On January 10, 2020, Ibrahim Aldabaan, Adeebah Alnemar, and their eldest son, Naji Aldabaan, joined New Haven-based journalist Jake Halpern for a morning of discussions with students about their experience in escaping war-torn Syria, living as refugees in Jordan, and finally settling in West Hartford, Connecticut. Halpern, along with cartoonist Michael Sloan (father of Dylan Sloan ’18) are the co-creators of “Welcome to the New World,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning long-form visual narrative that ran in 20 parts in the opinion section of the New York Times.
The cartoon begins with the family arriving in Connecticut on the evening of Election Day 2016. “When they arrived, they were dazed, overwhelmed, ebullient, and also a little sad — because they had to leave several of their family members behind in Jordan. Then, the next day, Donald Trump won the election. In effect, the family landed in one country, and woke up the next morning in another,” Halpern said.
Following assembly, students had the invaluable opportunity to hear directly from the Syrian family in an intimate panel discussion moderated by Halpern.
Following the discussions, cartoonist Michael Sloan joined Halpern and Alnemar to host a dual art show reception in the Keator Gallery on campus, which features the comic series and Alnemar’s drawings. Alnemar is a talented artist who tells her story through her works of art.
Her first drawing after she arrived in the United States was of a woman with only one eye, holding her hands in front of her mouth. It was a self portrait, Alnemar said, unable to see the next step for herself and her family, and unable to communicate in her new country.
“Nothing is impossible,” Alnemar said.