Reframing Immigration Community Art Exhibit

By Ashley Causey-Golden

On Sunday, October 28, Word Up Community Bookshop in Washington Heights hosted a celebration and reception for the community art exhibit, Reframing Immigration. Reframing Immigration was a project I started in July 2018 when family separation at the border was being covered by every major news station. I wanted to help but I did not know how. All I could think of was sending supplies and money to organizations at the border. I didn’t want giving to be a solitary act. I wanted to build community and solidarity as I was giving. As I thought more about how to serve, I took a moment to think about my residential community. I live in a community that has a large Dominican population. I thought about what stories they carried. What were the things that connected us and divided us? These questions led me to use art as a tool to uncover those answers.

I didn’t want giving to be a solitary act. I wanted to build community and solidarity as I was giving.

Art became the driving force for me to answer these questions because the topic of immigration became very political. The legality surrounding immigration separated and divided people. I noticed people that originally had opinions no longer wanted to share them out of fear of being portrayed one way or another. It was difficult for me to see and feel injustice happening around me but not have people with various experiences and viewpoints be able to openly talk about it.

That is how Reframing Immigration came to be. I wanted to create a space that allowed artists, performers and people from my community to see and experience the humanity within immigration because each family has a story to tell of how they came to America. As current residents of this country, we are all seeking the same thing. We are all searching, struggling, and finding the highest and truest expression of who we want to be.

As artists and performers started to submit their work, I began to think about ownership. Owning art is seen as something only for individuals that have disposal income. I wanted Reframing Immigration to be an art exhibit that allowed the community to be able to own art that has deep and personal meaning. By having a silent auction with an easy to access starting bid, members from the community were able to participate.

The Reframing Immigration art exhibit will be up until December 8th at Word Up Community Bookshop. This exhibit features artwork from artists across the United States. All funds raised benefited the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights (NMCIR).

I chose the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights because they have been doing the work in my community since 1982 and they are currently working towards creating the nation’s first institutionally-provided universal-representation program for detained immigrants facing deportation. I thought this was a great organization to support because NMCIR is providing direct services to the community such as citizenship and ESL classes but also directly targeting the deep rooted issues of why immigrants are being deported at such a high rate—lack of fair representation. If you are interested in learning more about their work and their mission, please check out their website.

For those who are unable to view the art exhibit at Word Up Community Bookshop, I am bringing it to you! A few pieces have click through links so you can learn more about the artist.

Isabela Espinal

La Familia Diaz

Maria and I collaborated in Spring 2014. I was studying U.S. border relations in Tuscon, Arizona. I volunteered for Corazon de Tucson and Maria was an active member. Corazon de Tucson was led undocumented parents, mostly mothers, to support each other as they lived under the close watch of ICE and the police.

Maria and I gravitated towards one another and quickly became friends. As we worked together, we discussed motherhood, Mexican diversity, love, Spanish and mixed-status families. As I was preparing to return back home I wanted to leave something useful behind. If anything were to happen to her, this photo book could serve as a physical representation of who she is and her dedication to Tucson. 

The separation of and attacks on families strip people of their humanity and our connectedness. Photos are able to transcend the limiting binaries of good or bad and documented versus undocumented. These photographs are of her resilience, strength, and dedication to equitable education. 


Oil pastel on paper

This rendition of a Madonna in a stained glass window. The image shows the northern region of Central America behind the virgin. 

It was painted by some of the residents at Posada Guadalupe. They are from Honduras waiting for a response on their asylum applications.