In the Bronx
Unveiling Pro-Immigrant Art Made from Anti-Immigrant Bricks
Jose Serrano’s Newsletter reports
Last Saturday, Congressman Serrano joined Hostos Community College President Dr. Félix Matos Rodríguez, community leaders, and artist Hatuey Ramos-Fermín to unveil a the first part of a newly installed art feature at the Hostos Memorial Plaza. The Conversing Bricks installation, which is in the form of a “wall of hope”, is made from bricks that were sent to Members of Congress several years ago in an effort to convince them to build a wall on the U.S. – Mexico border. The bricks were collected and brought to the Bronx for use in a pro-immigrant art installation—turning their message of intolerance and division into one of hope and reconciliation. Soon, a “table of dialogue” art installation, made from the same bricks, will join the “Wall of Hope” in the plaza.
“I was so pleased to be invited to speak at this important community event, where we reaffirmed our commitment to immigrants’ rights, diversity, and community solidarity,” said Congressman Serrano. “This art installation takes the worst anti-immigrant messages, and turns them into the message of unity and dialogue; the best message that the immigrant-friendly Bronx has to offer. Here in the Bronx we celebrate immigrants, we defend them, we uplift them, and we welcome them. Our example—a community of immigrants and long-time citizens living together in peace and harmony—should be emulated around the nation. This ‘wall of hope’ and ‘table of dialogue’ will be a constant reminder to the Bronx and the nation as a whole that we are a country of diverse origins, and must be a place of tolerance through dialogue. I commend Hostos Community College, Bill Aguado, and artist Hatuey Ramos-Fermín for their work on this project and their dedication to the message that it contains.”
“A round table has no head or foot, no person who sits at it can claim a more important position than the other; thus making everyone equal, the table becomes a symbol of equality for all citizens regardless of their immigration status,” said Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, the artist who carried out the installation.
The Conversing Bricks project emerged from a campaign waged by anti-immigrant groups that sent bricks to members of Congress who opposed the construction of a border wall between Mexico and the United States. The bricks were sent with messages like “Build a Wall,” “No to Illegals,” and “Secure our Borders.” Of the thousands of bricks sent to Capitol Hill, 273 were donated for this project. For the past three years, community leaders worked to conceive the concept for Around the Table: Conversing Bricks, now shortened to simply, Conversing Bricks. The bricks are meant to become a public art installation in the form of a wall and a round table with the intention of transforming messages of intolerance into a site for dialogue on issues of citizenship, immigration, and human rights.
The Hostos Community College Memorial Plaza, a public gathering place for students and community members recalls and honors the passengers that died on November 12, 2001 en route to the Dominican Republic in American Airlines Flight 587. The Memorial Plaza includes a water-wall of polished granite inscribed with the names of all that perished. Since its founding days Hostos Community College has welcomed students of all backgrounds. Community leaders felt that the Hostos Community College Memorial Plaza was the best site for the Conversing Bricks art installation.
Ramos-Fermín was awarded a grant from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Community Arts Development Fund for the public art project Conversing Bricks.