Unless you're a Native American, chances are you fit into one of two categories in the United States: People who immigrated here; or people whose ancestors did it for them.
For folks who are comfortably settled into their American life, it's sometimes easy to forget that our families originally came from different parts of the world, and probably spoke a different language. They were foreigners, and that's not always something that's easy to identify with during a heated presidential campaign filled with xenophobic ranting and nativist howling.
But then June arrives. It's a mid-year pause when we're asked to remember that we as a country are a collection of immigrants from around the world, and that's something that makes us great.
In 2014, President Barack Obama officially declared June as Immigrant Heritage Month. And this year, more than ever, it's important to not let the event pass unnoticed.
As part of that effort, Welcome.us, a non-profit organization that has coordinated Immigrant Heritage Month for the past three years, is teaming up with more than 50 high-profile artists and entertainers to reclaim the word immigrant and encourage others to do the same.
The#IAmAnImmigrant campaign features portraits of famous immigrants by Emmy-Award winning director Cary Fukunaga, from True Detective, Beasts of No Nation, and Sin Nombre. The portrait campaign already includes known faces such as Kerry Washington, Lupita Nyong’o, Alan Cumming, Rosario Dawson, Akon, Bobby Cannavale, and Guillermo Diaz. Their immigrant portraits can be found on the website www.IAmAnImmigrant.com, which also features a meme generator for others to join the campaign and proudly self-identify as an immigrant by creating a new social media profile pic.
Each user-generated meme will live on the website gallery as an ever-growing tribute to America's diversity and our ancestors' sacrifice and struggle to put us where we are today.
"I am very proud to be part of this campaign. I wanted these portraits to reflect the strength of what it means to be an immigrant, and to capture and celebrate that courage," Fukunaga told Fusion.
Welcome.us is also partnering with more than 210 organizations — including Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Walmart and the Carnegie Corporation of New York — to celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month online, according to a press release. Partner organizations are also hosting events across the country ranging from panel discussions and art exhibits to hackathons. A full event calendar is available at the Immigrant Heritage Month website.
“We are a nation of immigrants, and I hope we have the wisdom to understand that the best path forward is always to bring people together, not divide them,” said Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook and founder of FWD.us, which supports Welcome.us. “Immigrant Heritage Month is a chance to celebrate this shared heritage.”