February 1 - March 1, 2017
Self-Portrait Series 6 by Bethany Studnicky
This exhibition by Emory student artist Bethany Studnicky was a component of Studnicky's undergraduate research and honors thesis. Viewers were asked to complete a brief, anonymous survey based on personal observations.
November 5 - 30, 2016
Elena Vizerskaya Exhibition
Featuring the works of award-winning Ukrainian artist, Elena Vizerskaya, CD cover artist for Will Ransom's new album "Listening to Memories." Beautiful examples of Vizerskaya's digital photo manipulations will be on view for the month of November in the Chace Gallery.
This exhibit ran in conjunction with the November 5 Ransom CD Release Concert.
October 3 - 30, 2016
A2D Photography Group
Every week a group of Atlanta photographers get together to talk about photography. Gathered at a local breakfast place, they exchange ideas, experiences, concepts and both shared and differences of opinion about photographs, photographers and every aspect of photography. They share points of view, and information about techniques, about equipment, about new trends, about esthetics, about every aspect of the extraordinary world of photography. But not just talk! Members of the group bring work, ranging from their most recent efforts to their archival images,for critiques and discussion.
The group is called A2D, “analogue to digital". It’s members range in age from 16 to over 60. Some of them are neophytes, only beginning to learn the art and the practice of photography. Some are “amateurs” in the classic sense of the term. Pursuing careers in a variety of fields they have also established themselves as dedicated and skilled photographers. Several have been associated with Emory University for many years. Many of the group are highly regarded professionals prominent in both Atlanta and in the wider world of photographic work. Many began their careers in the age of film - the analogue age - and have now transitioned to the dynamic, burgeoning world of digital photography. They willingly and to the benefit of everyone they readily share their knowledge gained from their experience as professionals.
Almost every aspect of photography is represented in the group. They include, among others: news photography; commercial and studio photography; fine-art photography; architectural photography; sports photography; landscape and nature photography; travel photography, and portrait photography.
The A2D group is pleased to offer this showing of some of their work during the month of Atlanta Celebrates Photography.
March 4 - April 4, 2016
Emory University Emeritus College Showcase
The Emory University Emeritus College (EUEC) seeks to provide opportunities for continued intellectual, creative, and collegial engagement of the retired faculty with the University in service to both University and community. This exhibit showcases the work of EUEC members Mario DiGirolamo, Joanne Green, David Goldsmith, C.W. Hickox, Vincent BH Huyhn, Jeffrey Lichtman, Donald O'Shea, Al Padwa, Denise Raynor, Subha Thrivikraman, Ralph Volger, and Jerry Williamson.
January 3 - February 29, 2016
The Spirit Lives On: Art, Music and the Mind
The Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and the Atlanta Master Corale were the sponsors of the three-part project "The Spirit Lives On: Art, Music, and the Mind" which engaged the arts to highlight and acknowledge the impact of dementing illness on the lives of members of our community.
Photography and painting programs with dementia patient as well as their families took place from August to October 2015, led by Edna Bacon, an experienced art therapist, and Thomas England, Emory Instructor and world-renowned photographer. The results of these workshops are now on display in the Chace Gallery at the Schwartz Center.
March 24 - April 27, 2014
Seeking Wisdom: Photographs by Jon Kolkin (73C, 77M)
Seeking Wisdom is intended to stimulate a dialogue about the complex interplay of factors that influence our decision making process while drawing attention to the important role wisdom (enlightenment) plays in successfully navigating through the labyrinth of our society.
March 3 - March 19, 2014
Word of Mouth: A Community of Poets
Photographs by David Noah, accompanied by the original poetry of Bob Ambrose, Eugene Bianchi, Mark Bromberg, Michelle Castlebery, Patrick Conley, Ciera Durden, Bobbi Johnson, David Oates, Charley Seagraves, and Grady Thrasher.
February 4 - February 15, 2014
What Must Be Remembered
An exhibition inspired by Natasha Trethewey's poem "Native Guard"
Vignettes of Civil War-era materials from Emory's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL), accented with other items reminiscent of the time period, are the subjects of "What Must Be Remembered," a small photographic currently on display in the Chace Gallery of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.
The compositions were created using photos, letters, journals and other ephemera and books drawn from several collections at MARBL, including its Civil War collections and the Robert Langmuir African American Photograph Collection.
The exhibit was inspired by the Civil War poem "Native Guard" by Natasha Trethewey, the current two-term U.S. Poet Laureate and the director of Emory's creative writing program. The poem begins with an epigraph by Frederick Douglass: "If this war is to be forgotten, then I ask in the name of all things sacred what shall men remember?"
Pellom McDaniels III, faculty curator of MARBL's African American Collections and Emory associate professor of African American Studies, and Paige Knight, Emory Libraries archival photographer and digital photography coordinator, are co-curators of the exhibit, which will run through the end of February.
Reflections of life
The five photographs reflect on aspects of African American life during the war, including womanhood, manhood, labor and commerce, childhood and education, and life as a soldier.
Knight created the compositions using MARBL materials selected by McDaniels, as well as other items they both contributed such as shells, dried flowers, old pocket watches, and 19th century clay marbles, which emphasizes the three-dimensionality of the lives of African Americans as a whole.
"The photographs extend the dialogue with the poem; they provide a sense of time, place, ideals, and opportunities. In essence, we created a collection of curated memories for this exhibition," Knight says.
"I really hope we can attract new researchers to MARBL as well," McDaniels says. "If we can create these types of spaces to demonstrate how our materials can be used, I think more people will be attracted to us as a resource - artists, in particular, who can use MARBL materials for their purposes."
January 14 - January 31, 2014
"Documenting the Undocumented" Freedom University Photography Project
Curated by Dr. Laura Emiko Soltis
The following statements were written to accompany the photographs on display as part of the exhibit "Documening the Undocumented." Visitors to the gallery can scan the QR code beside each of the photographs to read the photographer's narrative statement.
I often find myself wondering whether my family's migration from Mexico to the United States worth all of the tears, worries, stress, and difficulties we are facing today. My family has faced many obstacles following our migration; however, it was not a transgression to want to live a better life.
The recent wave of anti-immigrant legislation in Georgia impacts my family tremendously. These laws diminish the wellbeing and happiness of my family and my people. Our liberties are constantly threatened and we live in fear every day. I truly don't understand how immigrants hurt the United States: we pay taxes that benefit the collective good, we work difficult jobs with the lowest pay to contribute to the economy, and we bring diverse perspectives into schools and workplaces which benefits everyone. Even though some people sympathize with the plight of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., empathy alone is only a feeling. Empathy is not enough to create the change we need to realize our American Dream.
A decade ago, immigrants rarely worried about deportation while they carried out their daily responsibilities. Immigration authorities did not waste public resources targeting and detaining hard working immigrants or go to the extremes of separating families. Their duties to protect every community and create a safe environment were their top priorities. However, year after year, the government has increasingly sought to profile and punish innocent immigrant families who are simply searching for opportunities that were not present in their home country. Driving to get groceries or working without a social security card can now lead to serious penalties. Just because we come from a different country does not make us enemies undeserving of human rights. Everyone has the equal right to education, decent work, and an adequate standard of living.
When I arrived in the United States, I was three years old. Of course, I do not remember what decisions my parents made in order to get here; however, what I do know is that it was the best choice given their circumstances. Like any other parents, they wanted their children to have opportunities in their lives, and they were willing to do whatever it took to make that a reality. When I started school at age five, I fell in love with learning. Because I am the first in my family to excel in school and be accepted into college, they place me on a pedestal. But because I am banned from attending Georgia's top state universities and cannot afford to attend the private schools that have accepted me because I don't qualify for financial aid, I have not been able to pursue my dream to go to college and become a nurse. All of my time and energy have been dedicated to furthering my education, and I pray that after I graduate high school, I will somehow be granted the opportunity to attend college.
With my expanding knowledge, I have come to view my family's constricting circumstances in a different perspective. At a young age, I never even considered I would be denied the right to continue my education. Now, with an educated mind, I am able to see the fear that is behind the scapegoating of immigrants by those in power. Now, with an educated mind, I know there is a long history of importing and deporting people to attain political gain. Now, with an educated mind, I realize that no matter how hard we as immigrants work, it is not enough to change the minds of those who see us as machines that can be exploited for labor, rather than human beings. The inhumane acts against immigrants inspire me and thousands of other undocumented youth to create change for ourselves. We are beginning to stand up for our rights and oppose any racial discrimination that has been targeted against our community. Es tiempo for those in power to realize that we will not become slaves to ensure their profit. Instead, we will become the growth that achieves justice and assurance of equality.
My family's sacrifices and dreams of seeing their children learn, develop, and contribute to the world around them will not be in vain. Through my unwavering dedication, I will do what is necessary to overcome any barrier to aid the community and achieve my dream of becoming a professional nurse. I have learned so much by participating in rallies community movements, workshops, and attending classes at Freedom University. It is now my duty to teach what I have learned to others. Day by day we organize. Day by day we educate each other, and help a friend, a neighbor, family member to take a step closer towards their greatest potential. As young people, it is our job to take the torch our parents have lit for us and pave the path for others to follow. Our society organized around ambition for money and material positions, rather than using resources to meet human needs.
With knowledge of the past, insight from our own experiences of dehumanization, and dedication to social justice, undocumented youth can begin to attain the respect and dignity we deserve. "Change the world today for a better future" is a cliché, but it is also our life motto. I am tired of living my life in fear because certain people see me as inferior. However, I would like to see them try to live one day in my shoes and the obstacles I must overcome just to survive. No one can claim they live in a beautiful world until human rights are enjoyed equally. I promise to never capitulate in my pursuit of social, legal, and economic justice for everyone. I will carry my parents' fight for a livelihood on my shoulders to keep me grounded and remind me that I too will one day have children, and I want them to be part of a nation that is fair to all.
From the age of one to four, my grandparents raised me. My mother was a single mother who had to work far from home. By the time I was 12 years old, I was waking up at 5:00 a.m. to help my grandparents with the daily farm work, in order to get to school by 8:00 a.m. After school, most of the kids were planning what to do or where to go for a night out, but not me. I knew there were chores that needed to be done.
There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and I felt like I did not fit in, times when I blamed the ones that loved me the most, telling them that it was not fair; I did not ask for that kind of life. Even though my family faced so many challenges, we never gave up. We would often go days without running water or electricity, but that never stopped us from loving and caring for each other. When obstacles came our way, my grandparents and my mother never backed down, they only worked harder.
My family taught my the value of humility, to work hard no matter the circumstances, They taught me to always have hope. Although this environment was full of love, there was something missing. Something tormented me every night before going to sleep. I kept on repeating, "One's life must matter." I didn't want to live my life piling up manure.
Throughout my childhood, everyone described the United States as the country of freedom and liberty where all your dreams come true. For that reason, I always wanted to come to the United States. As the years passed my impatience grew. I told my mother that Mexico had become a black and white movie. Every time I looked into the horizon I could imagine America, with a whole range of colors to explore. Shortly after my second year of high school, I received great news: my aunt was going to bring me to the United States.
When I first arrived, my dreams seemed so close. But life turned out different from my expectations. I became homeless after a few months, and I found myself in the worst situation I could ever imagine. I went through pain and hunger, and ended up living with a preacher who did not know me but whose first words were, "We will make sure that you finish high school and always have a place to call home when you are away."
With support from so many people at my high school, I became an honors student. I was involved with every extracurricular activity, recognized by the National Society of High School Scholars, and was voted student body president of one the largest high schools in Georgia. I thought to myself: I have done it! I am here and I am living the American dream! Little did I know, applying to college brought me face to face with something I was not aware of until that moment. My teacher told me that I was an illegal alien. I asked, "What does that mean? Can you help me fix it?" The answers were long, covering up a "no"... "But I want to go to college!" I said. "I want to do more, I want to make my life meaningful! I want to help those around me! Can you help me? Please?" So the nightmare began. I cried nonstop throughout the night as I did my homework, determined to show someone, my hero, that I was worth it, that I deserved it... but the hero never came.
There I was, the day of my graduation. That day was supposed to be one of the happiest days in my life, but it wasn't. After graduation, I kept looking for more financial support . Although I won a few scholarships, it was never enough. Days passed and my hopes to attend college were fading. I started working two jobs, I would leave home at 7:00 a.m., and return at 2:00AM the next day. I was in a dark and lonely place. It seemed as if all happiness had escaped from the world.
One day scrolling through a website, I saw an invitation to join hundreds of "Dreamers" to fight for justice. They were undocumented students who were struggling to overcome the same obstacles I faced. It was my call. I needed to join them.
Weeks later, I found myself in Washington D.C., I was standing up for my rights. The rally began. I followed the Dreamers, stunned by their bravery and taken by their fierceness... And then the chants came: Undocumented! Unafraid! Undocumented! Unafraid! These chants overwhelmed my soul... I couldn't hold it any longer, so I began chanting with them: Undocumented!!! Unafraid!!! Undocumented!!! Unafraid!!! The tears started flowing, I couldn't believe it. They were an unstoppable torch, a torch of justice... my fighting spirit had been revived.
After that day, I could no longer hide in the shadows, I had seen the light, fearless warriors were showing me the way and I could follow in their footsteps.
On my way back to Georgia, I realized that I could now do something. It was then when I decided to get on the fast lane, going full speed ahead against hate and discrimination. Along the road I encountered powerful allies, people willing to stand up for their neighbors and loved ones, people willing to go the whole way in order to defend the promises of freedom.
In this photo I see that journey, the determination and courage to never look back. Yes, I am undocumented, but that is what has enabled me to stand up for the rights of millions. It is in this collective struggle that I have found meaning in my life. I look up and see myself as unafraid. I am humbled by the support of those around me. I have finally become my own hero.
My name is Gude
I am from the beautiful state of Michoacan
When I was eight years old my father's brutality drove us out of the country
My mother walked across the desert
My brother and sister followed closely behind
When they arrived, they were treated like the dirt they had walked across
Luckily for me, all I had to do was sit in a car quietly
Pretending I matched the girl in the passport photo
For that, I am now seen as a criminal
What Congress does not acknowledge
Is that at eight years old
I could not imagine the consequences
Once I enrolled in Georgia schools I tried to become the best I could be
All I ever wanted was to make my family proud
I spent the last nine years trying to assimilate
But as hard as I tried, I could never escape the pain
The pain of knowing I cannot further my education
Solely because I am undocumented
The struggle of being undocumented in America is rooted in marginalization
They say there are 11 million of us
The numbers are staggering
But I can't help but think of those who die trying
At 18 years old, I look to the horizon with hope and longing
My soul has grown old waiting for change, hoping that one day we could all live united
Some days, I loathe the American dream
Other days, I ponder on what that term even means
Surely, I know that in the future, the struggle of my immigrant generation will be in the history books
One day soon, my people will not have to cross borders anymore
The pain will be gone
Our lives are impossibly intertwined
We cannot do without each other
When the whole world realizes this, we will know tolerance
The bad days make the good ones even better. This is what I tell myself every morning as I get ready for school. There's never a moment when being undocumented completely leaves my mind. It always remains somewhere in the back of my mind.
I was three years old when I arrived in the United States. My brother was four years old. Our mom made the difficult decision to leave Mexico to come to this country so that my brother and I could have our dad by our side as we grew up, and to ultimately seek better opportunities in life. We left behind our family, customs, and traditions - everything that was familiar - to come to the unknown. It was a giant leap of faith. Never would we have imagined that 14 years later, we wouldn't be able to travel back to Mexico to visit our loved ones.
Throughout these last 14 years, I've had to experience things not many other kids my age have had to go through. I'll never forget the pain on my mom's face when she received a call from Mexico informing her that her father had passed away. After 14 years of not seeing her own father, she would never get the chance to see him again. A couple of months later, my grandma on my dad's side passed away. He too, would never have the opportunity to see his mom again. The helplessness and anger I felt in those moments was indescribable. I couldn't do anything but harbor resentment towards the way things were in this country. I hated the laws that stopped us from visiting the family we left behind. I hated the fact that I would never be able to hug my grandparents one last time, or even attend their funerals. I hated it all. I remember being younger and seeing my uncle behind bars, and I was confused - I knew my uncle wasn't a criminal. It wasn't until I was told he was being deported that I began to realize what being undocumented was like. I never saw him again
This was only the beginning. Being undocumented has affected me in more ways than I would have ever thought possible. When I was about to turn 17, I wondered what I would say to my friends if they wanted to go see a rated R movie. Since I couldn't obtain any kind of ID, I couldn't really do simple things other teenagers could do. I remember a time during my sophomore year of high school when everybody I knew was excited about showing off their driving permits. I remember feeling that overwhelming sense of helplessness and isolation once again. When my friends talked about future summer jobs and trips abroad, I felt completely left out because I knew that these common experiences could never be my reality. At some point in high school, I began to think that there wasn't a chance for students like me. There were times when I felt like an outcast because I couldn't do things everyone else was enjoying.
This led me to wonder about college. After all, if I couldn't do the smaller things, like go see movies or drive a car, how would I ever be able to go to college? I'd always excelled at school, but these worries really brought me down. I had little motivation - what was the point? There were days where I would get so frustrated that I would just come home from school and cry in my room. I felt so angry and worthless.
Even today, I can't help but feel excluded whenever my friends have discussions about college because I can't apply to the same universities and scholarships. No matter how great my potential may be, or how hard I've worked in school, I am banned from certain schools by law or excluded in practice because I cannot apply for financial aid.
In addition to college, I'm reminded of my legal status on a daily basis. Our family trips are never as relaxing and carefree as they're supposed to be. My family and I are always nervous when we drive on the road. We pray together that we won't get pulled over by a cop. We know that at any given moment, everything we've worked so hard to build and create could all come crumbling down with the sound of a siren or the flashing of blue lights. This deep sense of constant fear is a feeling that I've come to be quite familiar with, and I despise it.
I have decided to depict this fear through a photograph of cops on the side of the road. When people are afraid of police and cannot trust the people intended to protect them, everyone is affected and our communities become less safe. We harm ourselves when we do not love our neighbors.
"Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly." Excerpt from Dreams, by Langston Hughes.
This poem is significant to me because it represents my family's goal of beginning a new life in the United States. We believed that the U.S. was a land filled with opportunities and we dreamed of making our mark on its rich soil. I was born and raised in Oaxaca, Mexico until I was ten years old. While my father decided to come to the United States, we remained in Mexico. After several years he decided to bring our family to Atlanta. When I first arrived, I was shocked because it was such a wonderful city filled with people from different ethnic backgrounds. In Oaxaca, everybody was poor and looked the same to me. Because I did not speak English when I arrived, I was also very intimidated. My immense culture shock signaled to me that in order to be successful, I was going face a long road ahead.
I began school in the U.S. in third grade. During school, I was frightened because the school was so big. The other students taunted and teased me because I didn't speak English. I didn't understand one single word the teachers were saying so I began taking English For Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes. These classes helped me to progress quickly. I began working hard so I would excel in my other classes as well. After a year of dedicated study, I noticed that my English had significantly improved. I spent precious time during the weekend and every day after school with a tutor to become a better student. Throughout my middle school and high school years, I worked hard to achieve my personal goals. I received numerous awards at school, but at the end of the day, my conscience always told me that I was undocumented and I really didn't know if all my hard work was going to be worth it. Life's setbacks always have followed me until this moment, but I have found the strength and motivation to keep working and stay on the right track.
Despite my success in school, things began to fall apart at home. After being in the United States for five years, my father went to jail. We never expected this to happen. Seeing that our family was falling apart, my older siblings had to put aside their dreams and drop out of school to support my education. Even though my mom was extremely saddened by our situation, she took on the role as the head of our family. Watching them sacrifice so much so that I might fulfill the family's dream motivates me to attend college and become a professional psychologist. Although the scarcity of not having someone who can support me financially makes me makes me feel weak, I tell myself that failure is not an option for my personal legacy. I will strive for the stars and give everything that I have to make my dream come true. Not only will I be the first to attend college from my whole family, but I will also inspire my peers and the generation that follows me.
Aside from education, the struggle for me as an undocumented student has also been an economic one that I endure deep in the shadows. For example, every summer break, I knew I had to find a job instead of planning a fun summer like my other friends. The reason I worked each summer was because I felt the need to help pay for my family's basic living expenses. There were times where I felt so weak at work because of hunger, but God has always given me the strength to keep my head up. As a result of my work experiences, I have been severely injured on two occasions, and they were some of the most difficult moments I have faced in my life.
Because of the struggles that undocumented people endure in the most prosperous nation in the world, more people need to be aware of how much we suffer imply because we want a better education. I don't want the generation that follows me to fail simply because of their immigration status. I have overcome so many obstacles and have persevered, but it's not enough. That is why I am organizing with other undocumented youth in Georgia to demand that the Board of Regents grants us in-state tuition so we have the chance to strive for our most soaring dreams. I have worked in almost every sector of physical labor, and it is time for me to take the next step to college.
Do you see how my pride, my ego, has turned my best intentions into fits of failure or pain? Nobody can never understand how cruel my life has been and what the future holds for me unless the ban against undocumented students is lifted and in-state tuition is granted for all of us who call Georgia home. Because I come from a poor family, I cannot afford to pay three times as much as other students from Georgia. In other words, if in-state tuition is not approved in Georgia, the dreams of thousands of undocumented students may never become a reality.
My dream is not only to achieve my personal goal of attaining higher education. It is also a dream of bringing my family back together again so that we wont have to struggle financially anymore. Even though there have been challenges along the way, I know the outcome will be worth the sacrifices my family has made.
For those younger undocumented students who may feel like they are stuck under the darkest clouds waiting for a ray of sunshine, heed these words of wisdom: fight for your right to an education! Don't give up on your dreams. We have the capacity to become any person in life but without education, we are lost in the wilderness. I challenge you to step up and support our cause and fight for our human right to education. Don't wait for someone to decide your future. We have the power to change any policy and law, but we must do it together and we must do it now.
"I Am a Warrior"
"Undocumented! Unafraid!" is a chant that has come to define a generation of new Americans. It portrays a unique kind of toughness and valor. A new kind of warrior has embraced this chant, a warrior who does not fear fear itself. This warrior that once was unfamiliar to me has become central to my identity as a young woman. Until recently, I had never seen myself as a person with the capacity to fight for anything. People had always taught me to be silent. These same people tried to put me down when the little light of my warrior-self tried to escape the darkness and the silence. Every little spark was stomped on. I began to question my long-held belief that people are inherently kind-hearted. How can people have so much hate in their hearts to deny young people their right to an education? Why did people want to crush my dreams?
During my senior year of high school, I used to cry myself to sleep because I didn't want to be undocumented anymore. Through my tears, I would ask my parents, "Why can't I be a citizen or at least a legal resident? Why is a simple piece of paper defining who I am?" I only wished to attend a university and become an educator. Senior year passed slowly, and I was devastated that there wasn't a school administrator or counselor who could help me. Why couldn't educators step up and help a student in need? However, instead of feeling hopeless, the hardship I went through made me stronger. I realized that just because I was undocumented, I was no less human than anyone else. I became more determined than ever to become a teacher to help others, an educator who could be a helping hand to every student who needs compassion and an ally to stand up with them. When I receive my college education, I will give back to my community and help provide for my parents who love me so deeply.
Now, instead of seeing myself as undocumented - someone who is lacking, someone who is helpless - I am able to see myself as an undocumented warrior: a warrior who was willing to fight for her human right to education. Even though I try to be unbreakable, I sometimes fall. But when I do, I immediately get back on my little feet because I have a dream. In order to make this dream a reality, I have to fight for myself and my people. I am Maria, and I am a new kind of woman warrior - I am undocumented, unapologetic, and unafraid.
I am grateful for DACA - the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program - which granted me and millions of other undocumented students the legal presence we so desperately needed.
Because of DACA, I was able to get my employment authorization card. With employment authorization, I was finally able to get a job at McDonald's. This job allows me to help contribute to my family and save a little for my future. DACA has also allowed me to get my driver's permit, and when I learn how to drive, I'll be able to get my license. DACA has changed my life in less than a year and a half, and for that, I am thankful. But there's still so much that DACA leaves unanswered. I can work, but what about college? While I'm stuck at a minimum wage paying job, the rest of my friends are off at college, working toward their future.
I can get my license, but without an education, where can I really go?
DACA doesn't allow me to travel outside of the U.S., so is it going to be another 17 years until I can see my family in Mexico? I look out onto the world through the drive-thru window. Sometimes, my goals seem so far away. But I remember, the fight's not over. We're still fighting hard, for in-state tuition, for immigration reform. We're still fighting against the ban, and against segregation.
These photographs capture my love for my four-year-old son, Justin, who comes to Freedom University with me every week. Having an immigrant mother from Mexico and a father from South Korea, he is experiencing life as an immigrant with us on a daily basis. Although he can't fully comprehend all that being an immigrant entails, he is indirectly affected by it every day, and every season.
Seasons of Me
Forever changing, but always me
By changing seasons, I've come to be
Who I am now, as I stand here
A constant change, year after year.
What I express, what people see
Is just a season, a season of me.
I go through all, totaling four
You might see one
but there are three more.
The view you have of me right now
Could be distorted or changed somehow
Perhaps the settings, the way I look
What you've been told, read in a book
The thing with seasons,
they're only portions
Seeing one alone leads to distortions
Only together can they be whole
All glued together, and then some more
I've had my winters, the bitter cold
Goals crushed like ice as I was told
That this, my home, could never be
A place where I'd achieve my dream
The land I love, the land I know
Just as the winter's wind and snow
I left me bare, a leafless tree
Yearning to grow, wanting to be.
The coldest days, with shades of gray
I find it hard to live each day.
But every struggle is one more chance
To grow new leaves, to win, and dance.
Knowing that I was not alone,
My spring had come, my dreams reborn.
Amazing what morale can do,
To find that people believe in you.
With new beginnings my soul rejoiced
Bursting with life, I had a voice
I work hard, and everything blooms
Past is the dark, that awful gloom.
Vivid colors mark my summer days
And just as vivid, my needs to stay.
Stay for myself, stay for my son
In this endeavor that I've begun.
A fight for rights, `cause we deserve
To go to school, to fear no more.
This country that we call our own
We'll venture in the parts unknown
The heat is fuel, fuel that we need
To challenge ourselves and achieve
Autumn is near, I feel it now,
I know that things will change somehow
And just as leaves, I too will change
Reds, yellows, oranges, a wide range
What all my seasons have taught me,
I must use wisely, proactively,
For they have showed me all I've learned
No win we've gained has been unearned.
I grew up thinking I was a normal American child who would grow up to become a normal American adult. I always saw myself and identified as being American, until I realized I was different from my friends and peers. I am not an American citizen. I was born in Mexico. Not being a legal citizen or even a resident of the United States has impacted my life in many ways. Because I am not an American citizen, I am denied the opportunity to further my education, something that I have worked so hard to obtain.
My parents, looking for a better life for our family, moved to the United States in April 1993. I spent my third birthday in Phoenix, only days after arriving from Mexico. I have no memories of the time I spent in my "home country." I grew up and was raised with American customs, and that's all I have ever known. I am an American student in every way; English was my first language. I went through the standard educational system; I attended kindergarten through senior year in American public schools. In school, I was not the average student in my classes. I did not count the minutes until the school day was over as some of my peers did. I was not shy to participate in class, as I speak up for what I believe. Class discussions were a cherished part of my school day. I enjoyed the challenges of the advanced placement classes and honors classes that were part of my educational experience. I was preparing myself for the challenges that were awaiting me at college.
I hold dear the memories I have had as a student. I am thankful for the teachers I encountered and for the superb education I received. I am confident that I am well prepared for continuing my education at the nation's best universities and eager to start the next phase of my life as a college student. I was frustrated when I learned that I would not be able to accomplish my dreams. My dreams came to a screeching halt when I realized that I could not apply to the schools I wanted to attend. The realities of my appalling situation struck me when I witnessed my close friends go off to college. I realized I wouldn't be able to go to my desired university because of Georgia's ban on undocumented students. However, I was able to attend a small community college in my area. I excelled in the classes I attended; my 4.0 GPA confirms my performance. My attendance at the community school only lasted a semester. I could not continue because of the international tuition rate I was obligated to pay. The rate of an international student was almost four times higher than the in-state tuition my peers paid. My father supported me for as long as he could, but he was only able to send me for one semester. Once again, I found myself banned; but this time because of my family's economic hardship. Hope has been my only ally. I know I'm not the only one with this story. I am strong enough to keep fighting for my dreams. I believe that the "land of the free" will one day accept me and give me the opportunity to show that I can contribute to society. An opportunity is the only thing I yearn for.
It was a cold dark morning, and I suddenly awoke from a deep sleep. My mother was rushing me to get the rest of our belongings together. I was only six years old. All my relatives pleaded with my mother, "Please don't go. Let him stay with us." However, she was firm in her decision, and I did not want to be separated from her. Confused by what was going on, I trailed behind my mother while we said our final goodbyes to our family members. Little did I know, I was about to make the biggest step of my life into an unknown world.
My mother and I left the house, and my puppy, Tovi, followed behind us. I went to pick him up to bring him along, but my mother restricted me from doing so. Somewhere deep down, I knew that in leaving him behind, I was also about to leave everything in my life behind. He watched as we boarded the bus and ran behind it until he couldn't run anymore. I cried to my mother why she had separated my best friend from me. I hated having to watch him run after me because I couldn't do anything to reach out to him. It was at that moment that I realized that I was never going to return to the place I called home.
After taking bus after bus, we finally arrived at the place everyone called "el Norte." From there, we had to walk to the border. It was an excruciatingly long journey, but we had to overcome the pain. I distinctly remember after walking for a long period of time, my mother's legs gave out and she couldn't continue the journey. My mother told me to continue along without her and had asked her friend to take me while she stayed back. However, I knew I couldn't leave my mother behind, so I stood by her side until she regained the power to continue on. She felt a mix of anger and happiness about the decision I had made. She was my mother and I could only continue the journey with her by my side.
More than a decade has passed since that journey, and I still think about it every day. I am 18 years old now, and after attending Georgia public schools from kindergarten to 12th grade, graduating from West Forsyth as an honor student, I'm now working as a waiter for a Mexican restaurant. I must work hard at a minimum wage job in order to pay for out-of-state tuition, since that is the only option I have. I have also worked with my father in his landscaping business since I was 12 years old. Over the years, I learned many things about running a successful business and I was inspired to fulfill my father's dream in expanding the business. This initially led to my dream of earning a degree in international business. However, reality struck and I realized that as an undocumented student, my dream of attending college is uncertain.
Today, I reflect on all the sacrifices my family made to give me a chance at a better life. I was raised here in America, spent my childhood on American soil, and studied hard in American schools, but it wasn't until this year that I realized none of this mattered. I was born on the other side of a border. I remember so clearly the moment I was told I couldn't attend college: just because I didn't have a social security number, I could not fulfill my dreams and the dreams of my family. I felt shattered. All the years of schooling and all the hard work, it felt like it was a complete waste. All I ask for is one chance. One chance to not to be labeled differently, as "illegal," an outsider, as less than human; one chance to fulfill my parent's dreams and make them proud of all the sacrifices they made for my future; just one chance to study. It's all I ask.
Have you ever wondered what life is like in the United States as an undocumented immigrant? Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be raised in America, yet be banned from attending the college of your choice?
This is my story. My grandfather left Mexico to pursue the American Dream. Soon my grandmother left and my mother took charge of the household. My uncle Edgar thought his mother would never return. My uncle Luis sacrificed his education and worked to earn money in order provide for the rest of the family. After my grandfather overcame his fear of losing one of us along the border crossing, he came back for us. I made the journey to come to the United States at the age of give. My only motivation at the time was the "cafe con leche" (coffee with milk) my grandmother promised me on the other side. My memory has faded, but I do remember crossing by foot and drinking unclean water. When I arrived in Washington in 2000, my life changed. I lived my childhood at the fullest. I went to school, had a lot of friends, and played outside everyday until dark.
My family moved to Atlanta in 2006. During this time, I had to babysit my sisters because my parents each worked three jobs. Because of this, I could not participate in extracurricular activities or community service programs. As graduation approached, I realized suddenly that my hope of attending college was useless. The possibility of attending college did not exist because I was banned from some universities and unable to attend others because my family could not afford out-of-state tuition, even though I have lived in Georgia for seven years. After graduating this last May, I received a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Although I am grateful for this permit, I belong in college. Instead, I work as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory during the day, and clean offices with my mom from 5pm until 7am the next day.
On my days off, I do my chores and study for my classes at Freedom University. Freedom U has helped me in so many ways, and I can never explain how grateful I am for the chance to continue my education. Professors like Pamela, Emiko, Bethany, and Bettina have given me the strength to tell my story. Otherwise, I would have never come out of the shadows as undocumented. They have given me the opportunity to meet amazing people that have changed my character. The fact that professors are willing to dedicate their time to us is very meaningful: they write letters of recommendation, proofread our college essays, and give us the confidence to fight for our dream of attending college. I am thankful to Freedom University and the many members of my family who have sacrificed everything to give me a chance at a better life. My family did all of the hard work and Freedom University has helped me repay them and show them that their sacrifices were worth it.
My photographs depict my youngest sister as she eats the extra cheesecake I sometimes bring home from work; my grandmother, who has worked tirelessly for her children and grandchildren; and the hands of my grandmother, mother, and my sisters to symbolize the importance of family and the three generations of strong women who never let go of their dreams.
"Undocumented" is a powerful word that has greatly shaped who I am. The life I have experienced has been filled with obstacles and challenges because of this one word. When I arrived in the United States I was eight years old. The language and culture were very new to me, but I didn't let that stop me. I quickly learned English and soon fit in with many of my friends at school. I felt that I had won the battle, that I finally belonged. But little did I know; the challenge was just beginning. When I was in high school, I began to realize how the state of Georgia, after having invested in my elementary, middle school, and high school education, was making it difficult for undocumented students to go to college. I didn't understand why Georgia wanted to punish me after all the work I had done.
When I learned about the ban, my life took a drastic turn for the worse. Everything seemed hopeless and, as a result, my grades started to drop. All I could think was, "What is the point of even trying?" However, after I graduated, a friend and I became involved with an activist group named Dream Summer that was pushing for in-state tuition for undocumented students. Seeing that there were people out there who were trying make a change inspired me and restored the hope I had lost. I soon joined them. Meeting and interacting with these students from Freedom University has helped me grow as a person. I have more strength than ever before and I recognize now that my voice does matter.
I now find myself standing before this barrier that has been placed in front of me to try and keep me from my dreams and aspirations. There are people out there who would like to see me and countless other undocumented students give up on our dreams. But there are also parents and teachers and supporters who stand behind us and support our struggle. I know we aren't the first group of excluded people to strive for dignity and respect. I know it is not impossible to reverse injustice. These are the things I think of when I look at this barrier and feel hopeless. But I know that one day when I am older, I will look back at this barrier as a distant memory of how things used to be - how things were before thousands of us stood together. But for now, I'll continue to fight for my rights and for what I deserve as a human being.
As a child in Mexico, I would play alongside the hens in the front yard of our humble casita en San Luis Potosi. I would accompany my grandfather on caminos to milk cows, o cortar llena con machetes. Mi abuelita taught me to be a stand up man who treats women and elders with respect and the responsibility to take care of myself no matter my age.
Solo tenía 8 años cuando tenía que cruzar la frontera del Rio Grande para unificar con mi mama. I was terrified of what lurked in the dark water. The water was freezing and we prayed in a circle before attempting to cross. We held hands in a chain and crossed like little crabs. My hand slipped from my brother's hand and I came so close to dying. We made it to the other side. I was hardly breathing, hardly conscious, and choking water.
I experienced culture shock immediately and was always made to feel like an "alien." As I've grown older, I have experienced a new form of racial segregation in the United States. I am not allowed to attend the top five public universities in Georgia solely because I lack certain papers. I have to pay out state to attend any GA University even though I have lived in Georgia for the last 15 years and have legal presence with Obama's executive order to halt undocumented youth deportation and work permit allowed to finally contribute legally to the state. The Board of Regents are not listening to their own policies and Georgia Dreamers like myself have sued them for their lack of responsibility to give the very best interest to the Georgia higher education sector and the state's students. We have a court date set for January at the Dekalb County Courthouse in Decatur, Georgia.
I have watched as families in my community have been subjected to cruel separations, mass immigrant detentions, and deportation to a country that many no longer consider home. But despite this violence and targeting of immigrant communities, I have learned that actions speak louder than words. I have organized alongside my undocumented peers and have roared like a lion, "Undocumented, Unafraid, Unapologetic!"
This photo was taken by Laura Emiko Soltis on November 12, 2013, when Yovany was arrested during an act of civil disobedience at the Board of Regents meeting in Atlanta, GA.