I've been thinking a great deal about how lucky I am to have been born in U.S. territory when my immigrant mother had just returned from a long stay in her homeland of Czechoslovakia. It’s been a time of meditation on all of the privileges my dual citizenship has afforded me and that the color of my skin (white) has allowed me to blend in to the American status quo my entire life. No one ever asked me where I was born or what country my family immigrated from – I was always free to discuss or hide that part of myself depending on the environment.
These days, I see the tenuous calls for solidarity of my first generation neighbors from childhood – Iranian, El Salvadorian, Pakistani, Vietnamese, Lebanese. I see some of them posting pleas and instructions for their friends and family in case they are stopped in airports or on the street. I watch as they delete their Facebook and Instagram accounts in fear of having Green Cards or naturalized citizenship revoked. I listen in support and presence to their needs, and often feel powerless to stop the changes that are affecting them.
My mother left Czechoslovakia -- an oppressive communist state-- knowing that if she stayed a very hard life was ahead of her. Some of her artist peers had fled through political asylum, though the most stable exit route was via marriage. Luckily, she met an American with whom she fell in love, got married and had my brother. She was afforded her exit from that declining, fear-driven climate. After over 20 years in the states my mother kept her Green Card until her work as an engineer brought her to the Pentagon where they insisted she fulfill her U.S. citizenship for special access. She had refused for so many years due to the interview process being so personal as to ask her about her sexual preferences. What did it matter who she was attracted to? For some reason it mattered to the U.S. citizenship panel. If she was put through such embarrassing and grueling questioning, what have others experienced? In addition she had to forfeit her own passport, no longer a citizen to the land she was born. I can only speak to my mothers experience but I can see—with the new executive orders being passed -- things are getting much harder for those not born on this soil. Things are getting harder for people of color, indigenous peoples and for women. And it’s frightening.
So my response is to cultivate love and strength.
I take deep pride in my cultural heritage and I greatly revere all of the inspiring immigrant and first generation Americans I've had the privilege of working with. The union of two souls is an incredibly personal and vulnerable time. It is filled with tradition, ritual, honor, ancestry, deeply held values, and the creative now. A wedding is a day for all of the family members to gather and offer myriad blessings to their beloved. A sensitive and tender place. It is a space where I gather my best talents and creative abilities to support my couples by building a stellar photographic document of their monumental time. I look forward to providing my support, love and respect to all of my couples in 2017 – for everyone deserves beauty, ease and wellbeing. I look forward to continually supporting the wealth of diversity this great earth holds, and know that no political moment can change how strong we are together and how vast our roots reach.