I often think about the pressures of immigrant families as it relates to coming to America and striving for the “American Dream”. As a first-generation American, my family projects how I must strive for these passed on ideals of black family success. Success is rooted in higher STEM education and financial security; surplus even. My uncle would tell me how hard they worked to give us everything we had. “With an education, no one can take that from you.” The ideals of Haitian excellence are rooted in creating a sense of societal and economic freedom, but in many ways are restricting.
to add to
Jason and Jenna Greenberg:
Object #3 (Family Photo Collage) • This is interesting--> appears to be black figures in the collage, but the hand appears to be white in the frame. • My friend who is Nigerian, the older figures in the family were very valued--> Grandma is at the very top of the frame in the collage • Vintage feel--> Family photo album --> colors are of vintage film, but more saturate • Distorted group photo looks like a family pic at first, but then realizing that the people are of different backgrounds. • I feel like there are a lot of pressures in Asian cultures as well even if they're not jobs that you are interested in • The American Dream isn't about happiness, but about working hard and sacrificing • I have a problem with capitalism--> if you work had you will get far--> • "America is FUCKED"
“With an education, no one can take that from you.” The ideals of Haitian excellence are rooted in creating a sense of societal and economic freedom, but in many ways are restricting.”
Same with my family. All of my siblings have had the opportunity to be highly educated. My parents pushed for that. My grandfather grew up incredibly poor. Like he had only one pair of sandals poor. His father said the only thing he could do was study. Only study and go to school. My grandfather was the only one in his family that was able to complete highschool, then his brother told him about University. And so he went to a university in the US. He was a meteorologist.
My Grandmother (^his wife) wasn’t allowed the same opportunity for education because she was a woman. She was just supposed to get married and take care of others and her husband. She was furious. All the time, just angry. She was taken from school early because she was the only one that could take care of her mother. Then when her mother died her father got her married. You should see her wedding photo. She does not look happy. But when she came to the US (with my grandfather) She was finally able to do the things she wanted to do. So when she was able, getting educated what the first thing she did.
Family has always been super important to me and I think that’s because of how I was raised, especially on my Haitian side. I was always taught that “You should always be there for your family,” My dad and his brothers grew up in Haiti, and one by one found a life in America. But throughout each of their journey, they never once forgot where they came from or forgot to help out each other. Even when one was already in America and the other brothers were still living at home in Haiti, they still supported each other until everyone achieved their own “American Dream.” Even until now, with my dad and his brothers all living in Florida, they still come together to support their mother back in Haiti. And I appreciate how proud they are of their accomplishments, because it shows how hard they each have worked to provide a better life for me and my cousins.
It looks like the hand is in a beautiful, tropical paradise, but still reaching out to family. I enjoyed zooming in on this picture because I could recognize the faces.
This photo makes me think about how far my family has come and all the success they’ve had since coming to America. My dad always says that he thrived in America with little support, which motivates me and puts pressure on me at the same time.
I think when my dad came to America he was probably thinking about the American Dream. Like other immigrant stories, China was very poor, and he came to the US with nothing. But because my dad could not assimilate to American culture, he decided to go back to China. At the time China’s economy started to rise, but not many people knew. I’m not sure if my dad still believes in the American Dream, but now he always says all those people who left China really should have stayed.
There is a significant moment when you share baby photos with friends. it like transcends the moment of when you know someone. It really contextualizes there history like damn we were really all toddlers and didn’t even know we would end up here, or in this moment discussing this powerpoint. It's like a series of choices took us here even beyond our choices isn’t that crazyyyy. Also Sam I feel you have a crazy archive of you when you were younger. Kudos to your family, I have to dig around hard to find baby photos lol.
This photo collage along with Sam’s written words reminds me of my family and my experience being first-generation American on my mother’s side. Immigrating from Trinidad, my grandparents expected my mother and her siblings to work hard so they could live a better life than they did. Similar to Sam’s comment, Trinidadian immigrant success is definitely rooted in the STEM field. Below is a picture of my mother and her siblings on their stoop in East Flatbush Brooklyn in the early 1970s soon after they immigrated to America from Trinidad.
The pressures of my parents immigrating for the American Dream was very real for me growing up. Stories of my mom crossing the border or my dad’s struggle for citizenship were somewhat like bedtime stories as a kid. I look back on those times and analyze how that developed my drive for “success” from an early age and what I defined as “successful”. I find myself having to reteach myself the definition of success. Growing up success meant financial security and an education. But now as I am on the track of finishing my final year of college, what will success look like after the education I was set out to attain, by my parents, ends? Success becomes broader than money and knowledge as I grow older and develop my own sense of personal success.
The difference in lifestyle when comparing those of my parents, to mine, is very distinct. Having a father who served in the military all his life, a mother who served in the military for years and a mother who has developed the habit of over-exerting her physical efforts to strive for ideals within the American Dream’s expositions, is one that I have greatly been aware of. My father having a perspective and openness to me working in the military, is different from my perspective of the military forces being no place for a black individual because the idea of aiding, fighting and supporting a system and a country not necessarily for us. The objective of fighting for a country that sees your race and parts of culture as inferior is very prominent in my viewpoint.
My grandparents came from a village in China to Hong Kong for a better future and I always feel fortunate that I get to study art. My family in Singapore is so focused on STEM and has such a strong narrow mindset that my cousin ended up staying in Singapore because of her parents. My parents definitely don’t fully understand art and my mom for the longest time did not want me to go to art school but at least they let me go. I can’t imagine being stuck. I also often think about my families background and how it was only 2 generations ago that my grandfather had to leave home and come to a new country alone when he was a young teen to work and sustain himself - it’s crazy how fast times have changed.
A mish mash of responses to a few of the ones after (sorry it’s not individualised): My parents both worked growing up and I remember having very few holidays with them, when we were much younger (below the age of 12), we used to drive to a lot of places nearby Beijing to explore. I often think about why we stopped, I have a terrible memory but we were “forced” to be together and spend time in a small space. I wonder if we continued on our trips if we would be closer now.
My background is very confusing and odd (to me), my mom is from Singapore and my dad is from Hong Kong - two drastically different countries with two different languages, food, culture etc. I was born in Singapore but we moved to Beijing when I was 3, my sister and I attended an international school. So I was basically living in this Westernised bubble inside of Beijing, down to the people I was hanging out with (mostly white), where I would go to online, the music, using the English language etc. So Beijing is also not 100% familiar. Then I moved to Baltimore for MICA. My sister told me when I first moved, to Americans I would never be an American (I didn’t grow up here, I’m Asian, I don’t know a lot of particular things in the U.S.), to people back home (whether that be Beijing, Singapore or Hong Kong) I’ll never fit in there because I don’t look like them, speak like them, act like them etc. It’s something that I am still grappling with, especially when other people like to tell you their unsolicited opinions about where you’re from.
Something that I only realised recently is that I can see my parents struggling with that now too, they realise that I grew up really separated from my cultures and family and now they are trying to connect me to it. They clearly have their biases and so do I, they’re not connected to Beijing and they’re both much more connected to their own separate countries. There is such a weird push and pull between them as to where they want me to be from. I often think about what it means to appropriate your own culture, what does it mean to own some of it but not all of it. What does it mean if you don’t agree with the morals/views/societal opinions of the country but you’re from there. What does it even mean to be “from” somewhere? How do you decolonise your brain and education to shift views on the places that you have heritage ties to?
I think there were a lot of different pressures for my brother and I to do well. To a certain extent our parents expected it, but I don’t think it’s fair for us to say we had an expectation placed on us because they suffered for us. A lot of people do have that feeling, but I don’t think it’s a narrative that I get to claim. When they came to the United States, my parents came with college degrees and chose to stay partly because they wanted my brother and I to have more freedom in our education than we likely would have in Korea. I think if they’d stayed, our lives would have been a little suffocating. But my brother and I had a lot of privilege in the way that we grew up that allowed us to succeed in school.