Mercer grad Raymond Partolan won three Grammy awards for the album “American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom.”
Partolan first got involved with the album in 2018 when producer Kabir Sehgal approached him, wanting to know more about his story as an undocumented person growing up in the United States. He met Sehgal at the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown Atlanta and recorded his story in-studio.
“This project was important to me because the voices of dreamers, like myself, often go unheard. Immigration to this country is such an abstract concept until one hears the stories of undocumented people,” Partolan said. “Those in our country without lawful status are real human beings and people often forget our humanity.”
The album won Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, Best Improvised Jazz Solo and Best Arrangement. It showcased the musical talents of 53 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients across 17 states and from 17 countries of origin.
“I can only hope that the acclaim this album has received will continue to push people to understand our stories and understand why Congress must take action to protect undocumented people in our country,” he said.
Partolan currently works with Kuck Baxter Immigration, advocating for the rights of immigrants and refugees. He said he hasn’t had time to celebrate the Grammy win because he’s been busy assisting on a high-profile immigration case.
“Our firm was successful in getting 21 Savage out on bond,” Partolan said. “When we do get the chance to celebrate, we will likely re-watch the acceptance speeches, have a nice dinner out and just take a moment to soak it all in.”
Partolan has been advocating for the rights of immigrants and refugees for almost a decade — ever since he shared his story publicly for the first time. He said that during his time at Mercer, Lori Johnson had a large impact on his education.
“Raymond was an excellent student, and I am so proud of the immigration advocacy work that he is doing,” Johnson said. “By being willing to share his own story — even when doing so could put himself at risk — he has changed the mind and views of so many. I am so grateful to have students who inspire me the way he does!”
As a former peer advisor and president of the Student Government Association (SGA), Parolan said that Mercer was an “excellent training ground” for the type of advocacy he does.
“At Mercer, I found a supportive environment where everyone, from the faculty and staff, to my fellow students, was cheering me on to succeed in everything that I endeavored to do,” he said.