Poetic Illustrations on YouTube

Poetic Illustrations on YouTube
Poetic Illustrations on YouTube

Reflect - Reset - Breathe

Photo by: a kind stranger, thank you!
1st Annual Pittsburgh Women's March
Pittsburgh, PA January, 2017

I've spent the past few days reflecting on the various marches, protests, and the fighting we have taking place within our country over our positions. Topics. Choices. The ways we feel we need to use our voices. We're feeling misinterpreted. Misunderstood. Misrepresented, or mischaracterized. It all has me wanting to take a breath. To draw in a cleansing full breath and pause for moment. To stop. To take a long hard look at who we are, what we're becoming, and how we got to this point. Then to reset. Then we may know how to properly respond to one another.

Reflect. Reset. Breathe. 

I strongly believe in the use of our voices. I've always said that I love a good protest! Oh yes! I do! One of my biggest goals in life is to honor what the suffragettes have done for me, and to teach my children of their sacrifices. I want to carry them with me and in my voice as I march with the freedoms they granted me through their sufferings and sacrifices.


However I may honor these sacrifices, I do pledge to do so without trampling upon the rights of others. I want to utilize my rights, my voice, and channel the voices of the voiceless. I can only hope that others will mutually respect me, and do the same with the honor and respect that I choose to try to exhibit in the marches and protests I participate in. Alas, that is not always the case as we've seen so often.  


Each year I participate in the Women's March. Last year a photo of myself with my girls went viral through National Geographic on Instagram. Before I had eaten dinner the night of the march I was hearing from friends in Haiti and other parts of the world who had seen our image online. I was unaware that the photographers in the crowd we had granted permission to were from National Geographic, but I have long loved their work, so I was honored to find that we had been chosen and displayed.

Photo by: Lynn Johnson for National Geographic
Originally posted on Instagram by: LJohnPhoto
2nd Annual Pittsburgh Women's March
Pittsburgh, PA January 2018
Photo by: Lynn Johnson
2nd Annual Pittsburgh Women's March
Pittsburgh, PA January 2018

Much to our sadness, many posted horrific comments about my baby under our photo. My warrior. My hero. My miracle child who has survived more in her short life than many can even begin to imagine within the expanse of theirs was now being viciously ridiculed. One ignorant comment after the next was lobbed our way and tacked on to this beautiful tribute to female strength due to the color of her skin and the origin of her birth, Haiti. Now I'm a pretty tough momma, and I don't subscribe to, nor do I fall prey to unknown online trolls and their commentary, but some of these comments were hitting all of my buttons. I've experienced quite a bit in the twenty years I've been a mom, and in particular over the the past eight years while adopting, immigrating, and raising my three Haitian and two home grown children together. Yet this one photo brought every racist out of the proverbial woodwork and had them marching around like a proud little tribe of termites formerly festering beneath the surface. It was as if they'd smelled something tantalizing above them, and just couldn't help themselves but to surface in numbers to seize the opportunity. Then they found themselves on display for the world, and they felt no shame attacking an innocent little girl. A six year old little girl. Sure I wanted to lash out at all of them. Tell them our story. Tell them all who she is, and why she will always be better, wiser, stronger than them. What will it change though? Who will it help? What will it do? Photos speak 1,000 words, yes? I've decided to let these photos speak our truth. My girls can tell you our story through the photos of that day better than any tongue lashing and any rage filled cry fest and fury straight from  a Mother's broken heart would. We love one another. We are family. We have fought long and hard to be with each other. We have come from different countries, traveled far and wide to be with one another. We have conquered illness, bureaucracy, apathy, mountains, and we will conquer hate too. So I chose to breathe.


Ignorance is all over the media. It's on t.v. It's on the radio. It comes from the mouths of those we know, not just from strangers. Sometimes it flies right out before we can shield our kids from hearing it. My child repeats something. I teach the lesson. I reteach the lesson. I explain. I explain again. I teach the lesson again. I explain again. We all see more ignorance in the media. In social media. From a relative of another generation. My child cries because her hair is curly and not long and blonde. My son is made fun of because his eyes are of Asian origin, and everyone calls him Chinese and makes any variety of dumb joke that none of us find funny. He explains that South Korea is different country than China, and that we respect China and the Koreas, Japan, and all of the Asian and the world's countries in our home. Ignorance comes at our children at a dizzying rate. Even more so when you're an immigrant. When you have an accent. When you have melanin. Ignorance has turned to hate. Hate has sadly been condoned. There aren't good people on both sides of hate. Hate isn't innate. It is taught, and those teaching it and preaching it need to STOP. Our children are watching. They're listening. They deserve better. It's time to take a position of positivity. It's time to reflect. To reset. To breathe.

One day not long after the second march my phone rang. It was Azy. Our President had just made a heartbreaking statement about my home away from home. The birthplace of three of my children. She was calling to see if I was ok. She asked me to meditate and to send him love and kindness. That's the kind of person she is. I needed to reflect. I wasn't feeling kind. I needed to reset. I wasn't feeling loving. I needed to breathe. I was feeling like a flamethrower.

Reflect. Reset. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe...and Create.

Our conversation began our bookmaking process. I definitely did not meditate and send my love to him, but I have spent this past year working on project filled with love for many people I identify with. People who come to this country with a passion to make their lives better. With a dream to make something of themselves. A goal to improve this world. This year I marched again. With a prototype of our book in my hands, and with thoughts of all of them in my heart. With their voices in my head.

I marched quietly, and in reflection. Thinking about this past year and all we have accomplished working on this book. I thought of the people we have met. Where we have traveled. Those we have written about. The faces I have painted. I reflected on what they went through to come to this country. What they had accomplished, and how much love they brought with them. How much hope they had. The dreams that carried them through their struggles.

I reflected on my own struggles with the immigration process for my children.  It occurred to me that so many Americans have never had any experience with this process, and thus have no perspective on it. I want to teach them through this book. I want them to know what the experience of being an immigrant is! I want them to understand the dream of being an immigrant! I want then to know the love and the enduring spirit one has and what it takes to leave your family and your belongings and even risk your life to seek new shores in desperation to fulfill your dreams with hope that they will one day be a reality. I want those who read this book to know that seeking a new life in this country is not just to gain freedoms, but to contribute.

As I drew in my own cold breath in the arctic morning wind, the book I carried was heavier and heavier. It grew harder to carry, and I thought of those who are, have, and will suffer through months of walking with little of their remaining belongings in brutal conditions. They do this sometimes with no food, water, or shelter. They hold on to one thing, and that is their dream. Their dream to be an American.

I want this book to reflect upon the good those who have come to our country have done for you and me. I want you to know what immigrants have done for this country and what you wouldn't have if not for them. I want you to know how your daily life has been positively impacted by immigrants. What might be different had an immigrant not come to this country, not been allowed to enter, or had been turned away and sent elsewhere. What would not have been invented, improved, or advanced? What would life in this country be like? I'd like this book to allow for time to reflect, and reset, and allow us all to breathe. To allow for the reader to lay it across their lap, flip through the pages, and see for themselves that walls shouldn't be built, children shouldn't be caged, but rather tables should be built bigger, our schools should be advanced, our children should be cultured, and the narrative should be rewritten.

We all need to reflect. We need to reset. We need to breathe. Let's reset the narrative. This is our response. This book.

Time to Reflect.
Time to Reset. Time to Breathe.
Time to Create.
Come take a deep breath with us!

Immigrants: The Foundation of our Nation

Presented by Poetic Illustrations is Coming Soon!

Photo by: Britt
3rd Annual Pittsburgh Women's March
Pittsburgh, PA 2019

Photo by: Britt
3rd Annual Pittsburgh Women's March
Pittsburgh, PA 2019

First Year Anniversary! 2018 Was Amazing

January 11, 2018 is the day that Jen and I decided to begin this project.  To work on a book that we both felt very passionate about. A book about immigrants in The United States of America that have played a significant role in our culture.  Hoping that one day this book would be in the hands of every individual in this great nation.

If we delved into our day to day grind in this blog, it would be about 25 pages long.  Each day, we text, video chat on Skype, email, IM on Facebook, and of course talk on the phone.  We created our list of the amazing immigrants that have contributed and shaped the culture of United States.  Each individual is researched.  Based on specific criteria, we select that ones that would fit with our goal.  The criteria is simple; they are immigrants, lived in United States and have contributed within their own industry.  We purposely focused on both males and females from all over the world.  The book is diverse, just like America.

In 2018 we had the honor and pleasure of meeting several of our heroes.  We met Alicia Partnoy, Lady Pink, Maz Jobrani, and Christine Clifford (representing Ana Mendieta).  Each meeting was so unique and special.  From Washington, D.C. to New York City.  We also met with Larry Moffi from Settlement House Press, he believed in us and our work from day one.  We cannot forget the wonderful and beautiful Candace, owner of Rock Candy Vintage store in New Paltz, New York and April & Christian, owner of Katora Coffee in Fredericksburg, Virginia for their support and encouragement.  Not only did Jen and I have great support from others, but within our circle of family and friends.  To just name a few; Britt, Omid, Kate, Reza, JJ, and Michael.  They have been our cheerleaders and are always in our corner.  We thank you!  We greatly appreciate the amazing support from our friends and family members.  It is wonderful when we hear "this book is going to be amazing" or "you guys are rockin' it."  That makes us smile.

Finally, in 2018, we signed on with Ronnie Ann Herman of the Herman Agency Inc. in New York City, as our literary agent.  This was a big moment for both Jen and I.  When we received the news from Ronnie, we both cried and laughed over the phone trying to compose ourselves.  It was very emotional because we felt validated.  The book that we are so passionate about is being recognized from outside of our circle.  We are very happy and excited to take this journey with Ronnie and see how it all develops!

A video clip of various pictures from 2018 has been created to show our journey.  It is very difficult to put one year worth of pictures into a two minute clip.  You may notice a very young Azy and Jen from 20 years ago, when our friendship solidified.  We do hope you enjoy it.  Thank you again to all that have supported us, encouraged us, challenged us, and believed in us.  With much love,   Azy & Jen

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