A Picture: Mother of Exiles

"Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore."

The United States is said to be a melting pot, but that doesn’t mean our different ethnic heritages need to meld into a cauldron of American” goo.” America’s true greatness comes from our diversity of Cultures coming together for the common purpose of a shared freedom to "be." Very few of us are truly native to this land; most of our “people” came from elsewhere.

I had the immensely patriotic experience this fall of officially becoming an American citizen in a group that was represented by more than 60 “elsewheres.” It was emotional and it was beautiful. I got to hear a range of accents (Jamaican, British, Ghanaian, French, Venezuelan, etc.), all saying “yes, I choose to be American.”

Please Enjoy

Russell, Barbudian/Native American

My family’s culture is Barbudian/Native American(aboriginal). My Grandfather taught us so much about Barbuda (bar-beau-da as in BEAU-ti-ful). The Islands with 365 beaches one for each day of the year. My grandmother used to make Fungee and Fish for lunch my absolutely favorite. My Grandfather was the creator of the only newspaper in Barbuda, The Barbuda Voice. I don't know much about my Father's Native background. He did tell me he remembers going to Powwows as a kid down in the Carolinas. I hope to learn more about his background so I can celebrate it.

Pablo, Caucasian/Hispanic?

This topic keeps me going back and forth. Being from Spain I am racially caucasian but I can’t and do not want to ignore my connection with the Hispanic world, which in the US tends to be associated with Latin America. My ethnicity has never been an issue in my life but my condition of foreign citizen has. Even after 13 years living in the US I still feel like a foreigner (and I am ok with that) and from time to time I am reminded of that, not always in a pleasant way.

Kara, European

I’m half-German and half Scottish-Irish-English. I always start with the German, because I like the strength of my mother’s side having such a clear lineage. My late grandfather invested years into our genealogy, but the research stopped with him. For my father’s side, I searched for the “McPhee” clan symbol (ancestors of McDuffee) while in Scotland, found it, and left content. My ethnicity received little emphasis in my childhood; now, I’m much more curious about the individual stories of family members than the collective European heritage. At times, I wish it drew me more, but presently my curiosity is elsewhere. Check out Kara’s blog: MyQuestionLife.com

Dolph, Liberian-American

Birthplace: Monrovia, Liberia. “Lifeplace”: East Coast, USA. I’m culturally African & American. Raised with the heavily cultural Liberian tenet of community as family, while begrudgingly navigating American individualism. My education wasn’t always formal. Ummm, the food… well, most of the food. Spent much of my life embarrassed by the accents of my family, now I yearn for it's embrace. My living knowledge of the place I am from is one of war, devastation, and poverty, though my older siblings and parents experienced and extol the bounty and beauty before the coup d'etat. I am full when I embrace both heritages. Complicated.

Meg, Irish

I don’t really have a connection to being Irish besides the fact that I get very sunburnt and my mom attempts to cook corn beef and cabbage every St. Patricks day. I’ve always been a bit jealous of cultures that have such a strong community based upon their heritage. I look at my best friend who comes from an extremely Italian family and all the tradition that goes along with that and I wish I had something that I felt connected to in the past, but I just don’t.

Drew, Italian

I really celebrate my Italian roots since my Mimi came over from Italy and is 100% Italian. One regret that I have was never studying abroad in Italy, which my sister took to the extreme as she studied there for a year and is fluent in the language. I was taught early that family is the most important and to never break those bonds. I can still smell the aroma of garlic and meatballs (Mimi’s family recipe) cooking in our kitchen. One of my proudest moments was going to Ellis Island and finding the name Giordano on the list of immigrants.

Leslie, Latina

Being Latina is something I actively try to celebrate whenever given the opportunity. To me, being Latina means I come from a long line of strong, beautiful, and kind-hearted people who carved out spaces for themselves in a world which has always tried, and continues, to erase our culture, invalidate our intellectual pursuits, and vilify our presence. I feel connected to an ancestry that brings me comfort, guidance, and perspective in times of turmoil, and I feel compelled to extend that comfort to others in my community. And I always claim who I am, because it is a gift to be.

Talibah, West Indian/African American

I’m never “Jamaican” enough for the Jamaicans or “Black” enough for the African Americans but that’s okay because I’m enough for me. I’ve constantly been told to stop saying I'm Caribbean because my parents didn’t immigrate from Jamaica to the United States but ethnicity is about culture and values. I relate to the African American experience very much but I also relate to Caribbean culture because of my upbringing. I still crave bun and cheese (not Kraft singles, Jamaican cheese). Nothing is black and white and the more we embrace these intersections, the more we will learn from each other.

Melissa, Filipina

I remember the first time I knew I was Filipina. It wasn’t because my parents said this was what I was, or when people asked where I was from. It was on a crowded street in Manila, the scent of fried squid in my nose, the beautiful hum of Tagalog in my ears. A vision jarred me, stopped me dead in my tracks. A white man -- obviously a tourist -- asking a group of Filipinos for directions. It occurred to me that this is how America sees me: an outsider, trying to navigate my way around a place that does not belong to me.

Jonny, American (Italian and Irish)

I’m roughly 3/4 Irish, and 1/4 Italian, although the only Irish thing about me is my pale freckly skin and the only thing Italian is my thick, dark, wavy hair. All of my grandparents were born in the US and my family is American through and through. Even when I lived in Naples Italy for two years, I only thought of myself as an American living there on a military base. Being an American means getting to be a part of a blend of cultures, together as part of the melting pot that makes up the US.


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