threads of our fabric

Reflections on navigating between two cultures and understanding the self-awareness process

Welcome to America – Themes in the life of an African Immigrant August 11, 2011

The American Psychological Association recently held its 119th Annual Convention in Washington D.C. As an African immigrant woman, I am also very excited because one of APA’s new directives this year includes an Immigration Taskforce charged to examine the intersect of psychology and immigration on a number of levels ranging from individual mental wellness to policy implications. I was privileged to attend one of the APA Convention sessions: “Humanizing the Dehumanized: Psychological Implications of the Immigration Experience”. Yes, I was thrilled to be in the midst of others who were passionate about this subject. Dr. Suarez-Orozco (Immigration Taskforce team  lead) opened up the plenary session with a quote that reminded me of the paradox of our times when it comes to the contention around immigration in America:

“Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest – lost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” (Statue of Liberty – USA)

What are your thoughts about this statement? How does this compare to your initial or present experience in America?… Sounds quite like an open invitation with a promise of freedom and refuge doesn’t it?…

To most, however, the warmth of such an invitation is rarely a reality. The immigrant experience in the United States is filled with isolation, language barriers/communication issues, loneliness, culture shock, limited access to resources, and loss of identity. The experience is often ripe with psychological distress and sociocultural barriers which can last for years. 

Relocating to and navigating a new environment/new world is never easy. My personal story is uniquely mine but it has universal themes that reflect the common immigrant’s experience. Immigrants are one of the fastest growing populations in America. In 1990, 8 million children had 1 immigrant parent compared to 16.6 million in 2006. Further, 1 in 4 school-aged children are predominantly second generation, english as a primary language learners, and have foreign-born parent(s). With this shift in the demographic fabric of America, there are increasing myths, stigma, and misperceptions about immigrants. My goal is to write from a personal perspective as I discuss various topics related to the immigrant girl and woman’s experience. I invite you to also comment or share your experiences. My posts will pull from interviews and surveys that I have conducted over the past year as well as personal anecdotes.

I have identified some themes that I will touch upon in a number of upcoming posts (just for starters):

  1. Impact on Family
  2. Education/Academia
  3. Employment
  4. Mental Wellness/Resilience
  5. Culture/Ethnic Identity Categorization

Do you have any other suggestions of topics that I should tackle? Please comment and I will be sure to discuss them. Thanks!

 

In.to-me-C March 24, 2011

Filed under: Inspiration — Sharon Asonganyi @ 12:14 am
Tags: , , , ,

I am trying something quite unique with this post – visual poetry… At times pictures beautifully capture and fully express the profound sentiments hidden behind simple words…Enjoy!!!

 

The Threads of Our Fabric Project began by a step through a portal of uncertainty

Graphic by Saizen Media



To the sky I may soar or remaining rooted to the ground I might stay…either way total surrender was the only choice

Graphics by: Double 7 amar akhtar

 

Daring to expose and be transformed by the process

 

Graphics by: Nielly Francoise

 

One soul with a vision and a passion…Now I move with increasing assurance

 

 

 

Graphics by: Design42day

 

 

 

  


 

Discovering the power of – ONE

 

 

 

  
 
 

 

Gwen Rakotovao

 

 

LeThee’Ma Week 2: Home Sweet Home March 2, 2011

I began LeThee’Ma week 2 discussion with this Akan quote (Ghana): The family is like the forest, if you are outside it is dense, if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position.

In reading this week’s thoughts that were so generously shared, I could see evident elements of this proverb. Undoubtedly, the foundational development of a sense of self occurs in the home. Who you are is shaped from a very early age by what occurs, is allowed, or disapproved. It seems as the skeletal core is established over childhood and becomes one’s support and framework for perceiving life. The cultural aspect is typically transferred through observation, questioning, and participation. Our mothers had a prominent role in shaping us and demonstrating various cultural values through food, clothes, stories, hair styles, or language. It is amazing how modeling extrinsic features helps build an internal sense of self and a sense of belonging in relation to a group of people.

As we grow and evolve in relation to other family members, we are still uniquely shaped by our “other” environments such as school, work, friends, or hobbies.

As for me, home is defined as wherever and whenever family is present. Although shared memories may give special meaning to physical places, there is nothing much better than the understanding smile of a mother, the hug of a father, or bantering with siblings. By them accepting, encouraging, and nurturing my true self, I am emboldened to freely express ME as I venture into different environments.

In the shadow of my fabric

 

My Blended Story February 23, 2011

File:Cameroon COA.svgAs I continue work on the Threads of Our Fabric Project, I find myself spending a significant part of time reflecting on my own immigrant’s story. My childhood was left in Cameroon and my identity as a young adult developed in America…  What began as an ongoing personal quest for self-understanding continues to evolve into a life project.

During my interactions with the many young women I have interviewed over the past 7 months, it is as if spirit recognizes spirit at every encounter.  Particularly for those considered the 1.5 immigrant generation, like myself. We instantly bond over shared difficulties and experiences. Over the course of a 30-45 mins conversation (sometimes longer!), we recognize a shared core, a mirroring of souls. Understanding beyond words the journey that brought us to a new country, the many trials and successes of  integrating. Most importantly, the weight of not fully belonging to the land we emigrated from or the one to which we now belong. Though connected in our new communities, there are often feelings of isolation because of how intimately our unique identities become tied to the overall experience. Over time, I have personally found that I have been able to preserve some of my culture. Thanks to my family and being part of the Cameroonian community in various states. However, I had to adjust over time to accommodate my identity that emerged in the context of American society.

The United States

Image via Wikipedia

 

LeThee’Ma Summary – Week 1 February 20, 2011

Wow!!..I was delighted by the active participation in week 1’s discussion. A sincere and profound “THANK YOU!” to all the commentors.Very exciting!!! The launch of LeThee’Ma was quite successful!…  The personal stories and insights were absolutely wonderful to read. I enjoyed hearing your diverse unique voices that had me laughing as I reflected on similar personal experiences. Some of which occasionally left me with a slight case of nostalgia.

For some, immigrating was an opportunity to travel to a safe-haven of acceptance, while for others it brought on new barriers which challenged their previously constructed sense of self. Life is indeed a very interesting journey. To live is to grow and continuously evolve. All of which involves change – a natural part of life. At times we are able to prepare for expected changes and at other times it is unforseen, leaving us having to respond as we progress through it. How do you maintain internal sameness and constancy when you meet the unfamiliar externally?

While reading the comments, I noticed that self-acceptance always resulted in a confident inner strength which provided resilience with each new experience. Some of you have been able to masterfully cultivate a strong awareness of and sensitivity to your beautiful  inner voices.  This ability has enabled you successfully soar over the hurdles of assimilating into a new society. Meanwhile, others have just begun the life journey of listening to your innate feminine spirit wisdom and have experienced the thrills of being true to you regardless of environment.

Inspiration: When a woman is connected to and lives from the strength of complete inner self-knowledge,  her full potential will always manifest itself regardless of her environment.

Question: How do you listen to your inner voice? How do you develop a trusting attitude in its wisdom? What are some strategies that have worked for you?

 

Underneath my fabric

 

 

Opening of LeThee’Ma (Fireplace) February 13, 2011

It is with profound joy for me to introduce and welcome you to LeThee’ma or my fireplace. Many of my favorite childhood memories were night-times in the village, sitting around the fireplace for story telling, conversations, and amazing food! It is with this same spirit that I invite you to join fellow African sisters around LeThee’ma,

…Together we can feed minds, spirits, and hearts…

♥ Week 1 Discussion: First Impression Series – Questions♥

 

 

Reflections of an African Queen February 4, 2011

Filed under: Inspiration,Reflections — Sharon Asonganyi @ 4:14 pm
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Many who meet me describe me as a “thinker”. Always seeking to go deeper in thought and perception of situations or my environment. Desiring a full context before forming an opinion on any issue. Although my once seemingly permanent pensive brow furrow as faded over time, I do still enjoy reflecting and being lost in thought. According to Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

How do you spend your quiet moments?… Are they filled with hopes and dreams?… Or mostly consuming forlorn?… Is it planning for your future goals yet to be achieved? Or weeping for lost chances?..

 

Reflection: Be good to yourself with your thoughts… You are beautiful and a treasure… Cherish yourself…African Queen

 
 
 
 

Reflections...what do you see?