February 14, 2018

Celebrating citizenship

Not my usual kind of quilt. . .

I made this quilt for Alain, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo whom I've been tutoring in English for the last two and a half years; the occasion was his success at his naturalization interview last week. This was an enormous accomplishment for Alain, and I was glad to be able to give him something to celebrate the occasion, and to remind him of the time we've spent together.

Part his preparation for the interview was having to memorize answers to 100 questions about U.S. history and government. One of the questions was "Where is the Statue of Liberty?" so the Statue was a topic we'd discussed.  In looking for fabric for the quilt, I searched for a panel with imagery that would be meaningful to the citizenship process, and I was glad to find this one of the Statue of Liberty. I am not one to display patriotic symbols--there's been too much government action in my life-time that I've been in opposition to. But Alain's path to citizenship made me think more about the many and fundamental ways in which I am so privileged in being a citizen of the United States, and that I should not take it for granted.

Working on the quilt got me thinking of my grandparents, all of whom immigrated to the U.S. in the early 20th century, most likely coming through Ellis Island. They were part of the huge wave of immigrants referenced in Emma Lazarus' poem at the base of the statue: "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-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"  These are certainly words for our time, still. (For an interesting account of Lazarus' intent, and how the poem came to be put on the Statue, take a look here.)

Congratulations, Alain!

1 comment:

  1. That was a wonderful Article about "The New Colossus" Congratulations Alain and Penny.