2023 the Year of Unity
To be honest, I don’t normally follow the Chinese zodiac calendar or even the American zodiac signs for that matter but when I looked up what the animal was for 2023 and read what the rabbit symbolized, I thought it appropriate to mention it since it was right in line with my thoughts for this design series I created for this year. I actually created the first of these ethnic Buffaloes during 2020 but I really started delving into them towards the latter part of 2022. It culminated with the t-shirt design (picture at the end) and after showing it to people at holiday shows and open houses, their reactions said it all. I knew I had something special on my hands.
The back story:
A little about me. I was born in Lebanon and came to this country with my parents and siblings before my first birthday. In fact, my paternal grandfather, though most of his life was spent in Lebanon, was actually born and raised in the USA until he was a teenager. Due to a tragic railroad accident his father (my great-grandfather) suffered, his mother with her children returned to their homeland and that is where he stayed until he was an old man. In the early 1970’s he brought my grandmother and his adult children that wanted to come (and their families) to the states — my two aunts decided to not take that journey and remained in the Middle East. That’s how I came to live here. I was sworn in as a US citizen at the tender age of 7.
My siblings and all my cousins on this side of the Atlantic Ocean grew up with parents who did not speak the language. Our generation, being enrolled in the school system, learned to read and write in English. Almost instantly we became our parents’ translators, the people who wrote their checks, and filled out their applications. We went to the bank and to doctor’s appointments with them. We did things that adults today would never think to let their kids do for them. This is what adults do to survive in a country where they can’t communicate — their children become their biggest asset.
Jump to Present Day in the Black Rock section of Buffalo, NY
Black Rock is where I was raised however I moved to other areas of Western NY as an adult. Always coming back to visit my mom, my husband and I decided to purchase her mixed-use home in 2015. Over the past 20+ years, I have watched as many refugees flooded this area. First it was Iraqi families and since moving back to Black Rock, I’ve noticed Asian, African, Hispanic, and other Middle Eastern refugees. There are so many countries represented in this small community! From my window, I would see Africans walk by my shop balancing bags on their heads while wearing colorful native clothing. Muslim women wearing their hijab would walk by carrying their little ones and I’ve watched Burmese men pass by wearing their longyi loincloths. On several occasions, I’ve witnessed gatherings where guests carry containers of food into neighboring homes for holidays that I know nothing about. From my desk I have a front row seat to all of this diversity, it’s absolutely incredible.
I can’t help but feel for them. It’s not pity that I feel but empathy. My thoughts go to how they are adjusting — having to adapt to a place where their customs are mostly misunderstood, even something as simple as what they’re eating. When I was growing up many of my peers never even seen pita bread before — I remember how odd it felt for me to see others looking at what I was eating in a strange way. To me it was just bread, to them it was something weird. I can only imagine they are going through similar cultural clashes.
Be You and Be United
Inspiration is all around me, literally. I first started with a question — similarly to the DNA testing companies like Ancestry or 23andMe — “Which Buffalo(es) are you?” I mean to ask, which nationality are you? Where is your family background from? Yes, many are more than one nationality which is why I added the plural in parenthesis. Over this project, I’ve realized that there’s nearly 200 countries currently on this planet. Last year I completed 61 country flags inside the buffalo shape and I just completed 15 more. My goal is to complete them all. I’m always curious if anyone can name a country that’s missing!
May 2023 be a year of unity.
I took these nationality buffaloes a step further. Thinking about diversity I’ve come to this conclusion:
- Diversity is beautiful but if we can’t be united, what good is it? If we are warring because of our differences then we are defeating ourselves. If you are a US citizen, then you are collectively under one country flag. Let us celebrate who we are and learn to love our neighbor. Let us be united.
Putting this art to good use
Be You Be United is partnering with Jewish Family Services of WNY during the month of April to help raise money for their Refugee Services programming! For every item purchased, 20% of the proceeds will be donated to JFS to help offset the costs of housing and living expenses for newly arrived refugees who are resettling in our community. To order yours, click here.
Where to get these & more…
Shop Online: Find these items for a limited time online here. Order by 4/31/23 at midnight to raise money for JFS and their refugee programs.
Inspired Buffalo LLC • 115 Hertel Ave • Buffalo, NY 14207 • www.inspiredbuffalo.com • 716-545-5544