Storyburgh's Will Halim Wants To Showcase Pittsburghers' Diverse Experiences
A new website, Storyburgh, aims to highlight the stories and experiences that often go overlooked in traditional media, like those of immigrants, Asian-Americans and stay-at-home dads. Will Halim, Storyburgh’s founding director, happens to be all three. 90.5 WESA’s Virginia Alvino Young spoke with Halim about how he came up with the concept.
Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
VIRGINIA ALVINO YOUNG: There are so many online blogs and magazines. Why did you want to start Storyburgh?
WILL HALIM: A lot of stories are underreported, and stories sometimes are considered mundane for some, but for me there are always lessons to be learned.
ALVINO YOUNG: You came to America as an immigrant from Indonesia in 1990. What elements of that experience are not being told in the more traditional media outlets?
HALIM: That immigrants are as diverse as Americans, as people who are born in America. We are not a single category. To be frank, not all immigrants are anti-Trump, not all immigrants are pro-Trump. We are all over the place, and these days those stories are not told.
ALVINO YOUNG: Here in Pittsburgh we often talk about the divide between the black and white communities, we hear about the small but growing Latino community, but we often don't hear about the Asian-American or the Asian community. What parts of your voice do you wish people heard more of?
HALIM: Asian-American is being categorized, being boxed into a certain stereotype that is not always true. An input that I received from the Indonesian community elders, the leaders, that they pretty much told me that they have not been receiving any blatant racism against them. When I heard that I was like “really, seriously?”
ALVINO YOUNG: Have you personally been experiencing some forms of racism?
HALIM: Blatant racism, you know calling me names, cursing me – no. Subtle racism, for example people like to say, “What’s your nationality?” Some people may just say, “oh you know I'm from Indonesia.” Some people may answer it, “I'm from Pittsburgh,” and then they would say “no what is your real nationality?”
ALVINO YOUNG: Do you think it's a challenge that there is a small Asian-American population in Pittsburgh and many people may just not be familiar with the community?
HALIM: Right. So I think the problem, it's two ways. You know I think one that probably may fit the stereotype that Asians, some of them are not active in the communities, but on the other side of it that they are not feeling welcome, they're not feeling invited. They are not feeling that they are included in those activities. So it's kind of two ways. You know one has to probably go outside their comfort zone. But on the other side that you know probably should make an effort to include them, invite them, make personal connections.
ALVINO YOUNG: The other part of your identity is being a stay-at-home dad. When you walk into those spaces for parents for moms, how does it feel for you?
HALIM: Just like being an Asian in the United States, often times I feel like I'm an outsider. And it takes two. That I have to go outside my comfort zone to make myself included. But sometimes it also takes the other side to welcome me. So I really have to tiptoe oftentimes. I started becoming a stay-at-home dad when my wife attended grad school in Pasadena (California). But the situation is kind of different. [There] it is more common to have stay-at-home dads roaming around in a park in a mall with strollers. You know, it's more common. In Pittsburgh it's not so much. But I know there are people out there and meet up groups out there that would like to try to unite the stay-at-home dads.
ALVINO YOUNG: Have you been meeting up with any stay-at-home dads?
HALIM: I did. Twice. Yes, I did. And it was fun, I think we met at the Anderson Park next to Phipps. And we brought our kids, you know, we played together and I think we did it twice.