Fear mongering, religious persecution, and a long voyage seeking fundamental rights. Sounds like a pretty familiar situation, right? Let’s go back to early 17th century, when English puritans first began migrating to America, seeking religious freedom. It’s something we all learned in our history classes, and as Americans (or decent human beings?), we were taught to empathize with the pilgrims. We learned to celebrate Thanksgiving, a time to come together and share as the Native Americans did for their early guests. We learned to appreciate our country, respect its history, and celebrate its diverse roots. So why is there such a divide now, on a topic that founded The United States: immigration?
So goes the story behind our “America” graphic T-shirt, which you can get HERE in the Online Shop exclusively for members of the Wildfire Association (simply sign up to join).
The “America” graphic
Bobby Hundreds said it best in his 2010 essay, THE PEOPLE UNITED: “Regardless the color of your skin, economic status, or social standing, you are either an immigrant yourself or the descendant of one. Whether you are an American citizen, on your way to getting there, or outright illegal, you are here because centuries ago, the U.S.A. opened its doors (and arms) to immigrants worldwide, without criteria.
As inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: ‘Give me your tired, your poor // Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free // The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. // Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, // I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'”
Immigrant Rally in 2010, Photographed by Bobby Hundreds
The “America” T-shirt, for Wildfire Association members, depicts a flip on the immigration signs that peppered the U.S.-Mexico border in the early ’90s. The signs were erected following hundreds of fatal car accidents that occurred with immigrants trying to cross the border. Our version depicts America’s original immigrants—pilgrims—making their own attempts at finding a place to call home. Instead of the word “CAUTION,” we replaced it with “AMERICA.”
This graphic follows our “Manzanar” T-shirt, released on the 75th anniversary of the executive order that incarcerated 120,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps—we also dropped it in light of Trump’s Muslim Ban. The shirt states “REMEMBER MANZANAR / DEFEND MUSLIM AMERICANS.”
As Bobby said, “It’s about remembering where we all came from, and reminding ourselves who we are… [America’s] ancestors came here to flee persecution, not to perpetuate it. The greatest thing about this great land is how great we can be at working together and embracing our differences.”