“Where I’m From” Project
In this short multimodal piece entitled, “Where I’m From,” I use still and moving images, music, and my own voice to simultaneously illustrate and interrogate what “from” means in relation to my social identity, my education, and my work as an emerging scholar. At its root, the piece explores the connections between “where I’m from” and “who I am,” while also illustrating my willingness to sit in the messiness of identity work as part of my on-going commitment to engaging myself and others in racial literacy and anti-racist pedagogies, specifically through multimodal storytelling practices.
I am from sidewalks and taxicabs,
from The City–the one that never sleeps. as if it’s the only one–
with capitalized letters standing tall, towering over the others
like the crest of the majestic skyline
I’m from the din of sirens, car horns and freight trucks barreling down 10th avenue as I drift off to sleep amidst the rhythmic city sounds
I am from the sycamore tree, seeing blue sky, not sky-scrapers, every morning
From a pride, a rush, a love that has the power to bring me to tears,
yet also render me defeated and disillusioned
I am from rugelach cookies, matzoh ball soup, candy canes and Christmas trees.
From “everything happens for a reason,” and “when in doubt, don’t”
I’m from the aftermath of Ellis Island,
a last name shortened to sound more “American” and less “Russian”
I am from car rides, Mel Brooks, doo-wop, and sunflower seeds,
from my father’s stories, my mother’s sage advice, and my sister’s exhuberance.
From film–16mm–darkrooms, crispy photographs preserved behind thick plastic and glass,
providing me with nothing more than mottled memories of grandfathers I never knew.
I am from the vicious cycle of thinking I have it all figured out,
then questioning everything and knowing nothing.
I am from spinning axes and striving-to-be-informed perspectives;
from tipping over the melting pot–its contents piping hot with anger, frustration and guilt
…I now always, always make air quotes hug the word “diversity,”
embracing and comforting it as it mourns its loss of identity and false sense of self.
I’m from words and phrases like pedagogy, intersectionality, and sociocultural contexts,
which come spewing from my mouth on a daily basis,
while they get tangled between the teeth and tongues of others.
From “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life…”
…and only recently understanding the underlying privilege of that creed.
I’m from a neighborhood where the projects rest against the million dollar prospects,
where wealth and poverty run through the tree-lined streets like children at the end of the school day.
What some consider symbiotic, I now recognize as colorblind.
But where I’m from doesn’t always feel like how “where I’m from” should feel
…and that’s hard, it’s complicated.
I pull the bandana from my eyes,
and wait for my pupils to adjust.
I am from blurry lines.
And while I will not claim to reclaim borderlands, I will say I negotiate boundaries.
You see, I’m working to strengthen this HYBRIDIZED identity of mine–
to make sense of my own contradictions and confusions;
but also to celebrate my intersections and how they’ve led me to what I’m passionate about today.
And for that, I will embrace them, inform them, learn from them, constantly.