Corey Fischer

Black Panther is Undocumented

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Corey Fischer

Mill Valley, CA

My grandmother, Celia Pastornak, arrived in this country, fleeing the violent racism of early 20th century Russia when she was sixteen. The two things that most impressed her about her new country were the library where she could borrow all the books she wanted for free and the kindness and generosity of the other young women – mostly American-born gentiles – she worked with in a coat factory in St. Paul, MN. She told me these things, in between nostalgia-free stories of her life in the old country and passionate accounts of the America she loved, more times than I can count. From her, I came to understand “American” to mean tolerant, inclusive, compassionate and fair. What I now understand is that Grandma Cele’s America is one that must be dreamed and created over and over. All of us are descended from immigrants. Some came earlier, some later. Some via Ellis Island, some through El Paso and some across a land bridge that has long since disappeared. I am most truly American when I fully embrace my Jewish immigrant ancestors, feel their sense of wonder and hope recognize myself in the “other.” When I learn about the Great Migration of African-Americans from the Jim Crow-era South to the cities of the North or hear stories from Central and South Americans who have come here to escape poverty and oppression, I hear my grandmother’s voice and I know that her dream of America lives on.

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