Ariana Olvera, Madi Yurek, and Megan Biemwsdefer
For the final project of the semester our group, Megan, Madi, and Ariana have decided to create a comic. We believe that it is a medium that people can connect too deeply with an option for color use and simplicity that draws the eyes and catches the mind. Also, Madi is a visual communication design major, therefore she has experience and a unique eye to lend to the project as our point person on design.
Our inspiration comes from Ifemelu’s interactions and reactions to the women in the hair salon. As well as a few other scenes that highlight discrimination and American ignorance like the scene where she changes her hair for an interview, and her interactions with the Black and African Student Unions. The way immigrants both support, judge, and compete with each other even as Native Born Americans do the same in different ways creates a fascinating dynamic that few native born Americans are aware exists even as they play into it. The interactions and views are different between fellow African immigrants, who are from different countries, then between African immigrants and ones from other places, and then again from the interactions with born Americans by either group. It caught our attention and made us think in a new way, that we would like to highlight and share. The root of all these interactions can be summarized by a quote from the Migration Policy Institute, “Immigrants display an appreciation of the U.S. and a commitment to making it their home, but they also maintain a strong connection to their country of origin” (Farkas). The interaction differences show almost immediately when Ifemelu’s origins are made known, “Aisha did not look up, Halima smiled at Ifemelu, a smile that, in its warm knowingness, said welcome to a fellow African, she would not smile at an American in the same way” (Adichie 9). This interplay and differing reactions of the hair stylists to Ifemelu, as well as the difference between her greeting and that which a native born American might receive, are contrasting. The exchanges between immigrants are not all positive and supportive like this though. Instead some are rather dismissive and mean, like the time Ifemelu spoke to her aunt’s friend about how long she’d been in the US, “The jeer on the Nigerian’s face had taught her that, to earn the prize of being taken seriously among Nigerians in American, among Africans in America, she needed more years” (Adichie 15). Rather than giving this new woman (Ifemelu) supporting advice she sneered and acted dismissive and rude. Instead of supporting or congratulating a fellow Nigerian woman on her American journey there was spite given. This dichotomy is fascinating and we want to show it and highlight it in our comic.
PROJECT MAIN SEQUENCE
Characters: Black Student Union;
Ama: Our main character, whom we follow to various clubs, she is in a green dress below. She is relatively new to the country and has joined all of the shown clubs to better adjust and to make friends. Through her we will learn about life in this country for non white persons.
Brea: Below, the female with red hair. She is a Black Student Union club member. As a native born black American woman she has more insight and knowledge as to life in the United States for black women, especially the intricacies of getting a job.
Alex: A black Native born American man in the Black student union. He is based off of a friend of Megan’s who was interviewed for the project. He gives the male viewpoint on the topic, as well as some history about the situation as Ama may not be familiar with it as an immigrant.
We hoped with this scene to establish the differences between treatment towards men and women, the unfair and odd expectations put on black women as far as looks go, and the related difficulties that stem from it all on at least a basic level. We took our initial inspiration from the scene where Ifemelu gets her hair done, despite her not really wanting it changed, in preparation for her job interviews. We added to this and went deeper with the aid and inspiration provided by our two interviewees.
Characters: African Student Union;
Ama: See Previous description
Zane: The leader of the club, wearing a blue shirt. He is an older student, and has been in the United States for a while. He facilitates the meetings and tries to help out fellow African immigrants both in and outside of the club. Zane is to show the positive interactions between the same culture in the club.
Kellan: In the red shirt, he is new to the club but not to the country. He has some insight and maybe a little cynicism from his time in the United States but some things are still just plain weird to him. Kellan is mainly a character to keep the conversation going and build a stronger emotion to how immigrants can be feeling.
We hoped to highlight both the differences in people at different levels of integration into the United States, as well as the ignorance of many Native born Americans in regard to other countries and cultures. We tried to have Zane in a sort of shrug and joke about it mindset, to show he is used to it all, Kellan a bit annoyed still but getting there, and Ama curious, confused, and a bit snarky/dryly humorous. We drew inspiration from various parts of the book in this case, but what stuck with us was the hair salon scene where the question is asked and answered, why call it Africa rather than the country’s name, and that Americans don’t truly know African countries. It was discordant, true, and embarrassing to note true of us for the most part. We wanted to put a sardonic humorous twist to it and address it here.
Characters: International Student Union;
Ama: See Previous Description
Kellan: See Previous Description
Ai: A young Chinese immigrant studying Music with a Psychology minor. She is frustrated by people’s assumptions that she would be excellent at math and science, as well as in a medical major due to her looks. Her character is to prove stereotypes are not always true and followed.
Julio: In a red tank top, he is the current club leader and a Cuban Immigrant. He struggles with Americans assumptions as to his homeland and finds it frustrating that people are so quick to assume and judge based on his accent and skin tone. Julio is another example to show it is not just African or Blacks, but all races that get the slurs, stereotypes, and racism.
Our hope in this scene was to highlight that EVERYONE faces discrimination of some sort, and a lot of it may even be very similar at its core. We wanted to bring all of the scenes together and wrap it up with the thought that there is a lot of things to struggle with, discrimination and assumptions both good and bad, but there is also a lot of positives and a lot of options to take for anyone who comes here. Those decisions are all valid, or so that’s what we wanted to convey with the ending. We drew inspiration from Megan’s personal experience studying abroad (She was in an International student union that all supported each other in homesick or culture shock moments), from the book’s scene dealing with the differences between the Black Student Union and the African Student Union, and from our own knowledge and experiences growing up in the states with immigrant friends or family and with popular media influencing our views.
Black Student Union- Topic: Profiling/Appearance affects on life in USA
Ama- Main: So, I am looking for a part time job on campus while I am here, does anyone know of any positions that are open?
Brea: Oh, there are a few around, but you will need to straighten or braid your hair for the interview- for some reason it is seen as more professional.
Brea: Who knows. It just is how it is.
Alex: Glad I don’t have cornrows, cause they’re just gonna think I’m too street to be hired.
Brea: Yes it’s infuriating, you shouldn’t have to limit your hairstyles just so you can get hired.
Ama M: I don’t really get it. I don’t care what kind of hairstyle you have. Is it all that bad?
Alex: My mom has to straighten her hair all the time just so she can keep her job. If she came in with her natural hair it might make her look unprofessional, which it ultimately shouldn’t but that just happens to be the case.
Ama M: But I don’t get how that makes you unprofessional.
Brea: I think it might have something to do with certain white people being so uncomfortable with race that they’re uncomfortable about being reminded that there are black people.
Ama M: Why is that?
Alex: Because when integration first happened most white people in the South were against it, and President Eisenhower had to send the national guard down to Arkansas just so the recently integrated black students would not be attacked by the other white kids. That, for the record, was only a few decades ago. If white people needed the national guard to stop them from attacking integrated black people back then, there are still some lingering aspects of that sentiment in the workplace if you work with white people.
Brea: And most of the best jobs are jobs with white people!
- Cut –
African Student Union- Topic: Different Nations/American ignorance FOCUS BOTH
Zane: Alright everyone, welcome to today’s ASU meeting. Let’s start by having our newest members introduce themselves.
Kellan M: Hey, I’m Kellan, I’m from Zimbabwe. I’ve been in the US for a few years now.
Ama M: I’m Ama. I’m from Comoros and I’ve come to the US for my University education, so I arrived only about a month ago. I actually have a topic I wanted to bring up and see if anyone else has experienced if that’s alright?
Zane: Sure, let’s hear it then.
Ama Main: When I first moved here, people would be curious about where I was from but whenever I told them they wouldn’t understand. Almost every time I’d get a blank look or a follow up question!
Zane: I get the same, and then after saying Africa I get all of these ridiculous questions about child soldiers or not having shoes and clothes! We didn’t need that stuff…
Kellan Main: Yeah, I get odd questions too, people do know where my country is, but nothing else about it.
Ama M: Oh? Usually they don’t know any country but Africa… though that’s a continent. What kind of questions? I usually don’t get past the ‘which continent is that’ issue.
Kellan M: Oh like, ‘Do you live near lions’ or ‘how did you deal without indoor plumbing?’. I would swear they are all idiots but some of them are working on masters degrees!
Zane: Yeah I got the lion question too, why are they obsessed with deadly cats!?
Ama M: Soooo, what we know Americans know, our homes are in Africa- after we explain that its a continent and yes we are sure, that we have funny accents, and that we probably have man eating cats mainly lions. Though I personally NEVER saw a lion in my town! That sum it up?
Kellan M: Yep. How are they so smart but so dumb! Honestly….
Zane: Alright, let move on then, does anyone else have anything to add?…
International Student Union- Topic: Similarities between week’s topics & General Discrimination
All Main Characters
Julio- Hispanic: Okay, it looks like we’re all here, so let’s get started. Does anyone have a topic to bring up?
Ama M: Well, I’ve been noticing a lot of stereotyping from people, good and bad.
Julio: Okay, any examples?
Ama: Well, people seem to feel the need to describe black women with the term strong, almost no matter what. Surely not every single black woman is strong, and other women not?
Kellan M: Yeah, its an American thing, I think its meant to show respect but… well it’s just a bit weird.
Ai M- Asian: I haven’t really noticed that, but everyone here seems to assume I’m excellent at maths and the sciences. I’m not though! I HATE math! I’m a Music Major with a Psychology Minor, and it shocks people. Most people here in the US assume I’m some sort of Medical Major or in the maths or sciences.
Julio: That all sounds frustrating. I get it though, people always assume I’m from Mexico because I have an accent. I’m from Cuba! All the insulting slurs too…
Kellan: At least you don’t have to be mellow all the time. If I show a lot of emotion to non-black strangers they freak out. People even avoid me on the street sometimes! It is insane, I am a normal person, back home these things would never happen!
Ama: America presents many issues to immigrants. Things are strange here, and people base so much on stereotypes rather than really learning about other places. It can be so frustrating!
Ai: Yeah, but there’s a lot of good here too…
Kellan: I miss home, not having to worry so much about how I act. I’ve met some good people here, but I think I’ll go home or to some other country at least after I’ve graduated.
Julio: It sounds like everyone’s had some troubles, let’s make sure to support each other if we see something happening! Are we ready to move to the next topic?
Adichie, Chimamanda N. Americanah. Kindle, Knopf Canada, 2013, pp. 2373-2383.
Adichie, Chimamanda N. Americanah. Kindle, Knopf Canada, 2013, pp. 3749-3752.
Adichie, Chimamanda N. Americanah. Kindle, Knopf Canada, 2013, pp. 3752-3767.
Adichie, Chimamanda N. “Chapter 1.” Americanah, Knopf Canada, 2013, p. 9.
Adichie, Chimamanda N. “Chapter 1.” Americanah, Knopf Canada, 2013, p. 15
Blackman, Alex. Personal Interview. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XBNNae9cp6CZeJ65cQw3eHvNcFuS0Qy82qFmU4zn8vw/edit?usp=sharing. 3 May 2019.
This interview was recorded by one of our group members, Megan Biemwsdefer, when she talked to her friend Alex Blackman who has personal experience with our subject. Alex is a Black American who was born and raised in the United States, but does have a good background in traveling the world and seeing different cultures. We went to him for real life perspective specifically to focus on the scene for the Black Student Union and his thoughts on racism in the United States. It also helped that he has also read Americanah and knows the book and our discussion. Alex gave us good inside views, for example, he talked about the symbolism of hair and how it did affect their lives, especially his mother as a female. He also opened up about slurs and how they are offensive and how these racist acts in the book do happen in real life as someone of color living in America. It was interesting when he said “take it with a grain of salt” because it really shows that the situations happen but not as a constant everyday situation and it really shows Alex’s emotions toward the subject. He probably gets offended by these racist situations, but he also sadly has gotten used to them and knows when to brush them off his shoulder when it needs to be. Alex will be biased some toward the immigrants views and maybe not a completely neutral interview, but it is what we were looking for in order to really get a deeper, real life perspective on racism. He was also kind enough to look over our script to make sure that it was inoffensive and as accurate as possible so we did not hurt feelings or provide false information or feelings from the immigrants in our story.
Farkas, Steve. “What Immigrants Say About Life in the United States.” Migrationpolicy.org, 1 May 2003, www.migrationpolicy.org/article/what-immigrants-say-about-life-united-states.
The Migration Policy website has a great article, “What Immigrants Say about Life in the United States”, which summarizes what life is like in America for Immigrants based off of Immigrants opinions and viewpoints. The research was done by a nonprofit called Public Agenda and they communicated and studied about one thousand immigrant in different locations around the United States. Some of their findings were not as shocking after reading Americanah, for example they knew learning English meant success, that they have a really strong work ethic, or that they try to balance being American and keep their home culture. These things we have discussed in class. Something that was surprising was how so many of them say they don’t want “charity”, they know they have to work hard to make it, and yet about three quarters of those interviewed volunteer and do community work. This research is very important and reveals a lot about how those who moved to America feel and dedicate their time to trying to find their place. This article is biased because it is from an organization specifically for helping Immigrants and the detail about immigration policies in the United States. They are for immigrant and support using these positive words like “driven”, “deep commitment”, and “desire” to relate to the people they are trying to help or raise awareness about. Yet the study seems like a great source of researched information and that it why we used it to show those emotions and desires of immigrant to fit in and build a place in the United States in our story.
Underwood, Kalilah. Personal interview. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XBNNae9cp6CZeJ65cQw3eHvNcFuS0Qy82qFmU4zn8vw/edit?usp=sharing. 3 May 2019.
This interview was done by one of our group member, Megan Biemwsdefer, with one of her friends, Kalilah Underwood. She has personal experience and viewpoint on our subject. Kalilah is a Black American who was born and raised in New Jersey. We decided to speak to her since she has a real life perspective for the Black Student Union, as well as her thoughts on racism and discrimination in the United States. She gave great input on having natural hair versus straightened or fake hair, like a wig or getting a weave in a professional setting. She expressed to us that she herself, feels pressured into conforming to straighten her hair, but she also feels like this situation is getting better, considering that in the last Miss USA, the winner had natural hair. She also expresses her thoughts on whether or not there is still discrimination in the United States. In fact, she very much believes that there is still very much discrimination all over the United States. She says “It is actually disgusting that in 2019 black people need to be scared to walk to the store or talk to someone of a different race”. She conveys that it isn’t just happening to Black Americans but also many other races as well. Lastly, she was kind enough to skim and look over our script to make sure that we didn’t exaggerate or under sensitize certain topics and ensure there is cultural accurateness.
“The Most Obscure Countries in the World.” Ranker, www.ranker.com/list/most-and-_34_obscure-and-_34_-countries/the-monto-gawe. Accessed 5 May 2019.
The Ranker website has an article which displays many of the most original sounding and obsolete countries from all over the world. They showed this by having a list. This list includes 54 of the 196 countries that are in the world. Many of these obsolete countries are in Africa. This list is always changing as well. Ranker website has a mechanism where viewers can vote and change the ranking of said list. Viewers can say whether each item or in this case, country should go up or down on the list. If they think it’s in the right place, they don’t need to do anything. Thus, the name of the website. This gets many opinions of those around the world based off their knowledge of the countries. Some of these countries we had not heard of either. This speaks to the simple fact, that many Americans, have not or are not exposed to this sort of information. We used this source to find different countries that we could use in our script, and to show how most Americans have not heard of different countries. This gave emphasis on the topic for the African Student Union scene which we touched on the ignorance of Americans to geography around the world, and how many Americans view Africa as one huge country, not a continent which is what it is.