DREAM of DREAMERS DREAMING
I had a nontraditional upbringing growing up as an undocumented kid living between The Bronx, Harlem and Washington Heights with my step moms, grandmother, aunts, and uncles. I was born in the Dominican Republic and came to New York City with my father who was a naturalized citizen when I was two years old. I have been in New York City ever since. My dad brought me to the United States to create opportunities for him so that he can help create opportunities for me.
Since moving to NYC in 1992, I've attended public and private schools, trained as a cadet, translated for my non-English speaking neighbors and family members, I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography and paid it out of my pocket with help from a part time job. I helped run my university by being voted into our student government. I've photographed Presidents, worked at big publications like Vogue, GQ, Teen Vogue, Refinery29 with my first magazine gig being with New York Magazine. I've curated art shows to showcase emerging artists and their work to our community. I learned HTML and coding at the age of 13 and started a small art business designing MySpace pages for my peers. Because of that experience, at a young age, I learned that art can be a career. NO FEAR!
I've made friends and have lifelong mentors. I've studied abroad overseas with a promise of bringing back, sharing and applying what I had learned in other countries. I've exhibited my art in galleries and museums and have campaigned for presidential and local elections even though I wasn't unable to vote. I've donated and volunteered countless times. I've picked up garbage and planted trees. Currently, as a fellow of Columbia University, I am teaching photography, Photoshop, and mixed media to young American women who are currently locked up at Riker's Island. I am doing that in hopes of creating a smooth transition into the real world upon their release.
My time as an undocumented immigrant in the USA was scary because I didn't understand what it meant to "No tener papeles" (to not have papers) at that young age and the Dream Act did not yet exist. Today I am American by choice and while it is an accomplishment; something to be monumentally proud about, because our political climate, it doesn't feel like it. The men and women that immigrated to this country for better opportunities and to better this country, those same people our current President wants to kick out, are our NEIGHBORS, our COMMUNITY, small business owners, our babysitters and our graduates. Unfortunately, some are just children with no knowledge of ANY of this, like I was.
I don't have to go all the way back in history and talk about Ellis Island or how this country was built on the backs of "outsiders" and "undocumented aliens". I was once a young, undocumented immigrant in NYC afraid of not being accepted and walking around feeling like strange fruit because I didn't "belong here". NYC is all I've ever known and if I were to "go back to where I came from" I wouldn't recognize myself or know who I was. Doesn't that mean anything?
Why is our current President wanting to kick out young, striving kids like the younger me who are out here to reach their highest potential? Isn't abundance real? Isn't there enough for everyone? Is there not Love everywhere? Most importantly, didn't Melania Trump come to the USA from Slovenia and began working illegally while undocumented? And today she lives in the White House and serves this country as the First Lady of the United States. Clearly, we can do whatever we put our minds to. Won't you let us?
DREAMING OF YOU TONIGHT UNTIL TOMORROW AND FOR ALL MY LIFE. THERE'S NOWHERE IN THE WORLD I'D RATHER BE, than here in New York dreaming about you and me. #ISTANDWITHDREAMERS
#RIPSELENA too though.