In some countries, with a defined nationality, citizenship can be acquired by being born in that specific territory or obtaining papers or papeles. Other citizenship policies may include going through an educational process and then pledging one’s allegiance in front of the national flag, marrying a citizen of that country, or obtaining a green card or dual citizenship. One can also contribute socially and economically to that country for at least 10 years as another possibility. Even under President Nana Akufo-Addo, Ghana has implemented repatriation policies that allow Black Americans and Caribbeans to become citizens. However, in other countries, one can never obtain citizenship regardless of one’s positive economic and social impact to the government’s structure. 

Being a citizen in that defined country and following the defined policies, laws, and rules can make one feel part of that bordered land mass. But does that still promote isolationism?  Do we disconnect from other territories because we are a citizen of another? Do our decisions, followed by actions, not only impact our neighbors in the land we call home, but also the lands divided by the oceans, the rivers, and the seas? Through the Critical Global Citizenship Educational Program (CGCEP) PIF grant and the collaborative efforts of ASLT, Social Science/ Creative Arts, Language Arts, CTTL, and Media Services, Skyline College Library hosted an interactive exhibit and three events to challenge the narrow perspective of citizenship and understand its impact globally.   

From March 1st until March 31st, the Library hosted the interactive traveling exhibit “The Newest American,” where the library’s event wall displayed the framed pictures of peoples from various ethnic, cultural, and gender backgrounds who became new United States citizens. Under each picture was a written bio detailing their collective journey. Connected to the exhibit was the interactive table display that posed the questions:

  • What does citizenship mean to you?
  • What is your story or your family’s story of citizenship?
  • Given your family history of migrating to the U.S., what do you consider to be your citizenship?

In answer to “what does citizenship mean to you,” one student wrote “civic engagement,” and another wrote “rights and responsibilities to others.” One of our older students shared her journey about coming to the U.S. undocumented and then later marrying. She continued to note, “For me, getting the citizenship is an achievement and establishes who I am here and what I have done!”

Pia Walawalkar, Librarian and Equity and Outreach Coordinator, Rachel Cunningham, Geography Professor, and Rob Williams, Professor of English & Creative Writing, hosted the in-person screening of Wasted: The Story of Food Waste on March 13th, the virtually screening of Bitter Seeds on March 14th, and the virtual panel discussion on March 15th. Wasted: The Story of Food Waste examines ways to repurpose “ugly” produce and food waste to lower the impact of greenhouse gases and landfills. Bitter Seeds is a documentary that follows Manjusha Amberwar, who becomes an investigative reporter after her father, a farmer, committed suicide in her village. She journeys to seek the truth behind the vicious cycle of farmers being pushed to invest in expensive GMO cotton seeds from the United States company Monsanto.  These GMO seeds continue to cause ecosystem imbalances, land depletion, and poorer harvests, leading to farmers committing suicide after losing their farms due to this investment. And to

culminate the three-day events, the virtual panel discussion about the meaning of citizenship and challenging one to rethink oneself as a global citizen while questioning, “Can citizenship only be defined by the Western culture, or can it be active in including the world?”

Thinking outside our singular perspective and understanding how our decisions in buying materials to house, cloth, feed, and transport oneself do impact the global relationships and resources of those residing communities. Citizenship is more than the bordered territory that the government has declared you a legal resident. Citizenship is residing in a governed territory while understanding the interconnectedness of the territories that are governed outside yours. We are world citizens. If we each just take the time to rethink our consumption and disposal of resources, coupled with the continued minute actions to reduce our negative footprint where we live, the world collective can replenish natural resources and breathe new life to used materials while strengthening our relationship one global community at a time.

This project would not be possible without the generous PIF grant and the collective efforts of Pia Walawalkar, Rob Williams, Rachel Cunningham, Gabriela Nocito (Director of the Learning Commons), Ricardo Flores (CTTL Instructional Technologist), Josh Porter (Media Services Coordinator), Sherri Wyatt (Instructional Aide II), student assistants Harry Tun and Waine Louie, and the other faculty and staff who incorporated this project into their lesson plans. Thank you, Interim Chancellor Dr. Melissa Moreno and Vice President of Instruction Vinicio Lopez, for sharing your passion about seeing ourselves as global citizens.  Also, thank you to our panelists Lucia Lachmayr, Steven Mayers, Oscar Ramos, Nooshan Shekarabi, and Gabriel Thompson who all took time out of their busy schedules to educate our attendees on what active global citizenship means and providing examples of what it looks like. 

As Interim Chancellor Dr. Moreno stated during March 15th panel discussion, “Skyline College strives to maintain the four pillars that are centered around students’ success: anti-racism, participatory governess, climate review, and civic mindset.” If you missed these events, please click the links to The Newest American website and picture collection, as well as the March 15th Panel Discussion. Stay tuned for the next Skyline College Library events during the month of April as we celebrate National Poetry Month.

Article and Photo by Sherri Wyatt

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