What Does It Mean to Be an Immigrant in America? ABIR and Her "GIRLS" Explain
Press play on the Moroccan-born singer’s new music video.
Dip into the “melting pot” that is America and there you’ll find ABIR — the Moroccan-born singer who moved to the states at four years old. There, she found a southern flavor from living in Virginia before relocating to Queens, New York, for an East-Coast flair.
The last time we spoke to ABIR, she had just released “GIRLS,” a punchy track about keeping it real and authenticity — or sometimes lack thereof. Today she follows up with the single’s video and continues her celebration of staying true to one’s self with the help of 40 of her own girls. Representing over two dozen countries, they identify as an immigrant, like ABIR, or were raised in an immigrant household. In line with keeping in touch with their roots — especially given the current political climate that can oftentimes feel alienating or divisive — they opened up about what it means to be an immigrant in this country. Read what they had to say and catch ABIR’s new visual below.
Being the daughter of immigrants in America means I get to express the beautiful parts of my culture and spread the wisdom that’s been passed on from my Kurdish and Mexican ancestors. I grew up on 90’s hip hop, punk, and American pop culture, so I have both ancient and modern, village and big city, a little Umm Kulthum, a little Grace Jones. I have a bit of everything, I feel like I could adapt to so many different environments. I represent my culture through visual art by photographing brown women who share my story and making them known.
Growing up as a daughter of immigrants meant I had access to two very different worlds. I thought I was just Korean-American. Little did I know, I would actually turn out to be a Korean-Dominican-Polish-Russian-Moroccan-Bengali-Japanese-Thai-African-American. The list continues! Living in a melting pot is what truly makes America great.
In 2017, being an immigrant means being labeled in bold red as OUTSIDER, when all I want to feel like is I belong. Being a girl is a whole other set of problems — yes I’m talking equality. My culture is Canadian even though I’m Asian by blood. I think it comes across in my openness to other people. Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m being naive or if im just used to generally being more trusting. Either way, when I say I’m Canadian the general response is always, “Oh that’s why!”
My father and mother met at the New York Public Library learning English. Mom was the last two of her 12 siblings to immigrate to NYC from the Dominican Republic. Once mom and her little brother came, grandma passed away in Roosevelt Island at peace knowing all of her children were in the United States, they all learned a trade back en la isla because of her and made a life here in America. My father came from Morocco, and his father asked him where did he want to go and my father said NY and my uncle said Canada. I am a proud second generation immigrant.
I am Latina and I portray it in the way I sway my hips as I walk down New York City’s streets. I speak with an accent that can only make sense if you come to The Bronx and speak to an older Latin woman. I was raised by Dominican woman and they never allow me to forget the power of the feminine. I represent all those women who worked in my country’s land and built the land with their feet and hands, and I represent the ones that didn’t make it to this “promised land.” I’m here to represent what this land has promised to those who dirty their hands for it, for the Dominican Republic, and for the culture of The Bronx.
Being the daughter of immigrants in America means power. I recognize that I am a minority in every sense of the word, and this awareness gives me a sense of responsibility and strength. I am in a unique position in our current political and social climate in which there is need for an open discourse around diversity. It gives me perspective and being a women gives me compassion.
“It means representation for my dad who worked so hard, from nothing to achieve the American dream and to continue achieving it on his behalf. It also makes me that much more proud to rep both my Palestinian heritage and my American citizenship simultaneously. The part of my culture that is represented most in my everyday life and style is my choice to wear the hijab, which is both a religious and cultural garment from the region.”
“As a second generation Pakistani-American, I have been fortunate enough to simultaneously experience two different cultures. Choosing sides between different identities can be a challenge of its own, especially when trying to assimilate to American culture. I admit while growing up I struggled with making sense of these starkly different and conflicting identities, thinking people would assume I was an outsider. As I grew up, I quickly learned how important it was to maintain a close connection with my Pakistani roots and embrace the many values offered. Despite everything that’s been going on politically in our country, I couldn’t be more appreciative to have a unique perspective on life because of my dual cultural background. I’m proud and immensely thankful to say that my culture has made me who I am today.
I’ve had the unique opportunity to observe firsthand what it is to be completely immersed in American culture and watch my mother and father and extended family adapt to that culture and see the beauty that is in the diversification of the two. In many, many ways America is my native culture; however, my hijab is deeply ingrained in my religion and culture and I proudly wear it here as an American.
I was born in the good ol U.S.A. but first generation and raised in a very Dominican home. I know what’s it’s like to go out into this American little world we live in and feel completely lost, while trying to find your place within it all. My Hispanic/Carribbean/Dominican culture is my foundation. But all of the things I’ve learned and picked up through growing up around so much diversity is what has made me a better individual in so many ways. Being able to experience a little bit of so many places snd cultures around the world is truly a gift and what makes us great. Not that curly hair is reserved for Dominican girls but for me this hair represents the blend of races I am and a whole lot of history. I never really thought about it until I got into acting and started to represent myself only with straight hair. After insane heat damage I realized, that this antiquated colonial stuff had gotten to me and convinced me that straight hair was the best way to represent myself. Although I still rock straight hair for different roles, healthy beautiful curls are my priority. It’s natural. It’s me!
I get to walk down the street everyday representing not only myself, but thousands of other Egyptian women. I get a sense of empowerment knowing that my physical appearance makes a clear statement that I’m different, yet still American. I get to break down stereotypes through every encounter and smile I make to those around me, by showing them the way I choose to embrace my culture. Living within one culture and choosing to honor the traditions of another is a challenge and a blessing. I wear my wrap like I wear my soul, boldly expressing the global experiences I’ve been lucky enough to fill my life with. Fashion is a visible, wearable statement of who you are. Rock it proudly.
I’m a daughter of Pakistani Muslim immigrants. My mom taught me Urdu. My dad produced the first Pakistani radio show in America and showed me that Pakistanis can be musicians and actors, too. My brothers taught me how play Cricket. My cousins told me stories about living in Pakistan. I grew up in a household that was always proud of where they came from and I represent that in every way I can. This is what being an immigrant means to me — making it in America, IS the American dream.
Being an immigrant girl in America means having to navigate the unique intersection of being a woman while being racially marginalized. Growing up, I was always ashamed of my culture and wanted more than anything to identify as a American, whatever that means. As an adult, I embrace my culture every single day. Whether it’s in small mannerisms that I’ve picked up from my mother, in dress or even in cooking, I make sure that my Taiwanese culture is always represented. My grandmother escaped two civil wars. I can’t ever forget that.
Being the daughter of an immigrant in America means I must learn to extend empathy to people who have no intention of reciprocity. I have learned and continued to learn to assassinate all obstacles in front of me with serious kindness. My parents gave me so much growing up — languages and cultures from Iran, India, and Pakistan. But they also taught me how to deal with conflict, a skill I needed being a mixed kid growing up in the Dirty South. I show my ethnic pride by making sure people say my name right, making sure they can see the gold hamsa I wear on my neck and the Shiva bracelet I wear on my wrist. I wear my black curls natural. I make sure to smile in the face of everything and every person that wants to stop my success. My mom and dad have given me so much, but that sinister smile is my favorite import from the back East.
I think the part that is most represented daily is my loyalty to family. Where I’m from we don’t believe in family fighting. Family is all you have and we have big families. And I carry that with me no matter where I travel.