Immigrant Heritage Month – VJ and Mary

June is Immigrant Heritage Month. Throughout the month, we’ll be celebrating both our diversity and our shared American heritage by telling the stories of individuals that, together, comprise a uniquely American narrative.

vj+mary“I kind of like the mystery of my heritage because then there are no ties to the past and I get to think about just moving into the future.”

VJ:

I work at an ice cream store.

Mary:

I work at a coffee shop.

VJ:

We work below the poverty line but we can pay for utilities, pay to get around, and still have time for our art. We found a nice balance of doing what we love and working. We aren’t worried about the struggle and competing like in some other cities. We live in a community here where people want you to share your work, and it makes a big difference, especially in happiness.

Mary:

VJ and I met in 2008. I ended up in Nebraska because of my dad’s job and because my brother played football at the university. My family lived all over the Midwest and West. We lived in Utah for a while, and Colorado. My dad is from Alabama and mom is from Hawaii. I don’t know much other than that. She is Samoan, born in Honolulu, then lived in Samoa and Fiji. My parents met in California, my mom was on a mission trip and my dad was just working out there. I moved here in 2005 in the middle of high school. I don’t speak Samoan or Fijian or Tongan or anything. She does, and I wish she had passed that down a little bit more. Food is a big thing that I learned from her, some traditional Hawaiian meals. After my parents met in California they traveled around a while and then landed in Utah. They’re still together. They currently live in North Dakota. I don’t really know if I have a hometown considering all the moving that I’ve done.

VJ:

I really don’t know where my parents are from. I was adopted so there is not much history about my family. My mother was a drug addict in New York City in the ‘80s. I was adopted at the age of five, lived upstate in New York until I was a freshman in High School, then I was shipped to a boarding school. I really don’t know what my heritage is. Some people say I look like I am from Brazil. Some people say I’m Middle Eastern. I kind of like the mystery of my heritage because then there are no ties to the past and I get to think about just moving into the future. I believe it is all about cutting the negative cords. Being a person of color is a great experience because it forces you to look at yourself outside of what is considered to be the norm.

Mary:

Exactly, because you are already marginalized. So it makes you think “Ok, who am I as an individual?”

VJ

America is a great place because there are so many cultures that have converged. People out here in Nebraska are connected to the Earth; this is a historically agricultural community. People have a love for the planet. There is a heritage of farmers out here, a ton of people love to garden and share food. There is an abundance, and when people have that, you are in a good spot.

Mary:

I think in Lincoln there is a great and loving community that is connected to the Earth, who put their creative lives first. The people are progressive about spiritual healing as well. That kind of separates race from the connection you have with other people. You want to know people because of the energy someone is giving off to you above all other descriptors of who they are or their physical appearance.

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