Portrait of Oana Botez

“I was suffocating in a country that felt it has no future.”

Oana_Botez_by_Baranova_2016_045.jpgOana Botez is a costume and set designer from Bucharest, Romania.  Photo by Maria Baranova

I was suffocating in a country that felt it has no future. The toxicity of a totalitarian system that took over so many generations and penetrated to a level that felt like generations had to pass by in order for Romanian people to find a new personal independent democratic voice. A voice that was inclusive to all the ethnic groups, where it will protect gender equality, a non-corrupt voice that will respect basic human rights.

What do I remember from the day I left? Leaving behind my family.

I flew into New York. It wasn’t my first visit. I always loved the dynamism of New York and the fact you can get lost in a world of a variety of humans coming from everywhere. The life force of New York is unique.

161109TDMDreamPlayREH-555.jpgA Dream Play by August Strindberg, adapted and directed by Daniel Kramer                                        Set and costume design by Oana Botez, at Farkas Hall, Harvard University

Portraits of People on the Move tells the stories of Philadelphia-area immigrants through their own words on the Supperdance.com blog and was first shown as an exhibition in 2015, at the Gray Area of Crane Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition was created as a companion work to Supper, People on the Move by Cardell Dance Theater, a dance inspired by themes of migration.

Portrait of David U’Prichard

“At New Year 1972 … we’re driving through the night in this big, old car and listening to AM radio. I still remember the station call letters, WLW Cincinnati, WLS Chicago. That you could go for hundreds of miles traveling long, long straight roads, Interstate 70. I’d never seen a road that goes on for a thousand miles. And I’m thinking, “Oh boy, this is America” and it was all the little kid’s fantasies of the space and the distance.”

David in Turkey 2006.jpgPhoto by Lisa U’Prichard

My father’s father emigrated from Northern Ireland to Glasgow in Scotland where I was born and spent the first 20 years of my life. My mother was German and she and my dad met in 1945 when she was 19. It was the end of the war – my father was a captain in the British Army during the occupation – and he had to find an English-speaking secretary. So he interviewed a whole variety of young girls and he liked my mother. Well obviously, he liked my mother’s looks, but also she was really, really smart and she spoke decent English. My dad brought her to Scotland a year later. Eventually she ended up going back to college and teaching.

So there was immigration on both sides, which gave me a feeling of “well, I’m not exactly rooted here.” There’s more to that. I had to defend my mother’s honor as a kid in Scotland after the War when feelings still ran high, and kind of got beaten up quite a few times. When I was 22, I immigrated to London like all little Scottish boys with any sense — because the opportunity there is so much greater. I was going to grad school at University College London, and I met this American girl, Eleuthera (Terri), who ended up being my first wife. Terri’s father was an American spy, and her mother a young French resistance fighter, then living in Istanbul. We fell in love, and I got a bee in my bonnet about going to America.

How do I describe my immigration? Well, I was not a refugee. It wasn’t even for economic reasons at all. I was a hippie. I didn’t care where I landed in America. I thought, “Okay, I just want to go there and experience it”. I expected to finish my PhD degree in a couple of years and then we’d go back to Britain. Well, that didn’t happen.

I said to Terri, “Where should we go?” She said, “Why not Kansas?” She grew up as a little girl in Florida, but she somehow wended her way — she was a hippie too — to Kansas and she worked in the KU Pharmacy School in Lawrence. I said, “Why not?” Terri and I meanwhile got married in the summer of 1971 in Scotland and all of her tribe came from America and Istanbul. The mother, the mother’s young fourth husband the artist, Terri’s sister and younger brother, and their spouses. They all looked really, really strange in the Scottish setting. My mother and father were startled, but game.

So I told my dad in the fall of 1971, “Well, I’m actually not very happy down in London, I want to go to the States.” I told him that I was going to go to Kansas and his response was, “Well, watch out for the Indians.” And he was a serious, well-educated man, and that was not a joke. Foreign perceptions of America can be really strange at times.

I was a student. Terri wasn’t earning a lot of money. We kind of tilted that university stuff off so that we could work part-time in a bar in London to save up a few hundred pounds to get on a ship because we couldn’t afford airfares or anything like that.

We did work in a strange little bar for six months. It was a bar for Australians in London, just around the corner from the Australian Embassy. In Australia, they had just changed their liquor laws. It used to be — the bars were only open for one hour, five until six. And so, young Aussie boys and girls would go to the bar at five o’clock and they would drink like a fish for one hour, and get totally smashed. The bar was run by a flamboyant, gay manager and it was raucous every night. And in the middle of the flower fights and tossing cans of Aussie lager, a kind of point of stillness was a little old, English lady who came in every night and sat nursing a small glass of sherry for five hours.

We saved up some money and got a passage on a very famous old ship called the Stefan Batory, a Polish ship named after the Prince of Transylvania. It had seen service as a troup ship in World War II. The ship left Gdańsk in Poland with 700 Poles heading to relatives in Toronto and Chicago, and stopped in Southampton to pick up a few British people.

My father drove Terri and me from Glasgow, Scotland down to Southampton in the south of England. That was then a long 10-hour drive and we superficially chatted but there was a great weight in the air – not great sadness, that would be too strong – but a weight in the air that something was irrevocably changing.

We made our way to the docks in Southampton. I still remember my father standing very straight at the end of the pier — he had good posture from his army days — stoically waving to us as the boat left. I was excited about this whole adventure about coming to America. And my father was happy for me, but also sad because he knew he was losing me. My mother had a far more balanced view of things because she had done this, separated herself from her country and her family and now she was seeing me do the same. It weighed less heavily with her. I’m not saying she took it lightly but unlike my dad, who I could tell was infused with feelings of loss. She was more hardheaded about it, saying, “Okay, he’s taken off on his adventure.” My dad died in the mid ‘90s at the age of 86. He was a strong father and I left him when I was 20. We never were tremendously close after that. I was always closer to my mother, but 3,000 miles distance over decades loosens ties.

This was December 1971. The ship was going to Montreal so we sailed across the North Atlantic and then down the Saint Lawrence River. December, you start to get icebergs, so we’re kind of all a little nervous about the icebergs. That was a very riotous week of sailing. All the Poles drank a lot of vodka, danced a lot of polkas, and threw up over the side of the boat a lot between drinking bouts. I learned to play bingo in Polish but I could never win because I couldn’t remember the numbers in Polish fast enough.

So, halfway across the Atlantic, I was a smoker in those days, I’m up on the deck and I’m sharing a cigarette with the only American on the boat, a nice fellow. I’m telling him my life story and about heading to Kansas and he says, “Well, I guess your first stop is going to be with your local draft board.” And I said, “Do what?”

I had gotten a green card already in London. It was a whole lot easier in those days if you were married to an American, but it wasn’t plain sailing, I had to go to the U.S. Embassy in London maybe half a dozen times, getting seriously interviewed. And I remember one time, some embassy attaché or whatever — with a three-ringed binder and he flips it open and he looks me in the eye and he says, “Look at these pages. Are you or have you ever been a member of any of these organizations?” I came from a left-wing family and had seen the McCarthy hearings in TV when I was little. I’m thinking, “Holy moly!”

What I had no sense then was that green card holders were eligible for the draft. So I said to myself — I said if I get a number lower than 200, I’m out of here. Well. I got a 280.

Coming over, I had $200 in my pocket from working at the bar. We had one steamer trunk that was full of kitchen utensils, pots and pans and some clothes. That was all we had. I was going to Kansas on the vague prospect that I might get a teaching assistant job. Nothing was guaranteed at all but I didn’t care.

The boat made it to Quebec City, and we got on the Greyhound Bus to Columbus, Ohio to stay with Terri’s sister, a grad student there. Our US port of entry was Detroit. So, we get to the bus station in downtown Detroit at about one o’clock in the morning and we have a three-hour layover before the next bus to get to Columbus. That was the only point where I said, “I might turn around” because the Detroit bus station in 1971 in the middle of the night was a not very nice place to be at all.

In Columbus, I spent 125 bucks out of that 200 getting a ‘62 Buick Electra station wagon. It was a wonderful old thing, only five cylinders worked. It was all black, about 23 feet long, with fins. Already it was almost 10 years old and not in good shape, but it was big, lots of chrome, red velour interior and power everything – windows, steering, brakes; you could just rotate the red steering wheel with one finger. I had never seen this before! And the reason that we got that big station wagon was basically to hold the steamer trunk. I sold it the following spring for $75.

We spent about a month in Columbus. To make some money, I tried telephone sales but my Scottish accent was too strong. I had no luck at all. As soon as they heard me, they said, “No, you’re not going to make it in sales.” For a few days, I did get up looking for manual labor at four o’clock in the morning and this was a really cold winter. I didn’t have a lot of luck with that either. In fact I had no luck. Terri was doing better because she got a job at the local Polish Men’s Club in Columbus, waiting tables. That Christmas we spent dancing polkas, and I will admit that in the backroom there, that’s where my daughter Zoë got conceived.

At New Year 1972, we got in the car heading off from Columbus to Lawrence, Kansas. That is still a magical moment – we’re driving through the night in this big, old car and listening to AM radio. And I still remember the station call letters, WLW Cincinnati, WLS Chicago. That you could go for hundreds of miles traveling long, long straight roads, Interstate 70. I’d never seen a road that goes on for a thousand miles. And I’m thinking, “Oh boy, this is America” and it was all the little kid’s fantasies of the space and the distance. So we get to Lawrence, Kansas, very charming collage town, a bit of a hippie hotbed at that time.

I was able to resume my studies. We couldn’t afford normal housing so we lived in a 60 by 12 foot trailer on the bad side of town. The previous owner of the trailer had thrown an ax at his wife right in the trailer. We couldn’t afford to fix the hole from the ax, so we just hung a picture over it. It did let in a lot of wind. And then a year later, we graduated to a 14 by 70 trailer and finally to an apartment before we left Lawrence.

So in Kansas, I like to tell people I learned to sail. How do you learn to sail in Kansas? Well, back in the Roosevelt era, the Army Corps of Engineers, as part of the WPA project, damned all of these rivers, and it created large lakes. You needed to watch out for the tornadoes and stuff, but you can sail. I’d never done that before. I learned to ride horseback, and I’d never done that before either. I would do those three years in Kansas all over again. It was like parachuting into the most American America that you could imagine. Kansans are absolutely wonderful people. They were really, really curious about me. They didn’t see a lot of foreigners back then.

I learned that I had to consciously modify my English. They’d say, so polite, “Excuse me, sir. Could you repeat that? Can you say that again?” They wanted me to take the TOEFL test, the Test of English as a Foreign Language. That insulted me. I considered myself very well read. My father especially spoke English beautifully. He knew all the big words, knew how to use them. So, TOEFL, you got to be kidding me.

The intention had been to be there for two or three years, wrap up the degree and go back. But life happened and my daughter came along very soon in Lawrence. Little by little, we stayed. I finished my PhD in pharmacology. I wanted to do a post-doc and — it was a real shot in the dark, but I applied to some very famous laboratories in area of neuroscience and a famous neuroscientist named Sol Snyder at the Johns Hopkins Medical School out of the blue said, “Yeah, okay. Why don’t you come?”

We lived in Baltimore for three years. In 1978, I got an academic faculty job at Northwestern University in Chicago, and my son Gavain was born. During the 70s, we were able to save money to go back to Europe in the summers, two or three times, to see our folks in Scotland and Greece.

Five years in Chicago as a tenured associate professor, I was doing fine. I had students and visiting scientists in the lab and grants from the NIH. But, I wasn’t satisfied. Actually I liked the teaching and research and I loved Chicago. I got into the Chicago Blues. I could even tolerate the weather and we saw some heavy duty winters about then. It was the narrowness of the academic career. I kind of had a crisis and said to myself, “I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but I don’t like what I’m doing now.”

So I went in to my department chairman, a famous scientist, old-school Japanese, Toshio Narahashi. I said to Toshio, “I am resigning my faculty position.” He said, “Where you going?” I said, “I don’t know.” And I’ll never forget what he said. He said, “David, you are a samurai” and I didn’t quite know what he meant then, but now I fully understand what it meant. And I think now that was a perfect response.

My old mentor Sol Snyder called me up and said, “I’m starting a company. I have money to start a biotech company.” This was the beginning of biotechnology. “Do you want to come back to Baltimore to help?” Sadly, Terri and I, with the strains and stresses of married life, not much money, were separating. And I said to Sol, “Yeah, I can come back.”

Terri and I were separating — I was going to Baltimore and she was staying in Chicago. I got this call from my laboratory and it’s a woman, Lisa Swerdloff, a freelance medical and science writer hired by the new company, who said she wants to interview me. She said, “Can I interview you over the phone?” And so, we conducted this interview and I got totally schizophrenic because a part me was very professional and was giving her the story and the other part of me was saying, “This is one sexy voice.” I am a romantic, and I imagine this young New York freelance reporter girl with a kind of smoky sexy Lauren Bacall voice. So I said, “This is not working. Get the first flight out of LaGuardia to O’Hare tomorrow morning so that we can finish it off in person,” and she did. We continued the interview and both of us realized we didn’t want this to stop. The rest is history. I brought her to Baltimore and here we are 34 years later, happily married.

Fast forwarding in my career, from 1983 to 1986 I helped set up Sol’s company. I then got attracted to one of the big pharmaceutical companies that was based in Wilmington, Delaware. We get in our car, Lisa and I, she is a Manhattan girl, and we’re driving up I-95 and the job is in Wilmington but we don’t stop, and we get to Philadelphia. We turned off in Society Hill and Lisa’s looking around here and she’s saying, “I like this,” and so we ended up here.

I had a career with two pharmaceutical companies. Starting at Wilmington, running the US R&D of a British company called ICI Pharmaceuticals, nowadays AstraZeneca. In 1990, my English boss told me that he wanted me to come to England, what they call a secondment, like a sabbatical – we want you over here.

It was supposed to be for two years. It ended up being four and a half years, didn’t make Lisa terribly happy but it was a good career step. We moved to England in 1991 and until then for 20 years I had said to myself that when I was old and grey, I would go back to Scotland. I felt sentimental about that. But actually moving back to Britain after having been away for 20 years, it had changed a lot and I didn’t empathize with it. It would be too strong to say, “I didn’t like it.” But a lot had happened in 20 years and it was quite a changed country. I had lived in America, where I could breathe deeply and the idea of going back late in life to “a tight little island” didn’t appeal.

I had a conscious thought. “No. I do not want to finish my life over there. I’ll stay here.” And that was when I applied for my citizenship. I had had the green card for 20 years, and I became a citizen in 1992. It was a very conscious decision at that time.

I moved in the late ‘90s to SmithKline Beecham, another Anglo-American company, now GSK. I have always been happiest having a foot on either side of the pond. It felt psychologically right.

Although I never wanted to go back to live, I actually kept my UK passport. In those days, the Americans were pretty strict. You were supposed to relinquish your old country passport but they didn’t look over your shoulder. The UK passport turned out handy because I could travel all over Europe and the airport lines are shorter! Now that all may change with Brexit. But perhaps Scotland will become independent and stay in Europe. I’m up for that.

Zoë and Gavain, my children, they of course see themselves as Americans, but they have a wider perspective on things. I don’t know if that will last through the next generation. I know second, third generation immigrants generally — people lose their ties to the old country.

When my mother in the fall of 2005 called me up to say she’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer and had six months to live, I dropped everything I was doing here to go back to her and I spent the last five months that she had with her. That was not only a deep immersion into our relationship, but a deep immersion back into Scotland, the Scotland of my youth, because I was dealing with things; I was not just passing through as a tourist or for a day or two. That was probably is the most intensely emotional period of my life. She died away from her original home and I had come from my new home back to her.

I’m very clear about where I want to be, which is right here. But I also feel myself quite European and on occasion, sentimentally pretty Scottish. I can also feel quite German as well and I’ve wrestled with that part of my heritage and having a Jewish wife.

When people think about immigrant stories, there’s a simple motto, “We came from the old country, country A and we move to America,” black and white. But because of my personal life and family, I’m very, very attuned to layers. So I’m Scottish, I’m British, I’m Irish, I’m German, I’m American, my wife is Russian and American. My ex-wife is French and American.

Nobody, at least nobody in the first generation, becomes 100% American. The melting pot is a myth.

Portraits of People on the Move tells the stories of Philadelphia-area immigrants through their own words on the Supperdance.com blog and was first shown as an exhibition June 25–28, 2015, at the Gray Area of Crane Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition was created as a companion work to Supper, People on the Move by Cardell Dance Theater, a dance inspired by themes of migration.

Portrait of Ime Inyang

“I was standing at the bus stop shaking, shaking. A Nigerian woman came up to me and said, ‘My sister, put God aside. You are going to die. I will come to your house and show you how to dress.'”

50. IMG_0531

I came here because my husband was here before me. He thought it would be easy for me to come, but it took 10 years. It wasn’t easy. I believe it was 1987. Before I came, I did gardening, I was a farmer. And I worked in the ministry as a radio translator. I had two children that I took care of. We grew many different types of vegetables, that is what we mainly depended on. In order for me to get enough food to feed my children I would get up very early in the morning and buy from the farmers before the food got to the market. Without that I wouldn’t have been able to sustain my children and myself. I tried to keep my children from going hungry.

We were raised in Ghana, but then Ghana sent us back to Nigeria. There was fighting and they said all foreigners should leave the country. My father had been in Ghana for almost fifty years, but he was originally from Nigeria. My mother was taken away by my grandfather to Ghana when she was five years old.

My father decided he wasn’t going to leave. I had a scholarship to school because of my athletic and academic abilities. My mom was a tailor and also sold produce. Usually after school I went to the market to relieve my mom because she had been there since 5:00 a.m. One day when I came back she was crying and said they had sent a big truck and were going house to house asking if any Nigerians were living there and the police took my father. She said she didn’t know where they took him. It was very frightening. The Ghanaians had turned against us. Even our friends started saying it is time for you to leave the country. They took the men to the police station and they put them in cells. When they had enough men they packed them into trailers like sardines and shipped them somewhere unknown. My father was in jail. I quickly took the bus to Mr Chu’s office—the Mayor of our province—and told him. He called the precinct and told them he wants my father out right away! Meanwhile the Nigerian government was sending ships to Ghana to take people back to Nigeria. My father had initially refused, but after he was released from jail he said to himself, “If I don’t go they will kill me and my children.” My father took what little things we had and went to the university where my two brothers were and said we are leaving right now. And that is how we came to Nigeria.

Thanks to the Lord we came with the last ship. When we came we were at the wharf in Lagos for more than a week. We slept where they laid out the rice and it was filled with rats. When we were leaving Ghana they put all of us in a refugee camp. There were women and girls who were raped by soldiers. The camp conditions were horrible; we had absolutely nothing. We stayed there for three months. Many people were sick with diarrhea. When we arrived in Apapa (the Lagos port) my sister was there. She had left school because the teachers beat us. So she married early and that is why she was back in Nigeria. When we arrived we were left on our own. So my sister who lived far away would bring us food once a day.

When we came home to our village it was very sad. If you passed the market you passed my father’s house—a small little thatch house. My father looked at it and said I should have stayed and died in Ghana. My mom’s village was the next village and somebody said we should come there. We lived in the house of Papa, the school principal, and they really welcomed us. But Nigeria was very hard. If we ate food once a day we were blessed. My father couldn’t put me in school so our education was halted. That was when I was put into an arranged marriage. It was the hardest decision for my father and I. There was female circumcision back then and they wanted to do me and my father said it was not going to be me. Life was bad with nowhere to go. I couldn’t go to school. This man appeared to marry me but I didn’t want to. That was when Papa’s wife said this man is very intelligent, he has education, if you don’t marry you have to leave this house. This is a very good man. My father said don’t force her, but my mother supported it and Papa’s wife demanded it. That is how I ended up marrying. When he came here he brought me.

There wasn’t a wedding. My people were poor. There were days my mom didn’t have food for my brothers. My mother would beg food from her relatives and we had to farm just to eat the little we could. But if it wasn’t for Papa who knows where we would have ended up? Papa was special.

I couldn’t bring my two sons to the US because of the system and money. You have to come and go through all this complex and costly paperwork. When I left my children I saw my second son crying, “Mama, what should we do when you are gone?” I didn’t see them until my daughter Affi was born, ten years later. When they came, Affi was a year old. If I had known it would take so long I would not have come. We lost so much time together. We wrote letters.

I came in the winter. First time I saw snow was in Amsterdam. When I came we were in Cleveland I didn’t want to wear pants, I thought women don’t wear pants. When I started going to community college, the cold was getting into my system and I was standing at the bus stop shaking, shaking. A Nigerian woman came up to me and said, “My sister, put God aside. You are going to die. I will come to your house and show you how to dress.” So one day she came, “See how I dress? One long john, two long johns, three socks, that’s how you dress!” I was so skinny and the wind felt like it would take me away. It took about a year for me to get my papers together to go to school. I worked at night. My husband decided we should move to Philadelphia where he went to school but then he couldn’t find a job, so I had to take two jobs. We agreed that when he finished it will be my turn. He graduated from Temple, got a job at Savannah State, and then went to visit his ailing mother in Nigeria and suddenly died.

I have been going home every couple years and I take my daughter Affi with me. I usually go whenever there is a burial. Lots of relatives depend on me. I have one brother who is disabled with 4 children. We talk on the phone almost every day. It is much easier to keep in touch now. Everyone has cell phones. I love my culture but there are certain aspects that confuse me. I cook African food—Jelloff rice, fufu, black eye peas, mui mui, and I garden. I make sure I buy land back home, if America makes us leave one day I don’t want to go back and have nowhere to stay.

Photo by Jennifer Baker

Portraits of People on the Move tells the stories of Philadelphia-area immigrants through their own words on the Supperdance.com blog and was first shown as an exhibition in June 2015, at the Gray Area of Crane Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition was created as a companion work to Supper, People on the Move by Cardell Dance Theater, a dance inspired by themes of migration.

Portrait of Allan Irving

“When Dianne and I moved to the US, friends held a ‘bon voyage’ party for us. They gave us two sculptures, an Uncle Sam statue with an American flag and a Canadian ‘Mountie.'”

Allan with daughter Beatrice in Toronto.

Allan Irving teaches in the social work programs at University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College.

I moved to the US from Toronto, Canada, in 1998 with my wife, Dianne and son, Dylan, when I accepted a faculty position at Widener University’s Center for Social Work Education. After teaching at the University of Toronto from 1984 through the late 1990s in social work, I decided I was ready for a change. A major factor in deciding to leave the University of Toronto was the rapid corporatization of the university and how this was negatively affecting and undermining its academic purpose. I became involved through the faculty association—I was chair of the academic freedom committee—in many anti-corporate protests on the campus.

Dianne’s family was located in the Philadelphia area and Dylan would have more family here. This decision meant leaving my daughter, Beatrice, to be with her mother, which proved very challenging. That, along with my ambivalence about life in the United States in the early 2000s led me to accept another faculty position at the University of Western Ontario in 2003. In 2011, after many trips back and forth and much uncertainty, I returned to the US where I now teach part time in the social work programs at the University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College. During the years that I travelled frequently between Canada and the US (2003–2011), I had many confrontations with immigration officers on both sides of the border. Once I was denied entry back into the US because I refused to answer questions I felt were inappropriate and intrusive. I have, since I was young, challenged and opposed arbitrary authority.

There are many reasons for my ambivalence in leaving Canada. Though the countries seem similar, their differences are profound. The most notable difference involves universal healthcare. It was fully implemented in Canada in 1968. It is much more equitable. No matter your financial situation, no necessary care is excluded, and anything covered by the public system cannot be provided privately.

I also had trouble with the extent of American racism. I notice it all the time. Canada is not without it, and has had many problems with the treatment of indigenous peoples. As in so many societies, racism presents a range of challenges; I truly believe there is greater openness to social justice in Canada. When Pierre Trudeau was elected as Canada’s Prime Minister in 1968, it was on the promise of creating a just society. Fundamental to Canada’s constitution is that it supports and promotes a multi-cultural society, in its commitment to “peace, order and good government.” In the 1960s, 60,000 Americans moved to Canada. One of my closest friends in the 1970s was an American draft dodger. And Canada was the destination of many escaped slaves through the Underground Railroad. Canada has often been a haven for—and welcomed—American dissenters.

Canada also has much greater public support for the arts. In the 1950s, there was great concern about too much American influence on the arts in Canada. In 1954, government support of the arts and a publicly funded film industry were firmly established and continue into the present. Since 1933 the Canadian Public Broadcasting System was a way to hold the country together through communication. Even people who live in the far north listen to the CBC. It is significant that one of the 20th century’s most prominent philosophers of the media of communication was the Canadian and University of Toronto professor Marshall McLuhan.

The attitude toward government in Canada is much less antagonistic. Though it is changing, unfortunately, I think that seeing the government in partnership with the citizenry to achieve greater social good is more prevalent in Canada than it is here. More people participate in elections. America is a great democracy, but statistics indicate that people don’t vote.

I love Toronto. I am still a Canadian citizen. I have a green card and do not, at this point have plans of becoming an American citizen. But I do I love Philadelphia, with its vibrant cultural scene; to be able to hear one of the world’s great orchestras live on a regular basis is a pleasure I once only imagined.

I feel pulled by different cultures. Canada and the US are not the same. The US had a revolution to become a country; Canada became a country through consensus and agreement with Great Britain. I think that accounts, to a large extent, for the differences in the cultures. An undergraduate history professor of mine published a book, Canada, the Peaceable Kingdom, which influenced me considerably years ago.

When Dianne and I moved to the US, friends held a “bon voyage” party for us. They gave us two sculptures, an Uncle Sam statue with an American flag and a Canadian “Mountie,” and insisted, “You’ll be back.” We often contemplate that return. We’ll see.

Portraits of People on the Move tells the stories of Philadelphia-area immigrants through their own words on the Supperdance.com blog and was first shown as an exhibition June 25–28, 2015, at the Gray Area of Crane Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition was created as a companion work to Supper, People on the Move by Cardell Dance Theater, a dance inspired by themes of migration.

Portrait of Richard Newton

“Within a few days of arriving, I found myself setting the seeds, and very quickly roots in a place that was originally a mere two year sojourn.”

Richard Newton, a partner at OLIN, is an architect and landscape architect.

12. IMG_2296I came to the U.S. to study landscape architecture, an elusive and rather difficult-to-define profession. It might seem somewhat ironic that I should come to study landscape architecture in the U.S. Although it is a country that deeply values its pristine natural landscapes it allowed its suburbs to expand seemingly unconstrained around its towns—further distancing urban dwellers from exposure to a relatively intact nature. Together with a number of other enlightened souls, an environmental awareness emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s. A passionate and vociferous member of this movement was Ian McHarg, a remarkable Scot who founded the landscape architecture program at Penn. It was a dear friend of mine from my days studying architecture in Manchester, Niall Kirkwood, who convinced me that Penn under Ian was the best place to study landscape.

I had practiced as an architect in London for a decade before embarking on this American journey. I lived in the heart of London, in Soho just behind Piccadilly Circus. To live there I felt I was an inseparable part of the heartbeat of the city.

My fascination with landscape, of living within a place, has many seeds. Some of my early years, from age two to five, were spent living in a caravan in a field just outside Windsor where I played in hedgerows and besides small streams. My mother was born and brought up in the coal mining valleys of South Wales, a landscape denuded by the sheep and the coal industry, which we regularly visited as I grew up. A landscape of constantly spinning pithead wheels flames shooting from chimneys and of aerial catenaries transporting the waste making new hills in the shadow of the old “mountains.” This was entrancing to my young eyes but a place that my mother escaped from as soon as she could. In contrast, my father had been brought up on the flat, wet Lincolnshire fens. Throughout my childhood and until he had his first stroke in his 70s, one of my most enduring memories of my father was of him tending his community garden. His pride in showing me all he had grown, and sharing with me the knowledge he had gained over a lifetime of cultivation, was palpable. I particularly recall the manner in which he thrust his hand into the soil and rubbed it between thumb and fingers to show me its fertility. This was a connection with nature I shall always value and be grateful to him for.

At age 11, I found myself attending a private school on the south coast of England paid for, almost incomprehensibly now, by my local town council. They associated my lack of academic progress with my relatively poor health, attributed to the seasonal allergies in the Thames Valley. Studying within the bracing and relatively pollen-free sea air would be transformative and guarantee academic success they thought. It was in the buildings of that school that I saw the melding of landscape and architecture. The school was built from the soft white chalk and the hard crystalline flint that formed much of the South Downs of Sussex. It was this landscape I sped through during my solitary and contemplative cross-country runs. And over which I flew in small single engine aircraft and gliders, courtesy of my participation in the Combined Cadet Force. Flying was a profoundly moving experience for me. The expansive views of the diverse yet somehow closely related landscape forms, my sense of weightlessness, and the endless curving perspective starkly contrasted with the grounded sense that I experienced on my runs. Both became facets of my designer’s skill that needed to be brought to bear on the challenge of remaking landscape.

The book that started to make sense of all these formative experiences was “A Land” by Jacquetta Hawkes, an archaeologist with the sensibility of a poet. In it, she describes Britain as “a land as much affected by the creations of its poets and painters as by changes of climate and vegetation.” It is a “unity cannot be stated, for it remains always beyond intellectual comprehension.”

So what has this to do emigration? I found leaving behind the rich and diverse landscapes of my upbringing one of the most difficult aspects of moving. I could communicate with friends, but the visceral experience of actually being there was something I found more difficult to replace. The dislocation seemed to break bonds that had evolved over many decades. For me my everyday surroundings were akin to a book I read as poetry, history, fiction and encyclopedia. But more than that it was biography. As such, moving requires a reconstruction, in part, of that past history—but also the rebuilding of a new history.

I arrived then on a hot steamy afternoon in August over two decades ago. I was met at the airport by Ian McHarg and his trusty assistant Lenore, windows open, Ian smoking a cigarette out of the window, and Lenore navigating, it was one of the most hair-raising journeys I had ever experienced. We eventually located Niall’s flat in the streets behind South Street. He had offered to put me up until I found an apartment. Within a week I had attended a party at the firm where I now still work and where I met Shaun whom I married some four years later. Rebuilding a new history within a few days of arriving, I found myself setting the seeds, and very quickly roots in a place that was originally a mere two year sojourn, a sojourn I had planned to better understand where I had come from and to better understand my chosen elusive discipline.

I feel completely torn by two cultures. I was thrity-six when I came here. Coming to the U.S., one had a slight exoticism that makes one stand out as being different. Gradually since I’ve been here, even though I’ve retained friends in Europe and England, the familial connections have disappeared, as my father, mother, and aunt died. No more need to return to fulfill a role in the family—I have not been back in three years. A whole part of me is empty. I listen to the BBC a lot. I feel the need to satisfy a cultural diet.

Looking back it seems to me I could learn from the rather over used words of Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Portraits of People on the Move tells the stories of Philadelphia-area immigrants through their own words on the Supperdance.com blog and was first shown as an exhibition June 25–28, 2015, at the Gray Area of Crane Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition was created as a companion work to Supper, People on the Move by Cardell Dance Theater, a dance inspired by themes of migration.

Portrait of Dani

Dani is the only member of her family born in the US, and therefore the only one who can travel freely. She is nine years old.

32. IMG_0416Last summer I went to Ecuador for five weeks by myself to visit my family there. I met them by video chat first. I went to Ecuador after my grandma came here for my first communion, when she styed with us for three weeks. That visit was the first time I had met her.

When I arrived in Ecuador, first I stayed at my aunt’s in Guayaquil. I felt strange because I never seen their house in pictures before. It was this big house in a gated community with guards, I didn’t think they had this lifestyle in Ecuador. And when I saw my grandparents house I was surprised because I didn’t think they were going to be big, but they were. I thought they were very pretty. I didn’t have a picture in my head of what Ecuador looked like. I liked it there, it was a good, small place because all of my family lived there.

It was my first time away from home, and the first three days I cried and said I want to come home, I didn’t want to be away from my parents and sisters. But at the end I wanted to stay longer. I was happy to be with my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and to meet all my cousins.

Angie and Maria always tell how when they were little they didn’t wait for our mother or grandmother to make food, they made it themselves.

I like hearing the stories Angie and Maria tell me about when they were little and lived in Ecuador because I am able to learn more about my family. I learned that Maria and Angie lived with my grandma for a couple of years while my parents worked in the United States. It makes me sad to hear that because they were away from our parents for years while I get to spend every day with them. I would feel sad if it happened to me. But I know my grandma helped my sisters stay strong because she’s like our second mother. I do like hearing stories about our parents working here because it helps me understand what they sacrificed for us to give us opportunities and a better life.

Photo by Jennifer Baker

Spanish Translation by Elizabeth Pascual


Dani

(Dani es la única persona de su familia nacida en los Estados Unidos y por lo tanto ella es la única que puede viajar libremente. Ella tiene 9 años de edad.)

El verano pasado fui a Ecuador solita por cinco semanas para visitar a mi familia. Los conocí por video chat primero. Fui a Ecuador después de que mi abuela había venido aquí para mi primera comunión. Durante ese tiempo ella se quedó con nosotros por tres semanas. Esa visita fue la primera vez que la conocí.

Cuando llegué a Ecuador, al principio me quedé en casa de mi tía en Guayaquil. Me sentí extraña porque nunca antes había visto su casa en fotos. Era una casa grande en una comunidad cerrada con guardias, no creía que tuviera ese estilo de vida en Ecuador. Cuando vi la casa de mis abuelos me sorprendí porque no pensaba que iba a ser grande, pero sí lo era. Pensé que eran muy bonitas las casas. Yo no tenía una imagen en mente de lo que Ecuador parecería. Me gustó estar allí, es un lugar pequeño y bonito además porque toda mi familia vive allí.

Era mi primera vez fuera de casa, y los tres primeros días lloré y quería volver a casa, no quería estar lejos de mis padres y hermanas. Pero al final quería quedarme más tiempo. Estaba feliz de estar con mis abuelos, tías y tíos, y de conocer a todos mis primos.

Angie y Maria siempre dicen que cuando eran pequeñas no esperaban a que nuestra madre o abuela cocinaran, se cocinaban solas.

Me gusta escuchar las historias que Angie y Maria me cuentan decuando eran pequeñas y vivían en Ecuador porque así aprendo más sobre mi familia. Aprendí que María y Angie vivieron con mi abuela por un par de años mientras mis padres trabajaban en los Estados Unidos. Me entristece oír eso porque estaban lejos de nuestros padres durante muchos años mientras yo pasaba todos los días con ellos. Me sentiría triste si eso me ocurriera. Pero sé que mi abuela ayudó a mis hermanas a mantenerse fuertes porque ella es como nuestra segunda madre. Me gusta escuchar historias sobre nuestros padres y como han trabajado duro aquí porque me ayuda a entender lo que sacrificaron para darnos oportunidades y una vida mejor.

Portraits of People on the Move tells the stories of Philadelphia-area immigrants through their own words on the Supperdance.com blog and was first shown as an exhibition in June 2015, at the Gray Area of Crane Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition was created as a companion work to Supper, People on the Move by Cardell Dance Theater, a dance inspired by themes of migration.

Portrait of Prudence Powell

“If I had a chance to go back I’d hug my mom who I have not seen for twenty years.”

41. IMG_0441Photo by Jennifer Baker

I came from Jamaica when I was twelve years old on February 21, 1995. I didn’t have a choice. My dad and aunt decided that it was better for me to be here. School was free here and they were tired of paying for me to go to school in Jamaica and me not doing very well. They decided that I should come to the US and live with her in New York. I came in the plane by myself. I didn’t start school until mid March because they needed information and papers to make sure my mom was okay with my being here. She finally got me in school but it took a lot of work. While I was going to school I was teased and picked on. I was different. I was quiet and I had an accent and didn’t talk like the rest of the kids. When it was almost time for graduation, everyone was filling out what school they want to go to. I was asked where’s your social; I asked my aunt about it and she brushed it off, said you don’t need that. I was not aware that my visa had expired after six months. I had a visitor’s visa and I had overstayed. My aunt could have renewed it or got me permanent residency, but she didn’t. I was sixteen and I got pregnant and dropped out of high school. I knew I couldn’t go to college and I had no hope. I had no social security number so I couldn’t get financial aid. My aunt didn’t renew my visa, she said she didn’t have the money, but really she chose not to. She was trying to punish me for getting pregnant I think. So she messed up my life.

My son was born when I was seventeen and I was thrown out of my aunt’s house at nineteen. So I moved to Philadelphia. I thought the Lord would make a way for me. I met a guy and his mom and grandma are helping me more than my family ever did.

I applied for DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] in 2012, but first I had to get my GED. I started doing my GED in 2011 at Temple, and I passed in 2013. I was approved for DACA in 2014. It’s a long process. With that I applied for a work permit and got it in February 2014. I pay taxes and filed my first income tax. I’ve been here 18 years without a permit. The last two years, a lot has happened. Some people don’t understand how hard it is. The first time I went to get a work permit, I didn’t know the process. I needed a sponsor. So much you learn as you go on. That was really rough. In 2016 I will have to renew my permit and pay for it again. I hope someday there will be a pathway to citizenship. This country is founded on immigrants.

I try to give thanks anyway. I didn’t have bad experience crossing the border, but how I found out I was not legal was pretty bad. In 7th grade, I was given an extra year. In 8th grade I was suspended for fighting because people were teasing me. But I was still in the dark about my situation. But when I found out, I just gave up. I didn’t care about school because I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t even get a summer job with no social security number.

I grew up with my dad and grandma in Jamaica. My mom signed over her parental rights. But now, I talk with her more than my dad. She wanted to come visit me. But I didn’t recommend her staying in this country with no job and no home. You have no rights if you are illegal.

I tell my son that education is something that no one can take away from you. You need a diploma, a college degree. Hopefully he sees my struggle and will learn from my experience. I go to rallies to help support immigrants rights. I want him to see it’s not just his mom. The next generation has to vote. I’m the only one to support him. No father, no aunties or uncles.

The day I left I was excited to get on a plane and nervous and scared. We used to go to the airport to watch the planes. When I got here it was cold and I saw snow for the first time. I though it was soap powder. It seemed like the Jetsons here. That imagining of the situation went south real fast. I’ve never been back. You can leave but you can’t come back. If I went there—I’d have to wait ten years to apply. That doesn’t work with kids. I’ve been here twenty years, it is all I know now. I’d like to become a citizen.

My grandmother always had me in church when I was little, and I try to instill that in my kids. Even though I didn’t go much as a teenager, now as a parent every Sunday I go to church. That is very important to me. When I was working I didn’t have any family time to spend with my children. I don’t want us to be separated. Everything I do is about them. I care more about how they feel, I try to encourage them as much as possible. Stuff I didn’t have growing up, I try to be better at. I don’t want them to feel less than, or like they are not good enough, that’s how I always felt growing up. That kind of thing starts sticking to you.

I cook food from Jamaica. Ackee and salt fish. Salted codfish, boil it, season it up, with boiled dumplings and green bananas, that is the national dish. My son likes curry chicken and asked me to make that for his class for international day. And I made and jerk chicken and jerk shrimp. I like to do it for them—they don’t get to go there and eat the food I grew up with. The Korean store sells our kind of food.

If I had a chance to go back I’d hug my mom who I have not seen for twenty years. But I am closer to her now. As we get older, me and her talk. She said she wishes she was here to give me hugs and help. It’s sure hard on her too, to have a child out there that you can’t help.

Portraits of People on the Move tells the stories of Philadelphia-area immigrants through their own words on the Supperdance.com blog and was first shown as an exhibition June 25–28, 2015, at the Gray Area of Crane Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition was created as a companion work to Supper, People on the Move by Cardell Dance Theater, a dance inspired by themes of migration.

Portrait of Fariha Khan

“When something happens in the world involving Muslims, I have to explain. It is exhausting.”

14. and .16 IMG_0172

Photo: Fariha Khan with her mother Saboohi Khan, who talks about her own experiences in another post. Photo by Jennifer Baker

Fariha Khan is a professor and the associate director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

I don’t remember much from when we first arrived in the US. I remember living in New York, our apartment, my Polish babysitter, walking everywhere. My father’s father came to visit, and he would pick me up from kindergarten. I don’t remember before we came at all.

I still feel like an immigrant, forever foreigner. People see me that way; some say, “You don’t have and accent.” People say, “You don’t wear a hijab, you look like us.”

I went to Catholic school, and I was the only brown person. In India and Pakistan, Catholic schools were the best, a leftover from colonization. The concept of the convent school as the best carried over when we came here. My parents liked the structure and discipline, and the uniforms. My father’s side all went to convent schools. When I was in Catholic school, the priest asked if I was interested in having Jesus save me and I said no.

I became more aware as an adult of being an immigrant; it is further heightened by being Muslim. When something happens in the world involving Muslims, I have to explain. It is exhausting. I am aware of being an immigrant, a woman, and a Muslim.

This awareness is both because of my job and also because of things that have happened to me.

There was an incident in my son’s fourth grade classroom. He was being teased and called a Mexican. So he said that his mother was from Pakistan and his father American. He was called a terrorist and told that “his grandparents did 9/11.” The school didn’t do anything, they didn’t seem to think this was important. They said we don’t accept bullying or racism, but they didn’t really do anything at all. There was a similar incident at my other son’s school, and they had the children talk to each other and created an opportunity for the students to learn about each other’s religion and culture.

When one of my sons was in school, the speech therapist told me that my son “had an accent” when in reality he had an attached frenulum, which affected his speech, but because of how he looked, or how I looked, his speech problem was characterized as an accent rather than a lisp. This was another instance of racism or microaggression. People should be better informed.

As a parent I am probably more conservative in my expectations and demands than the average American parent. That is part of my cultural upbringing.

When I was 10 years old, after my father passed away, we went back to Pakistan. The teachers didn’t like me. I could only speak Urdu, but not read or write it. They thought I was a spoiled kid from America. People kept telling my mother what to do. We returned to America after four months. My mother left her family to return to this country, so how her children turned out reflected very much on how she would be perceived as a mother, and being a mother was very much her identity.

My mother objected to my choice of husband. Family members said I was marrying to be white, that it was a denial of who I was. They feared for a loss of community, that he would not be accepted in Pakistan, and that I would not pass down my traditions.

I grew up with two languages, but my children don’t speak Urdu. They understand, but do not speak, although one of my sons would like to learn.

Every summer my mother would take us to Pakistan. We spent the summers living with my grandparents, and I became fluent in Urdu and close to my family in Pakistan. I missed my friends, but it was good to be able to connect with my family.

Portraits of People on the Move tells the stories of Philadelphia-area immigrants through their own words on the Supperdance.com blog and was first shown as an exhibition June 25–28, 2015, at the Gray Area of Crane Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition was created as a companion work to Supper, People on the Move by Cardell Dance Theater, a dance inspired by themes of migration.

Portrait of Angela Navarro

Interview translated from Spanish. Angela is applying to be a US citizen. 

21. Angelaa

Photo by Pablo Meninato

My parents came to the US from Honduras nine years before I came here. My brother and sisters and I lived with our grandparents during that time. My mother came in 1994, my father a year later. They came for economic reasons, to be able to work. These nine years without my parents were very difficult for me and my brother and sisters. We all missed the joy of sharing many important moments.

I was 16 when I came here, the last of my siblings to leave. I was seven months pregnant, and came with my boyfriend. After crossing the border of Honduras,

We crossed through El Salvador, Guatemala, and México. Although we traveled by car, for me it was very uncomfortable because I was pregnant. I also feared having to travel with the coyotes, men who were strangers to me. Making stops of days or weeks in each county, it took us a month to get to the border.

The person in charge of crossing us to the other side took us one morning to the river; he sat me on an inflated tire, with my boyfriend walking next to me. Thank God that day the river was not dangerous.

After crossing the coyote left us and told us to look for immigration agents. He told us we should tell them we were siblings since I was not 16 years old yet and they could charge him and send him to prison. I was seven months pregnant I would not be able to walk across the desert.

Everything went well, thank God. They gave us a temporary permit for three months to meet my parents, and let us go. However, after leaving the office we didn’t know what to do, since we didn’t know where we were. With God’s blessing at that point we ran into a guy who was coming to renew his permit, and he took us to the refuge center for people that have crossed the border where he was staying.

At night, we decided to leave that place because we were afraid—there were all sorts of people! We finally managed to take a bus. During the three days it took to reach Philadelphia, we only ate crackers: we feared getting off the bus and asking for food since we didn’t know any English. Those three days without eating were the most difficult ones of my pregnancy!

After three months, I had an interview with an immigration officer, and was told to leave the country. I got a lawyer to help me to ask for an extension, but I never found out if it was granted. I came in 2003. My son was born here, and two years later my daughter. Later I was told there would be no extension, and I thought about going back, but my parents were here, and my children. A short time after my daughter was born, they came to look for my boyfriend, but he was not home, so they grabbed my uncle and brother-in-law instead. They were incarcerated for a long time and then deported. For me, if I waited until my son turns 18, he could apply for me to stay.

There was always the risk of deportation. In 2010, because of Facebook, they sent a letter ordering me to leave the country, a letter in English. After that I moved from place to place so as not to be found. I have four sisters and one brother. They all got into trouble because of my deportation order, put into the spotlight because of me. We all moved from place to place together.

My mother has been involved in the New Sanctuary Movement for seven years. People from the Sanctuary Movement suggested that I could stay in a church, but I thought this was not a permanent solution, that I would be illegal forever. It was a long process and I asked different people, but I decided to come forward and take this action. In November 2014 I moved into the West Kensington Ministry. Many clergy members are part of the network of the Sanctuary Movement.

I never thought this would be a big deal. I thought it was a safe place to stay in the church while finding a legal solution to be able to stay with my children. I did not think this action would get so much publicity, but it really attracted attention to the deportation of people with similar stories, people who have families here who are being deported, families that are being separated.

The publicity did help my situation. I was granted a “stay of removal” which stopped the deportation order, and I was given a work permit. My husband is an American citizen, but because the deportation order was from before our marriage, it was not lifted when we married. Now they will look at my marriage license and I will have a better chance to stay here. Because of the publicity, a lawyer heard of my case and offered help. She helped me get the work permit, and hopefully I will get a green card. She is helping me to apply to become a citizen. My parents have permits to stay and to work, which they have to renew every few years, but they are not citizens. When they came here the rules were different. I came after 9/11 and the rules have become much harsher.

I remember the day I left, crystal clear. It was February 14, 2003. My grandmother and aunt took me to the bus station to say goodbye. I knew I would not see them again. I do not remember any special goodbye meal, but I was pregnant and remember that I craved melon and mango a lot.

I remember when I arrived—I got off the bus in Philadelphia—I couldn’t wait to see my mother. I started crying. I had not seen her in nine years. My mother said if I had not stood up to meet her she would not have recognized me, but I recognized my mother.

New Spanish Translation by Amalfi Ramirez Finnerty.


Angela Navarro

Mis padres vinieron a los Estados Unidos desde Honduras nueve años antes de que yo llegará aquí. Mi hermano y hermanas y yo vivimos con nuestros abuelos durante ese tiempo. Mi madre vino en 1994, mi padre un año después. Vinieron por razones económicas, para poder trabajar. Estos nueve años sin mis padres fueron muy difíciles para mí y mis hermanos. Todos perdimos la alegría de compartir muchos momentos importantes.

Tenía 16 años cuando vine aquí, la última de mis hermanos en salír de Honduras. Tenia  siete meses embarazada y vine con mi novio. Después de cruzar la frontera de Honduras, cruzamos a través de El Salvador, Guatemala y México. Aunque viajamos en automóvil, para mí fue muy incómodo porque estaba embarazada. También temía tener que viajar con los coyotes, hombres que eran extraños para mí. Haciendo paradas de días o semanas en cada condado, nos llevó un mes para llegar a la frontera.

La persona a cargo de cruzarnos al otro lado nos llevó una mañana al río; me sentó en una llanta inflada, con mi novio caminando a mi lado. Gracias a Dios ese día el río no estaba peligroso.

Después de cruzar el coyote nos dejó y nos dijo que buscáramos agentes de inmigración. Nos dijo que deberíamos decirles que éramos hermanos porque yo tenía 16 años y lo podrían acusar y enviarlo a prisión. Tenia siete meses embarazada y no podría cruzar el desierto.

Todo fue bien, gracias a Dios. Nos dieron un permiso temporal durante tres meses para conocer a mis padres y nos dejaron ir. Sin embargo, después de dejar la oficina, no sabíamos qué hacer, ya que no sabíamos dónde estábamos. Con la bendición de Dios en ese momento nos encontramos con un tipo que venía a renovar su permiso, y él nos llevó al centro de refugio para las personas que han cruzado la frontera donde el se alojaba.

Por la noche, decidimos dejar ese lugar porque teníamos miedo, ¡había todo tipo de personas! Finalmente logramos tomar un autobús. Durante los tres días que tardó en llegar a Filadelfia, solo comimos galletas saladas, temíamos bajarnos del autobús y pedir comida ya que no sabíamos nada de inglés. ¡Esos tres días sin comer fueron los más difíciles de mi embarazo!

Después de tres meses, tuve una entrevista con un oficial de imigración y me dijeron que abandonara el país. Conseguí un abogado para ayudarme a pedir una extensión, pero nunca supe si fue otorgada. Vine en 2003. Mi hijo nació aquí, y dos años después mi hija. Más tarde me dijeron que no habría extensión, y pensé en volver, pero mis padres estaban aquí y tambien mis hijos. Poco tiempo después de que nació mi hija, vinieron a buscar a mi novio, pero él no estaba en casa,  y en vez por agarrón a mi tío y a mi cuñado. Estuvieron encarcelados por un largo tiempo y luego deportados. Para mí, si espero hasta que mi hijo cumpla 18 años, el podría solicitar para que me quede.

Siempre existía el riesgo de deportación. En 2010, a causa de Facebook, enviaron una carta que me ordenaba salir del país, una carta en inglés. Después de eso, me mudé de un lugar a otro para no ser encontrada. Tengo cuatro hermanas y un hermano. Todos se metieron en problemas a causa de mi orden de deportación, y los pusieron en el centro de la atención, llamandoles la atención por mi culpa. Todos nos mudamos de un lugar a otro juntos.

Mi madre ha estado involucrada en el Movimiento Nuevo Santuario durante siete años. La gente del Movimiento Santuario sugirió que podía permanecer en una iglesia, pero pensé que esta no era una solución permanente, que sería ilegal para siempre. Fue un proceso largo y le pregunté a diferentes personas, pero decidí presentarme y tomar esta medida. En noviembre de 2014, me mudé al Ministerio de West Kensington. Muchos miembros del clero son parte de la red del Movimiento Santuario.

Nunca pensé que esto sería un gran problema. Pensé que era un lugar seguro para permanecer en la iglesia mientras encontraba una solución legal para poder quedarme con mis hijos. No pensé que esta acción fuera tan publicitada, pero realmente llamó la atención sobre la deportación de personas con historias similares, personas que tienen familias aquí que están siendo deportadas, familias que están siendo separadas.

La publicidad ayudó a mi situación. Me concedieron una “suspensión de deportación” que detuvo la orden de deportación y me dieron un permiso de trabajo. Mi esposo es ciudadano estadounidense, pero como mi orden de deportación era anterior a nuestro matrimonio, no se suspendió cuando nos casamos. Ahora verán mi licencia de matrimonio y tendré una mejor oportunidad de quedarme aquí. Debido a la publicidad, un abogado se enteró de mi caso y me ofreció ayuda. Ella me ayudó a obtener el permiso de trabajo, y espero obtener una tarjeta verde. Ella me está ayudando a aplicar para ser ciudadana. Mis padres tienen permisos para quedarse y trabajar, lo cual tienen que renovar cada pocos años, pero no son ciudadanos. Cuando llegaron aquí, las reglas eran diferentes. Yo vine después del 11 de septiembre y las reglas se han vuelto mucho más duras.

Recuerdo el día que me fui de Honduras, cristalino. Era el 14 de febrero de 2003. Mi abuela y mi tía me llevaron a la estación de autobuses para despedirse. Sabía que no los vería de nuevo. No recuerdo ninguna comida especial de despedida, pero estaba embarazada y recuerdo que anhelaba mucho el melón y el mango.

Recuerdo cuando llegué, me bajé del autobús en Filadelfia, no podía esperar para ver a mi madre. Empecé a llorar. No la había visto en nueve años. Mi madre dijo que si no me hubiese puesto de pie para conocerla, no me habría reconocido, pero yo si reconocí a mi madre.

Portraits of People on the Move tells the stories of Philadelphia-area immigrants through their own words on the Supperdance.com blog and was first shown as an exhibition in June 2015, at the Gray Area of Crane Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition was created as a companion work to Supper, People on the Move by Cardell Dance Theater, a dance inspired by themes of migration.

Portraits of People on the Move

Here is an opportunity to tell the story of your immigration experience.

If you would like to participate in this project, send your contribution to jlpbaker@gmail.com with “People on the Move” in the subject line. To download a version of this questionnaire click here for the Word version or click here for a pdf.

Please include the following in a separate document or the body of an email:

  1. Your name
  2. Your occupation
  3. A photograph of yourself or your family. If you do not wish to show your identity, the photograph could be of the back of your head, your hands, or an object you brought with you when you came to this country.
  4. A paragraph or two about your experience as an immigrant. Your response might seek to answer some of the following questions:
  • What motivated you to leave your birth country?
  • What do you remember from the day you left?
  • How did you travel? What modes of transportation were used?
  • What do you remember about your arrival at your destination?
  • Did you know that your move was permanent?
  • Did you have a celebratory send-off meal or a somber last supper? What was served? Who was there?
  • Do you feel pulled by two different cultures, and if so, where would you rather be?
  • Was it worth it?

If you are an artist please also include:

2a. Your medium (painter, sculptor, dancer, choreographer, theater artist, filmmaker, musician, etc.)

3a. An image of yourself with your work (if you have any work that relates to your experience as an immigrant, please choose that).

4a. And, please consider these additional questions:

  • Has the immigrant experience affected your artwork? Are you a different artist now than when you were in your country of origin?
  • Did being an artist affect your decision to come to this country or to leave your country of origin?

Please email Jennifer Baker jlpbaker [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions.

Major support for Supper, People on the Move has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Supper, People on the Move has been developed in partnership with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, Independence National Historical Park, and the Crane Arts Building’s Icebox. Supper, People on the Move has also received two Swarthmore Project: Time and Space for Dance Residencies and a Georgian Court University Summer Research grant.

From choreographer Silvana Cardell, a dance performance inspired by themes of migration, SUPPER explores the complex experience of dislocation. Performances took place in June of 2015 at Crane Arts in Philadelphia, with a free simulcast public screening at Independence National Historical Park.

Choreographer–Director Silvana Cardell Soundscapes Nick Zammuto Set and costume design Jennifer Baker Technical Director Conrad Bender Dancers Bethany Formica, Leanne Grieger, William Robinson, Adrian Plascencia, Maria Urrutia.

Supper, People on the Move
Cardell Dance Theater

June 25­–28, 2015

Icebox Project Space at Crane Arts
1400 North American Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19122

PrintMajor support for Supper, People on the Move has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from Swarthmore College Project and Georgian Court University Summer Research grant.