Life has been exceptionally rough lately. The thing I have dreaded for decades is happening: my godmother Bobbie, my chief artist inspiration, is dying. I can best describe her as an expressionist painter and sculptor, a folksier, heavy set Georgia O’Keeffe with a long white braid and always wearing a hat, and a woman who embodies the concept of unconditional love. For over 60 years she has lived in an integrated neighborhood in the South where everyone is welcome, and I mean everyone. For Bobbie there is only the concept of us and no concept of other.
For weeks I have been sandwiching in day and overnight trips whenever possible to be with her for whatever last moments we can have together. As I scrambled to pack editing and administrative work I could do at Bobbie’s bedside while she slept, my son informed me of the protests by and in support of immigrants on Thursday. Only a few people seem to see my work deeply enough to understand the gender, and therefore political, issues it often encompasses, which leaves me feeling somewhat powerless to make a significant difference in the world’s dysfunction.
I contacted my office manager Celina, and we formed a plan to shut things down for the day in recognition of our team’s own immigrant ancestors. Out went the email blast letting people know along with an auto-responder on the main email accounts. The million logistical things that have to happen to get my art, tools, and videos out into the world, the logistics of all the big projects, the bookkeeping, the inventory management, the website, the constant planning and communicating for teaching workshops and creating commissions would all wait one more day. Bobbie was not coherent enough for me to explain what I’d done, but I knew she would be proud.
A few things: (Please read thoroughly before commenting.)
To everyone who is Native American: this last thing I would mean to be is disrespectful or noninclusive! I hope my small protest was taken in the larger spirit it was intended.
To everyone who sent emails of solidarity and appreciation: Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!! I was not expecting that. At one point I forgot I wasn’t working, and my stress compulsion to check email kicked in and was met with so much kindness in my inbox!
To those who felt compelled to email me the legal status of and assimilation by their families and ancestors: I do not work for INS or ICE.
Behavior can be legal or illegal, but people, wherever they start out life, can only be people.
Prior to the 1920’s people could get on a boat in one country, eagerly, reluctantly, or kidnapped and in chains, get off over here, and most were able to stay. Claiming the “legality” of European and Middle Eastern ancestors who immigrated to the US before then carries no actual “legal immigrant” meaning.
In 1882, the US passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, making it illegal for most people from China to become US citizens. This law was not fully repealed until 1943.
Unemployment remains at the exceptionally low percentage, achieved during the previous Administration’s efforts to get it there.
Making art full time requires being a small business owner, which means I have to buy my own health insurance. If you feel I should not have that right to buy it, don’t expect my website and Pinterest board to be your source of inspiration. My family has to eat too.
If any of this sparks an argument in your brain, you might want to consider this link.
At this point in the study of human migration, Human DNA tells us we ALL hail from East Africa. Whether by necessity, choice, or force, people have been moving around for a very long time. In my big picture view that really does make all of us immigrants.
Bobbie taught me that people are people and deserve to be treated with kindness, compassion, and dignity to the best of our ability. She taught me that we can think and be discerning without being judgmental. Anything less is unthinkable.