under the weight of frightened women and children and the few men who are trying to save them. I can see pictures daily of the hungry, of the abandoned, of the families torn apart, of children sitting catatonic with pain and loss under streaks and smears of blood and dirt. I can see it all on the news, on social media, in headlines, across the world, every day.
And I wonder what I can do. What I, and those like me, can do.
We can tell stories. Not THEIR stories – those are theirs to tell, some day, maybe. But stories like theirs. Stories which will reach out and tell other people about the truth of their lives, through the “lies” of fiction, of fantasy. We can shine a light, we who create art, into the dark places of this world. That is what we are for. That is what we do. That is what the best of us do, anyway. What we want to do. What we NEED to do.
This project is a collection of stories. Some by names you might recognize quickly; others, from writers who might have a more intimate, more visceral, connection with the subject matter, and of whom you might not have heard (yet). We are here to tell the stories. And when you choose to help us do this, with this book, with the collection of stories by the “Children of a Different Sky”, you join us to learn, and to share, and to grieve, and to make sure that the least and the most bitterly lost amongst us are not – are NEVER – forgotten.
Back in the land I come from, there is a beloved poet called Aleksa Santic, and a beloved and well known poem entitled, “Ostajte ovdje” – “Stay Here”. Young children of my heritage and culture know these lines – they are engraved on the souls of the humans of my nation. They are these:
Ostajte ovdje – sunce tudjeg neba
Nece vas grijat k’o sto ovo grije.
Gorki su tamo zalogaji hljeba
Gde svoga nema i gde brata nije.
Loosely translated, with poetic licence, they read:
Stay here – the sun of a foreign sky
Will never warm you like this one in your own heaven
Bitter is the bread in that place
Where you you’re among strangers and not amongst your brothers.
We who were born under that sun, understand. There is no place like home, after all.
Like I said, I was never amongst those forced to leave such a place, which they knew, which they loved, where they belonged. But I left, nevertheless. And the poet is at least halfway right in that I never really feel more myself then when I (rarely, now) return to stand on the shores of the river which flows past the city of my birth. I, too, in a distant and rather more comfortable sense than some are today, am a refugee.
And this book, this collection, this effort to gather the stories and to make sure that they are not forgotten, this is my attempt to help save both the souls and the bodies of those who now need us most.
The vast majority of the money raised by this crowdfunding project will be passed on to several agencies who work with and offer aid to the refugees of our era. They used to be Jewish children running from the German Reich; today, they might be Syrian kids running from the ruins of Aleppo or Yazidi women fleeing enslavement in the darkness of cultural recidivism; Tomorrow, they might be ourselves.
We are all one. And there, where one of us stumbles over rubble, bloodied and in pain, having lost everything… there, but for the grace of God, goes any of us.
If you marched in a pussy hat in any city in the world where like-minded people gathered together… if you had the courage and the fury to follow your passion by being one of the thousands who streamed to America’s airports after Donald Trump’s heavy-handed sledgehammer blow of the refugee/immigrant travel ban in the last days of January 2017… if you spent your precious time on the phone to your representatives decrying the injustices of the new era… I salute you, and I love you all, very much. If for whatever reason you could not march or raise your voices in the “No Fear/NoHate” cries at the airport or your voice strangles in your throat if you have to speak on the phone to a stranger… there are always ways to make your stand. Supporting this crowdfund – buying this book – throws your support both towards the writers and artists and other publishing professionals who made this happen, and in the days of defunding the arts that also is a statement of defiance, and makes certain that you have been a part in funneling much needed funds to organizations which work directly with the lost and the dispossessed. You helped. You can sit right there at your computer, right now, and click the “No Fear/No Hate” button. Help us help those who need us most in this moment.
Full disclosure by Steve: Other than having known Ms. Alexander for several years, I have no relationship to this project… but I am a backer.)