Creative Director & Executive Producer: Herrana Addisu / Producer: Sarah Maria / Production Assistant: Mia Aba / Production Assistants: Mona Gaballa, Priya Sahdev / Photographer: Kendall Bassent / BTS Media: Mia Aba, Christopher Zapata / Community Outreach Lead: Yadel Mekete / Set Design: Hantz Jean-Francois, Nikita Freyermuth / Stylist: Ryan C Gale / MUA: Sade-Amour Mirabal / Hair: Brittany Taplin / Spanish Translator: Christopher Zapata / Studio Location: Anima Studios
The Story of Immigration
“Welcome Home” is a photography series that brings visibility to the voices of three Black immigrants to tell a story of resilience, strength, and community.
Black immigrants face a higher rate of deportation and detention compared to other immigrant communities. This is mostly due to increased policing and mass criminalization of Black communities. Furthermore, we are able to see the impact of racial discrimination within social, educational, and work settings. Despite this harsh reality, not enough resources or advocacy efforts are being directed toward Black immigrant communities.
The creative concept of “Welcome Home” pulls inspiration from African photographers like Malick Sidibé, Fatoumata Diabaté, and Seydou Keïta. The series aims to showcase different aspects of home and highlights the experiences of three Black immigrants through the lens of community building.
Chucha Studios met the three “Welcome Home” storytellers through a network that supports Black immigrants. These three storytellers come from diverse backgrounds and regions ranging from the Caribbean to Africa including individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups such as the LGBTQ2S+ community. The series was led by a talented team of Black creatives based in New York and highlights Black-owned clothing brands.
Olabisi Ayo-Ademokun is originally from Nigeria and moved to the United States in 2018. She is a proud mother and an advocate for the Black immigrant community in Queens. She is currently working as a Case Manager at DSI International, a nonprofit organization that provides resources and tools to help immigrants work toward financial independence.
Olabisi is a true representation of the empowerment of Black immigrants. During the production of “Welcome Home”, she shared her passion for showcasing the strength of African immigrants through her professional and volunteer work.
When we spoke further about her immigration experience, Olabisi shared that she holds a master’s degree in Information Technology from the University of Lagos, Nigeria, but her credentials were not widely acknowledged when she arrived in the United States. She noted, “English is not a sign of intelligence” when she explained the barriers she faced because of her accent.
When asked what she wanted people to take away from her story, Olabisisi said she wants everyone to acknowledge that “Black immigrants are strong and resilient.” She expressed that her community is one of the main sources of her strengths, and she wants the African diaspora to be proud of their Blackness and immigration stories.
Morelys Urbano is originally from the Dominican Republic and is a Black Latina. Her immigration story started when she moved from the Dominican Republic to Spain at the age of 12 before moving to the United States. She is currently studying journalism at Morgan State University (MSU).
Morelys has been a key leader on and off-campus speaking directly on the need to support immigrants. She is the president of UndocuBear MSU, a student-led organization committed to educating and elevating the voices of the undocumented community on campus.
When putting together the shoot for “Welcome Home”, Morelys shared with us the important role her family played in her activism. Her mother is a professor and helped her advance her reading and writing skills from a very young age. Morelys mentioned one of the most difficult parts of moving to the United States was learning a new language and having to constantly code switch. She mentioned that she often struggled because she knew she could articulate herself at a higher capacity in her native tongue but was not able to in English at the time. Furthermore, she highlighted that as a Black woman and an immigrant, she often faces racism, xenophobia, and sexism.
Chucha Studios LLC produced the photography series working alongside individuals from diverse backgrounds and regions ranging from the Caribbean to Africa including individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups such as the LGBTQ2S+ community. The series was led by a talented team of Black creatives based in New York and we collaborated with Black-owned clothing brands. Chucha Studios connected with a network that supports Black immigrants to meet the three Welcome Home storytellers.
When we asked Morelys what she wanted people to take away from her story, she said she wants others to acknowledge Black immigrant stories, not only because of the discrimination and other hardships the community faces but because immigration is a human right. She believes that no matter where you are from, you have the right to live without fear.
As an advocate for his community, Cristian shared that it was a long difficult journey to migrate from Honduras. Growing up in his hometown, Cristian struggled to understand his identity. From a young age, he knew who he was but had a hard time exploring and expressing himself due to homophobia in the community. It was not until years later that Cristian was able to fully embrace his identity.
Before coming to the United States, Cristian resided in other countries in Central America. He shared that he faced some difficulties when he moved to different Spanish-speaking countries including navigating a language barrier. He did not speak or understand Spanish. He spoke his native language, Garifuna, an Afro-Indegenous language not widely spoken. He also faced discrimination due to his blackness and queer identity.
When we asked Cristian what he wanted people to take away from his story, he said strength and hope. He wants anyone that relates to his story to continue to fight, accept themselves with love, and remember that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.