As local and national debates on immigration continue, a group of community partners in Lewiston and Auburn are working on a program that encourages conversation, celebration and understanding. Museum L-A applied and was selected as one of 32 sites across 24 states to host this free program series, according to the news release from Museum L-A.

Becoming American is a public program that features films, discussions and a variety of events across the twin cities. The program is spearheaded by Museum L-A and the growing list of community partners includes Auburn Public Library, Bates College, City of Auburn, City of Lewiston, Edward Little High School, First Universalist Church of Auburn, Gendron Franco Center, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, L/A Arts, Lewiston Public Library, Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services, Maine Immigrant Resource Center, Tree Street Youth and the YWCA of Central Maine.

“Our goal for Becoming American is just to get people talking with their neighbors,” said Kate Webber, director of Education & Outreach at Museum L-A, according to the release. “We want this to reach everyone in the community, so we’re bringing people together for big, fun events with music, food, theater and art.”

The group of community partners seeks sponsors, volunteers and organizational partners. Organizations or those interested in helping with this effort should contact Webber at [email protected] or 333-3881.

The program will run from September to November, starting with the kickoff film event at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, at the Franco Center, in the Bates Mill Complex at 35 Canal St., in Lewiston. In addition to six screenings of documentary films, programs will include art shows, concerts, book groups, lectures and youth-led events to share immigration stories and experiences.

From the mid-1800s to mid-1900s, thousands of immigrants moved to Lewiston and Auburn to support their families with jobs in the textile mills, shoe factories and other growing businesses. They came from Ireland, Canada, Greece, Lithuania and other parts of the world. Many groups faced discrimination, economic insecurity and even violence. This history is often overlooked in contemporary discussion on the role of immigration in the twin cities, according to the release.

Each of the six programs offers an hour-long film with a different story about immigration — “From Welcome To Shelbyville,” a documentary that follows Somali refugees working in a Tennessee meat-packing plant, to “The Search for General Tso,” a film that poses the question, “If Chinese Americans comprise only 1 percent of the U.S. population, why are there Chinese restaurants in almost every city across America?”

Following each film there will be a moderated discussion for participants to process the movie, ask questions and share thoughts. Two prominent local scholars will moderate the programs: Reza Jelali of University of Southern Maine and Andrew Baker of Bates College.

Becoming American is a project of City Lore in collaboration with the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and the International Coalition of the Sites of Conscience. The project has been made possible in part by a $1,300 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor.

Museum L-A is located Its hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Special tour requests and large group tours outside of these hours are available by appointment, according to the release.

For more information, email [email protected], call 333-3881 or visit

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.