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  • Arielle Nobile

What does the phrase "Belonging in the USA" mean to you?

Updated: Jun 17

I realize that when some people hear the phrase "Belonging in the USA" it might not evoke what it does for me. That's part of why at every screening we've hosted of our first film in the trilogy we've asked audiences to answer the question, "What does the phrase "Belonging in the USA" evoke for you?

As someone who asks thought provoking questions for a living, I feel like the juice is in the question asking, the curiosity, not the answers, however...

I thought I'd let you in on what I say whenever I get the chance to speak about this idea of Belonging in the USA and the impulse to create this series in the first place. Now that I am currently living part of the time on another continent, the phrase causes me to bristle even more. It started as a sort of inside joke with myself.

As far as I see it, the whole world is represented in the USA. According to a 2020 PEW research study (which I just now googled as I write this for all of you who love data), "just about every country in the world [is] represented among US immigrants." That's what I suspected when I came up with this idea.

It seems ludicrous to say that some people belong and some people don't since essentially we've got the whole world here within US borders. I was raised to be a global citizen, and it seems like when thinking of global citizenship belonging becomes a natural extension. I also know that I am an idealist and that my various identities allow me to be so.

I know that there are people from the beginning of the colonizing of the land we call USA who were not only told they don't belong but were murdered by the millions. I know that there were other people who were kidnapped and brought to the US against their will and forced to work as slaves for centuries. I know that there are refugees who seek exile in the US today because it is their last hope/best option among a world ravaged by war, climate disasters, and overarching inequity and injustice.

So, it's complicated this notion of belonging here. The US is a place that people from all over the world live in or exist within but not everyone feels a sense of belonging here, especially in this moment when so many people from so many identities are being openly told they do not belong, and should not even exist.

Here are some of my all-time favorite answers we got at our very first rough-cut screening back in February 2018:

A collective feeling that does not depend on status, class, race, credentialing or other disenfranchising factors. Belonging is access to the public square and the public conversation. It is listening and being heard by honorable measure. At a minimum it is the absence of human caging.

Well, I ask the question who really belongs in the USA? Don’t we all. There are so many people & so many stories. How did we all get here & why? It’s such an incredible concept...the USA. Bringing the world together in this country & creating something new.

A feeling of inclusion or not being included.

It makes me think about the idea that some people feel some people do not belong here, unfortunately. But I also love the word “belonging” in general because I think we have an innate desire to belong.

It makes me reflective of the people who are treated right now as not belonging.

I like the sound of it. It makes me think and I’m intrigued.

It evokes feelings of diversity, division, and frustration.

So what do you think?

What does it evoke for you?

When you hear the phrase, "Belonging in the USA", what rises up in you?

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