During this pandemic I’ve learned so much about America, be it race, defiance, privilege, or videos of police killing people on the internet. As massive protests erupted outside my apartment in honor of George Floyd, I looked over at my wife and really questioned if America is the place for our little family. But if we leave, they have won. I stand firm. I know if America can make the change and learn how to be equitable and equal, the world will follow.
There’s so much life happening around me that is clouding my mind so I can’t find the clarity to make art to process. My wife gave birth two months ago and the idea of being separated from my family because of policy or law is real. I feel small shots of anxiety every time I read the news or open social media. Observing the buffoonery that is the Trump presidency reinforces the need to do the work I do and adds power to my artistic practice.
My community-based art practices stalled out for the months where COVID peaked and lockdown kept me in quarantine. All of my community connections shut down and projects got cancelled until further notice. I realized I would have to imagine creative solutions to apply within my community to make our voices heard during this time. I don’t work well with my whole life in Zoom. Instead I thought of murals, paste ups, and projects that would keep us socially distant and finding new and alternative ways to connect, create, and making these changes is quite exciting.
As someone who finds inspiration in the world around me, being constrained to my own home also made my mind and creativity stale, disconnected, and uninspired. I feel grateful for the workshops and amazing people I’ve met and befriended through my Define American fellowship. I’ve grown so much. A particular workshop, led by former Define American Artist-in-Residence Yosimar Reyes, encouraged us to look at our personal journey and from doing so, I learned a valuable lesson of self respect that I will share with my new son. And I learned to never back down and be ambitious from artist and curator Katya Grokovsky. There’s a lot more, but just to name a few.
The renewed movement for Black lives is inspiring, the depth that we as immigrants have to engage with anti-Blackness, affects us too. From afar it seems like it’s a black/white issue and we non-Black immigrants are invisible but all of our cultures have some kind of anti-Blackness and we as non-Black immigrants have a part in dismantling anti-Blackness in ourselves, our families, and our communities. I didn’t know how to approach all of these issues infecting America as an immigrant. I didn’t know if my voice mattered, but after seeing the strength and reach of the Black Lives Matter movement, it inspired me to take a stand, and to work with immigrants and refugees who feel the same way. The Black Lives Matter murals that have popped up all over the world marks a time in history, marks a time in which artists from all cultures took a stand against systemic racism and the lives lost to police. If the government is against us, we as artists and community have to take a stand and make the changes that are needed for this country to progress.