Photography Exhibit ‘Journey to America’ Opens

PICTURE PERFECT: From left, YWCA Board member Jaya Richardson and YWCA Multicultural Director Maria Reyes, pose with YWCA Board member Teresa Valero at the opening of the special photography exhibit, “Journey to America,??? currently featured at the YWCA Multicultural Center. Valero was one of two dozen area photographers who volunteered their time and talent to the project.

D. J. MORROW INGRAM for GTR Newspapers

The YWCA of Tulsa has a photography exhibit on display titled “Journey to America,” celebrating the many immigrants who call Tulsa their home.

The exhibit is at the YWCA Multicultural Center, 8145 E. 17th St. This will also serve as the permanent home for the show, which is expected to be put on tour after its initial showing.

“We are pleased to have this powerful, visual way of expressing the YWCA mission of elimination of racism,” says YWCA Executive Director Dixie Reppe. The YWCA “Journey To America” is the beginning of a social marketing program designed to remind the community that “Everyone has an immigration story.”

“The concept for the YWCA immigration photography project was conceived by Tulsa’s YWCA Board Member and University of Tulsa’s Dean of the School of Arts, Teresa Valero, along with the dedication of resources of time and money by YWCA Board Members Pat Bailey and Jaya Richardson. The show is a powerful force reminding our community that everyone has an immigration story,” says YWCA Multicultural Center Director Maria Reyes.

The photography show features donated work from prominent local photographers including; Leyla Ashenayi, Ariel Brammer, Ralph Cole, Ace Cuervo, Marc Fitzerman, Shan Goshorn, Moustafa Goudarzi, Larry Green, Natalie Green, Geoffrey Hicks, LaQuita Hinton, Gay Larson, Elaine Lafon, AJ McCoy, Lance Miller, Milly West Moorhead, Phillip Radcliffe, Scott Raffe, Mindy Stricke, M. Teresa Valero, David Varmecky, Mark Wittig, Terry Woody-Weaver, and Rachel Zarrow.

The display contains the portraits and immigration stories of more than fifty Tulsa residents. Among these are community leaders such as: Yolanda Velarde-Charney, recent recipient of the Religious Liberty Award; Jack Zarrow, Tulsa philanthropist and co-founder of the Maxine and Jack Zarrow Family Foundation; Michael Nsien, President of the United Association of Tulsa Nigerians; Restaurateur Guldeep Singh, and Pianist Donald Ryan. This group represents only a small sample of the 55 immigrants featured in the exhibition that now call Tulsa home.

Each participant answered a series of questions, revealing the experience of leaving a familiar homeland to build a new life, and a sampling of the answers accompany each photograph in the venue.

“My dad was so proud when he became an American citizen he adopted July 4 as his birthday since he had no record of his actual date of birth,” said Jack Zarrow, whose family is originally from Latvia.

Maria Reyes explained how traditions were maintained with the following story, “My great grandmother, Adela Rogue always spoke to us in Spanish. She also taught me how to cook Cuban food. I can remember vividly ‘LaNoche Buena,’ a Christmas Eve tradition where we would roast a pig over an open fire. Our all-white Catholic neighbors were amazed to witness my 80 year old great grandmother, standing four feet tall, marinating a whole pig, covered by a tarp to keep snow away, while the smells of Lecon Asado filled the neighborhood.”

In answer to the question, “What surprised you the most about the U.S.?” restaurant owner of India Palace Guldeep Singh replied, “The short amount of time it took for me to feel a part of the life and culture.”

Revealing answers demonstrate the immigrant story is one of courage and determination and the full collection of answers is available for review.

The YWCA Multicultural programs are dedicated to improving the quality of life for refugees and immigrants in Tulsa and surrounding areas with services including: accredited immigration counseling; translation and interpretive services; refugee resettlement services; job counseling and placement; outreach assistance; case management; English-as-a-Second Language classes and Tele-Ayuda, a special referral service that links Hispanic clients with support agencies.

The YWCA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower and unite women of all ages through services that create self-sufficiency, enrich families and promote racial justice.
For information concerning the event, contact the YWCA Business Office at 587-2100, ext 203.

Updated 10-25-2005

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