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Seeking Asylum Through Freedom

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Seeking Asylum Through Freedom Rachel Elise Thomas

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Seeking Asylum Through Freedom Rachel Elise Thomas

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Index 7 A R T I S T S TAT E M E N T 8 THIS IS FREEDOM HOUSE 9 10 H A L LO W E E N PA R T Y 11 12 COMMON GOAL 13 V I S I O N 14 REPUBLIC DE ANGOLA 15 G I R L TA L K 16 FRIENDS AGAIN 17 WATC H I N G C A R TO O N S 18 19 E L E C T I O N DAY 20 23 POSITIVE VIBES 24 27 THE BASICS 28 29 S TA R T I N G A N OT H E R L I F E 31 P L AY W I T H M E 32 33 AFTERNOON GAMES 34 35 E V E R Y A S Y L U M S E E K E R H A D A S TO R Y 36 37 DINNERTIME 38 39 A LO N E T I M E SEEKING ASYLUM THROUGH FREEDOM

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40 41 DINNERTIME 42 43 HOMEWORK 44 45 N AT I V E TO N G U E 46 47 C H R I S T M A S PA R T Y 48 49 MY FUTURE IS BRIGHT 50 53 LUNCHTIME 54 55 F O R G E T T H E TO R T U R E 56 SUMMER PLANS 57 A G I F T F O R YO U 58 59 NADIA HAMISSI 60 E P I LO G U E 62 65 MAMBA AND NADIA HAMISSI 67 T H A N K YO U 5

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Seeking Asylum Through Freedom Over the past few decades there has been an unsettling trend of conflict war and political uprising in various countries outside of the United States People are forced to leave their native country in search of a better life Since 1983 Freedom House Detroit has housed thousands of refugees and their families seeking asylum from the countries they re fleeing from This body of work chronicles the individuals seeking asylum and the unique circumstances which led them to Detroit Due to their pending asylum case I was not allowed to reveal their identity I believe in protecting individuals who are in the process of gaining asylum who for various reasons fled their country With this series I am demonstrating that a meaningful story can be told without revealing the subject s identity In addition to photography the residents handwriting thoughts opinions drawing etc is incorporated This gives my subjects a personality and a voice because often times the media depicts asylum seekers as a two dimensional and not as an actual person I want to empower my subjects and let them have a say in directing their own narrative 7

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Tuesday November 6 2018 On election day this particular resident was intrigued by my voting sticker I noticed that a former asylym seeker who now works with Freedom House as the shelter and client services manager also wore his She asked me if everyone who voted wore one and I told her no I explained to her that it s up to that individual whether they want to wear it or not Later on she asked to borrow my sticker I didn t mind I insisted that she take it but she planned on giving it back I noticed that she was in the corner photographing it with her phone She was sending it to someone whom I don t know Seeing me and a former asylum seeker with their visible privlege as an American citizen I couldn t help but to wonder how she viewed it and if she one day wishes to exercise that same privilege SEEKING ASYLUM THROUGH FREEDOM

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Epilogue Nadia Hamissi pictured on the previous page is a former Freedom House resident Her and her family s story began when she fled to the United Stated from Burundi It wasn t long after Nadia came to the United States that she discovered that she was pregnant with twins She arrived before her husband Mamba who was still hiding back home After two years Mamba was able to join his wife and twin girls During this complicated time the Freedom House helped immensely With the support of the staff and residents they were able to start building a new life in Detroit Michigan As they were getting back on their feet Mamba obtained a factory job This was in sharp contrast to him once having a career in marketing Dissatisfied with employment here him and Nadia both devised a plan that would ensure their hard work and commitment but wouldn t sacrifice their happiness and talents In 2018 Mamba and Nadia became one of fourteen recipients of Motor City Match a program for new and expanding businesses Through this program they were awarded 50 000 to start Baobab Fare a full service restaurant and community space featuring East African cuisine located on 6568 Woodward Ave SEEKING ASYLUM THROUGH FREEDOM

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We still have a lot of things to achieve to prove and to show because the expectation Everybody s eyes are on us how we are going to do and how we are going to achieve Maybe people think we got what we got because we are refugees we are immigrants they feel sorry for us but what we are trying to show is that we worked hard to get and to be where we are in a short time and people forget that They think that everything was easy it s not easy Mamba Nadia Hamissi 63

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From the bottom of my heart I want to thank Mamaba Nadia Hamissi for their participation Freedom House s CEO Deborah Drennan the amazing staff and the brave residents whom I ve grown to love and care about so much Without all of you this project would have been impossible We ve come so far in this journey THANK YO U 67

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Copyright 2019 by Rachel Elise Thomas All rights reserved RachelEliseThomas com RachelEliseThomas gmail com No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without permission in writing from the author The only exception is by a reviewer who may quote short excerpts in a review This book is a work of non fiction Cover and book design by Libby Bogner lb the gd com libby bogner gmail com Printed in the United States of America First Printing April 2019 SEEKING ASYLUM THROUGH FREEDOM

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