i recently asked my good friend, elizabeth scholnick, of mindbreath magazine, to write a recap of an event we attended some months back. lizzy is now the first official cultureisland contributor and overtime i'll be adding more voices to the mix.
one evening back when the weather was a bit warmer and coats weren’t of season i was invited to see jr’s new short, ellis. in ellis, short for ellis island, robert dinero faces brisk new winds on america's new land, as his voice takes us on a journey through silent retreat back when new footsteps and louder voices pierced the halls of the abandoned buildings you see in ‘ellis’.
the event was held in a youthful and spacious venue called: interface. interface is a place that brings together like-minded individuals – one where culture, ideas and people come together to collaborate in meaningful conversation. this particular event was hosted by pop-up art event.
as we sat down, we were handed wireless head-phones, allowing each of us our own unique experience with the film. after an introduction by juliet, founder of pop-up art event, the lights went off, and action! immediately, it felt as if we were immersed in an imax theater both visually and auditorially. it was like we were actually a part of the film. the glittery snow, dinero’s voice, and the history of how people came to america were brought back to life by stark black and white images JR had pasted to these old, decrepit buildings. all fourteen minutes of this beautiful feature made it all worthwhile to come out that evening.
at the end the lights went on and we were then succumbed back to reality, back to the present america, new york, new york. then, several people shared their stories and their grandparent’s history of how they made their voyage into america during that time. it was all very interesting to here people’s stories, and how they connected to the film. it was an interactive experience for everyone.
then a talented and powerful young woman read her prolific poem that truly connected to what was happening that night at interface:
"life liberty and the pursuit of happiness" by herina ayot
fairytales sell us a lie of an american dream that isn't possible. we build a false idea of a happily ever
after that exists in the confines of our imagination.
searching for our piece of the american pie, finding only obstacles. crossing the atlantic to build a stronger foundation... what's happened to god's creation? african, indian, asian, and haitian. red, yellow,
black, and white, we're all precious in his sight. looking for a better life in a new location. international migration.
but we find only more frustration.
land of the free and home of the brave. white picket fences and yellow brick roads built on the backs of slaves.
whose land is this?
whose dream is this?
i can see it in the distance but how out of reach this is?
they say the grass is greener but there's a thorn on that side. a much greater divide. a lot of demand that's under supplied.
a very long line.
many nights i cried. many nights i died simply trying to survive.
america the beautiful. a broken system frought with lies. rags to riches...heh...see, theres a whole lot of
gliches. i had to lay on my back to avoid the ditches. avoid the snitches. those sons of bitches.
and all i hear is "go back home." go back to lithuania, go back to mexico. go back to africa, go back to romania.
but "home" is a place i long ago left. no rest for the weary. ancestors rich in history but poor in theory.
"forward" for me is much more than a slogan taught. blood sweat and tears was the rate for this new home
i bought. i left sodom and gomorrah. no pillar of salt. looking for a new home. peace love and shalom. i
won't forget my culture, but when in rome...
when in rome... do as the romans do. move like they move but to yourself be true. walk that walk. talk
that talk. i'll be a good steward in this new home i bought.
america ain't all it’s cracked up to be, but far greater, far sweeter than the stuff i seen. for now i'm free.
this anniversary, a kind of jubilee. my new life here is not a static thing. it moves. it breathes, a kind of dance under an apple pie tree.
and i may not have an academic degree, but i've come from sea to shining sea, bearing this existence to a
more tolerable degree. i'm praying for life and liberty.
america america god shed his grace on me.
everyone that night could feel how many of us were there because of our freedom, and because of what our grandparents and parents made for us here. for those who grew up in new york and know the backgrounds of many of these streets, how much of this creativity we have to thank to those very souls plastered and remembered because of jr. like robert dinero says in the beginning of ‘ellis’: “i remember the sound of the wind as i was falling asleep… “ we all awoke to another day on this beautiful land of america, united, and it was another chance for acceptance, change, opportunity and creative expression to live on, as it always has.