Sing Out Strong: Immigrant Voices Prologue September 20

A Life of Honor
Text by Rute Pires
Music by Shuying Li

I am going to tell the whole world my story
It is also my grandmother’s story
Vovo was eleven when she sold fruits, wood and peanuts
On the streets of Cape Verde
She was forty-six when she went to school

Vovo helped me decide to move to America
To leave my family
The brightness of my beautiful colorful country
And the smell of the fantastic Djagacida and Cachupa
Coming from our kitchen’s chimney

“Nha neta, my grandchild
Each stone you meet on your way
Take it with you.
At the end you will build a castle
With those stones that you carried on your back.
Un dia bu ta vence.”

Life Changes
Text by Joel Louis
Music by Jorge Sosa

I was in Haiti
I got a high school diploma
A certificate in construction and electricity

My life changed when I came to the United States of America
I had to learn English
I got a job at WAHLBURGER
I leave early to take the bus and a train
To get to work on time
Monday though Sunday, from morning to night
I don’t have time to go to church

In the end, I live my life and realize my goals.

The Big Deception
Text by Irene Da Silva and Ivete Souza, adapted by Cerise Jacobs
Music by Oliver Caplan

The letter said, “You are approved
For a green card
Go back to Rio for your interview
And get your green card.”

I bought my mother a round trip ticket
To Rio and back to Boston
I put her on the plane to Brazil
To get her green card

The American embassy man in Rio said,
“You overstayed your visitor’s visa
You can’t go back to America for ten years.”

But she was approved for a green card
We didn’t know she had to renew
Her visitor’s visa

But the letter said
I was to come to get my green card
I’m seventy-nine
My family is in America
How will I survive by myself?

We believed what the letter said
We believed what the government said

“We don’t care about you,” he said.
“Don’t care, don’t care, don’t care”

I am guilty
I bought my mother that ticket
I put her on that plane
I sent her into exile

I waited it out
Year after year after year
Alone in one room
With a small fan
Sometimes the temperatures
Reached over 100 degrees
Sometimes we had no running water

I sent money every month
For a girl to help my mother
To buy her medicines
And her food

I gave up hope
My heart cracked open
I would die
Without seeing my children
Or grandchildren whom I raised

The grandchildren she raised
Had children of their own
Who grew up never knowing
Their great grandmother, their Biza

I told my neighbors
“Don’t tell my daughter I’m sick
Sick with grief, sick for the baby smell
Of great grandchildren I’ve never met
When I die, call my daughter
Ask her for money to bury me”

I gave her an iPad
To help her live
I Facetimed her every night
For ten years, we never missed a night
I had to keep her alive!

I/She returned to America
When I/she was 89 years old
My name is Irene Da Silva/Ivete Souza

I hope to make up for lost time
The cracks in my heart
A forever reminder of separation
And the importance of family

We are survivors