We The People

This self-portrait is titled, “Stand in My Place: A Guerrilla Self-Portrait” (24 x 36 in., oil, acrylic and collage on canvas). With the exception of Native Americans, we all have stories of coming to this country. I was thirteen when I immigrated to New York to join my mother, who was recruited during the nursing shortage at height of the AIDS crisis. Separation and uncertainty was the price she paid for a better opportunity beyond a Philippines ravaged by dictatorshipAmerica was an ideal we aspired to, if only through the consumption of brandssuch as those featured in the collageThe reality of America is nuanced, now as it was then, when poet Langston Hughes wrote “Let America Be America Again in 1935, or when Filipino migrant worker-turned-writer and activist, Carlos Bulosan wrote the novel “America is in the Heart” in 1946In the painting, the streets are paved with the gold of slave and immigrant labor, of the resources extracted from far-flung former coloniesBut – especially for those of us who know what it’s like to live without it – the promise of democracy and freedom is worth more than gold. Stand in my place. To resist the false idol in the Oval Office, who tarnishes the American Dream for all by peddling the cheap currencies of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny. Because democracy and freedom, while hard won, is too easily lost. For further reflections on (post-)colonialism, immigration, and activism, head over to medium.com/hyffeinated and read the essay, “The Art of Change: A Portrait of a Belated Activist.”