Cast

Taylor
University of Michigan
My name is Taylor and I’m the only child of two working-class parents. I’m a rising Junior at the University of Michigan. My major is Screen Arts and Cultures. I’m an African-American female first generation college student. A community I’m a big part of on campus is the black community which makes up 4% of the student body. We’re pretty close but skin color lightness and associations through socio-economic differences creates interesting dynamics but we do stick together pretty much. I hope that my story can help others. We rarely hear about the less common groups of people, but that doesn’t stop them from existing.
Veronica
Washtenaw Community College
I’m a 19 year-old Puerto Rican—the only Puerto Rican in my high school. The girl that didn’t have a group—such as the Mexican group, or the cool group. I felt acceptance in groups such as the blacks and Arabs. That acceptance was only temporary though. I had to find acceptance being independent with a single mom who struggled to take care of me due to her health having gone through three liver transplants. My mother and father had a lot of problems and my father used to beat my mom. I have brief memories of moments when he would hit her. He has not been a part of my life since I was 3-4 years of age. I was sent to Puerto Rico where I learned the ways of life through my roots and relatives in Puerto Rico. I knew that the only way I would make it out of poverty as a minority was through schooling and working hard to become more. I am a sophomore at Washtenaw Community College studying occupational therapy while working as a cosmetologist at an Ann Arbor hair studio. I am striving to do better and to be a proud successful Puerto Rican woman.
Javier
University of Michigan
My name is Javier. I am a 22-year-old student at The University of Michigan’s College of Engineering. I was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, but my parents brought me to the USA at the early age of 4. I am currently a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). I have spent the last 18 years of my life in a country that refuses to acknowledge me as one of its own. Still, I can’t help but to call it home and appreciate it for everything that it has provided me. While it was not my decision to enter without the proper documentation at the age of 4, it has greatly shaped my life. My legal status has brought upon many obstacles that I have fortunately been able to overcome. Being undocumented has pushed me to stand up for myself and many others. I have continuously fought to better my future regardless of how many times I have been turned away due to my status. While this government may identify me with an Alien Number, I am just like any other American college student my age and actively involved in fighting for social justice and reform.
Keiko
University of Michigan
My name is Keiko and I’ve lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for most of my life. My parents are Peruvian and lived in Japan for ten years working as factory workers. At the age of seven having already lived in two countries, I was accustomed to change. But I would soon experience new challenges once we came to the United States. The language barrier was an immediate issue and I couldn’t depend on my parents as they didn’t speak English. From a very young age, I had to learn and work hard to represent my family and even when I learnt the language, I wasn’t mature enough to understand some situations. I translated documents and conversations my parents would have with other adults but often times I did not have the adult vocabulary to match my kid one! I think it’s so important to have dialogue about what challenges immigrants face, but especially the challenges the children of immigrants encounter.
Tommy
University of Michigan
I’m 30 years old from inner city St. Louis in Missouri. I come from a single parent home—the typical story as much as I hate to say that – mom worked two jobs and my older sister practically had to raise me. I went to high school and did really good at sports. Made it to college on a full scholarship and had fun at college—actually had too much fun as I had twins when I was a sophomore at college! So I had to do everything I possibly could by continuing my education and work at overnight shifts so I could manage to go to school, play sports, work and raise my kids all at the same time. I’m now getting my graduate degree studying movement science as a Strength and Conditioning Coach hoping to get a job with an athletic team to better provide for my family. I believe your life story is written by you and you ultimately decide how the story goes. Having a vision, believing in that vision, and pursuing that vision at all cost has been my mission. As a father, husband, and God-fearing man I need other people to know that what you do does not only effect or benefit you but it plays a major role in the lives of your loved ones.
Hussain
University of Michigan
Born in Pakistan, my story finds its roots in my family’s struggle to find a safe and sustainable place to live. With targeted killings against Shias on a rise in Pakistan, my dad applied for, and was granted a work visa for us to come to the USA. The first few years were tough on all of us. Starting at the bottom of the socio-economic hierarchy was a challenge. At 13 years old, I found myself lost and didn’t know where I belonged amongst the various cliques. When it came time for college, I decided to put all my focus in education and a good career. My hard work led me to receive the Medallion of Excellence in Biology. I found myself moving to Ann Arbor to attend dental school at the University of Michigan where I’ve taken every opportunity to make a positive impact as a student with a Muslim name. During my third year at dental school, I was elected as the dental school’s student council president. This title and honor was a major milestone for me and I hope my story can allow many other immigrants realize how they can successfully integrate and contribute to the American society.
Kit
Savannah College of Art and Design
My name is Kit. I’m a bisexual comic book artist making a living writing and drawing comics about identity politics. I’m told I have a surprisingly conservative perspective among LGBT circles but in conservative circles I’m far too liberal they say! I was diagnosed in 2013 with chronic Lyme disease, lost pretty much everything (job, friends, all my money…). Despite my ongoing battle with the disease, I rebuilt my life and am now working full time as a comic book artist and writer. I don’t particularly like talking about myself directly, preferring the language of sequential art, but if I had to say anything about my work I’d say that I hope to empower young men to stave off the temptations and addictive behaviors encouraged by our overly consumer culture and to embrace their own personal callings in life.
Ted
University of Michigan
I come from a small community called St. Johns in Michigan. I went to the University of Michigan and studied chemical engineering. My community was mostly white with a very few Hispanics or African-Americans so growing up, I never really had a different perspective than my own culture. My family immigrated from Germany in the 1850’s. We were farmers in Germany, we are farmers in Michigan. Neither one of my parents graduated from college so I’m the first generation college graduate. Growing up in the smaller community, I really wasn’t introduced to a lot of different cultures and I never had friends that imparted that different perspective to me; so I grew up with a single-track point of view. I’d never seen that many Indian people let alone meet an Indian person until I came to Ann Arbor. So my perspective about people in general has changed completely cause growing up, I thought there were a few types of people and now I realize there’s a huge spectrum and everyone has their own backgrounds within that spectrum.
Christina
Eastern Michigan University
I am a 64 year-old trans-woman who transitioned in 2010 and as a result, was fired from my 31-year job of running a division of a construction company. Besides losing my job, I was rejected by my parents, lost my spouse, my house, and my friends. I couldn’t find another job, and I was homeless for four months. As a recovering alcoholic with suicidal thoughts, I decided to stop living my life like a victim. I will be a third year social work student at Eastern Michigan University in the Fall of 2017 and I hope to have a career counseling substance abusers as a social worker after I graduate. My story is multi-layered, and it is about finding self-respect as well as self-acceptance in the face of prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination.
Sam
University of Michigan
The stereotype of Asians only being good at math and not in sports still exists today. As I don’t fall into this stereotype, I find myself being looked down upon and questioned by the Asian community who call me an ” Asian disgrace” or question: “What kind of Asian are you?!” Hollywood has typically portrayed Asian males as desexualized, de-masculinized, and socially inept which festers the Asian stereotype. I’m a gymnast and majoring in Screen Arts and Culture in the hopes to change this portrayal of Asians. I have felt oppression from those in the Asian community for being “the other” and outside the community as “the other Asian.” Hopefully my story can give courage to those who are oppressed and hurt by stereotypes to raise above them and show the world that the other’s ignorance does not define who they are as a person.
Celia
University of Michigan
I remember what my mother once told me before she passed away while battling an aggressive form of breast cancer: “The most expensive piece of real estate is the six inches between your right and left ear. It’s how you use it that determines your destiny. We are only really limited by how we choose to challenge our mind.” She passed away when I was twelve years old. I went from living with my aunts, to living with friends of my mom, to a cousin in France, to being put into reform school. I was born in Cameroon and raised in three different continents. It was all too overwhelming. I wished my mom was present to witness or shield me from all that was happening. I felt deep sadness and a sense of abandonment. Given that my early childhood structured me well to understand hardship, sacrifice, and the importance of education; my mother’s wise advice became my ultimate refuge. I decided to put into good use the six inches between my ears and was accepted at the University of Michigan and I’m currently majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biology. I also volunteer at local hospitals and dedicate my time helping others and providing them with a sense of belonging and happiness despite their circumstances.
AJ
Eastern Michigan University
I’m a gay, white, Christian man currently attending Eastern Michigan University. I grew up in Pinckney, Michigan – an isolated, small, very white town! Growing up in school, there were at most 5-10 ethnic students. It wasn’t until college when I came to terms with being gay – which meant that I had to come to terms with my Christianity and my homosexuality. At that time, my immediate decision was if I don’t have sex, it should be OK with the Church. It wasn’t a denial of the issue. My family believed that you must live the way you believe Christ would, which for me is accepting one another and wanting people to feel happy and fulfilled. A couple of years after I realized I was gay, I came out to my family and friends and I was fortunate that they were all very accepting. My father said, “You can be gay as long as it doesn’t get in the way of your studies!” It is my desire to show that the things some people might describe as “other” aren’t actually so far removed from what they consider “normal”.