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Bahekelwa Imatha FaithAction board member

Bahekelwa Imatha FaithAction board member

• When I came [to the US] I came on a student visa. There was a need to adjust my visa when there were changes in my country — I was looking to go back [to the DR Congo] but there was a war going on. Initially I didn’t intend to [become an American citizen]. Legally I can have this right because I have this paper… but the identity is different from what you have legally. I feel it’s still difficult to break through and since it’s difficult, I still feel external.

• To adjust to the American country, it’s not easy for many people, especially in my case. We speak French in my country. I have an accent and people ask me all the time, “Where are you from?” It makes it difficult to feel accepted.

• I remember when I was in the Midwest, a man who was from Romania. You could see how painful it was for him to be away from his family. He was 70 and working in a factory. In his country he had a vineyard and lots of properties but the Communists took it. Some people were very well respected and when they come here they feel like they lost the respect they had.

Brandon “BEAST” Nehilla Musician

• It’s a matter of taking pride in ones self and ones abilities. If we as Americans would see that in ourselves there would be a lot less blame placed on government. In my family, the military is a tradition, and I saw the military as an opportunity for me.

• America is awesome in its ideologies. America is the land of opportunities. I really feel like the sky is the limit here. • [The Fourth of July] is kind of a family day for me. I guess you would call it the typical homegrown American Fourth of July. Fireworks, family, beer. We’ll probably go out to Morehead City and visit with family out there.

Nehilla served in the US Army.

Casie Hammons Development and agency operations manager, Experiment in Self-Reliance

• Being an American for me is having equal opportunity to choose, whether that’s quality education or affordable healthcare or financial stability, but just having that opportunity to make that choice as an individual, as opposed to that choice being made for me.

• I think one of the most important things for me is having the option to disagree with others without fear. I may not agree with everything that my peers think or even in terms of politics, but I can disagree without fear.

• Being free and independent as a woman and being in a senior leadership role at a nonprofit is quite amazing and fascinating because I wouldn’t have this ability to do the same sorts of things in other countries, so that’s really important to me as well, and knowing that one day when I have my own children they’ll have those same luxuries afforded to them.

John Davis Co-Owner of Mack and Mack boutique in Greensboro

• There is no American who is not an immigrant. Even the Native Americans migrated here. It took a long time for this part of the world to become popular with humans. And now everyone wants to live here. I certainly do, even while our leaders bicker over who can do the most for the powerful few. America isn’t always pretty, especially when the ones who have theirs want to pull up the ladder behind them. But I’ve behaved badly myself at times and I try to learn from those memories to become better. That’s what keeps up my hopes for America. Collective memory may be short, but human nature inclines toward the common good.

Toshi Yoshida Proprietor Toshi’s Café, Greensboro

• I have had a Green Card now for 10 years. After five I could apply for citizenship. • I believe the American people, they understand: Freedom is not free. That’s the difference between Japan and here. • Japan lost a war. After that, the United States forced us into a democracy. We enjoy the political system so far, but lots of people there are selfish — they think freedom is free, but they lost a war to get it. The idea of freedom came from the US.

Charla Duncan NYU graduate student

• It’s really easy to spout off the virtues of our nation or the motifs that are instilled in our childhood selves, but at the same time for me it is hard to ignore that this country is kind of rife with a history of civil unrest.

• I have a duty to respect the freedoms and resources I have access to in this country, and it also means that I have an obligation to acknowledge that despite how we often extol our freedoms there is often still an amount of corruption and oppression. I also feel like as an American I have a responsibility to acknowledge my own privileges in society and to use the resources that are in my reach to provide a different quality of life than what is available to most humans.

• I wouldn’t change where I am from… I think I feel patriotic. Place is very important to me. Do I fly an American flag? No, and sometimes I don’t put my hand over my heart for “The Star Spangled Banner.” I just don’t identify with those sorts of things.

• I don’t normally identify as American but I have a very strong identity with being a Southern American. A lot of my quintessential ideas are stemming from a Southern heritage. This summer for example I really wanted to come home from New York so I could sit on a front porch all day.

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