Guest Blog: Milestones for Immigrants to Begin a New Journey

The theme for this year's Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is Celebrating the Immigrant, reflecting on their experience, not just one of migration, but their personal life journey.

Our guest blogger is Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child, and the award-winning documentary based on this personal memoir.  Jian shares with us her own experiences and how her journey is continuing.

Guest Blog by Jian Ping

I read recently in the Chicago Tribune that 142 immigrants from 46 countries became U.S. citizens at a Naturalization Ceremony held in Highland Park. The excitement and statements from the newly sworn in citizens reminded me of a similar ceremony four years ago at the Harold Washington Library Center where Mayor Rahm Emmanuel came in person to celebrate this milestone for those immigrants.

"I want to be the first person to welcome you as U.S. citizens," said Mayor Emmanuel.

I had the honor of delivering "congratulatory remarks" as a naturalized citizen at the ceremony and was sitting next to the mayor on stage. A total of 73 people from 26 countries became U.S. citizens that day. I had a chance to chat with Mayor Emmanuel and told him that Chicago, a city where I had spent the longest time in my life, was the place I called home.

"I'd like to see all the new citizens here today call Chicago home as you do," the Mayor replied.

I remember being moved by the Mayor's presence and talk as well as the solemn ceremony, witnessing everyone raising their arm to take the Pledge of Allegiance. I also remember the feeling of commitment, duty, and love to the USA that permeated the air. That feeling still rings true today as I read the story in the newspaper.

Despite all the fuss about building a wall to keep immigrants at bay these days and some negative rhetoric, America remains a melting pot and a country that provides opportunities for many immigrants to realize their dreams.

I came to the U.S. as a graduate student in 1986, escaping from a suppressing environment and dead end job. It took me more than a year before I finally felt the freedom I was experiencing was reality.

I remember the defining moment one day when I was walking on campus in the fall during my second year. The tall trees on campus were covered with leaves of brilliant yellow and red, and warm sunshine cast the buildings around me in a golden glow. I stopped to breathe in the refreshing air and ponder the freedom I had. Watching streams of students walk purposefully to their destinations, I came to realize that I was one of them, and could truly pursue the dream of striving to reach my potential versus restraining myself to follow orders. That was the moment I began to think I wanted to stay in this country.

I was fortunate to find a job that required my bilingual skill, first in New York City and then in Chicago. After twenty years of working in the U.S. - China trading business, and raising my daughter in the U.S., I was able to change my career and began writing, consulting on U.S. China cultural exchange programs and producing/directing music and documentary film projects. I began to realize my other long cherished dreams and pursuits.Mulberry Child, an award-winning documentary film which is based on my book of the same title was broadcast on nationwide on PBS in the month of May 2014 to 2016, reaching more than 1.5 million people. Passage to Middle Kingdom, an eight-part series program on traditional Chinese music and musical instruments that I produced as executive producer, has been distributed to radio stations in the U.S. since 2017 in 94 markets in 36 states, reaching over 1.5 million listeners. I am about to finish my debut documentary film, Art of Playboy, as a director. It is about the life and achievements of Art Paul, a legendary figure in the graphic design field, and creator of the iconic Playboy bunny logo.

I can't express enough gratitude to this great country that has adopted me and the people who have embraced and supported me on my journey. I know that we all have many hurdles to overcome in our lives, but I want to say to the new immigrants and citizens that this great country opens its arms to newcomers with ample opportunities. We as new immigrants and citizens can all start our journey, and strive to realize our dreams here.