Liberty’s Burden, When Can We Set The Statue Free?

President_Reagan_giving_speech_on_the_Centennial_of_the_Statue_of_Liberty,_Governor's_Island,_New_York,_1986
The Statue of Liberty is stunning. As an engineer and an artist, I marvel. However, as a Person of Color and an immigrant, it holds an extraordinarily duplicitous distinction for me.

She is America’s grand chef,  adding diverse ingredients to her melting pot, dishing out a bowl of “welcome” to those who would brave her shores.  However, as a Person of Color in America, experiencing a clouded confluence of historical and racial factors, and divergent realities, this beautifully aged  sculpture shifts form, from the cooper embodiment of freedom to a garish specter of political expedience. A tool opposing the freedom she once represented.

Her sight produces a tumultuous and unsettling feeling in me.

Every politician gets a piece, pimping her out to sell their message. ‘Merica. They’ve turned her out for political gain. When does her servitude end? How far is her release?

On my last trip to NYC, I got a chance to visit her and pen the following:

Liberty’s Burden

Cemented on an island of slaves,
Where she learned to behave,
Trading silence for a Green Card,
Walled Streets keep her etched message at bay.
Cries of freedom from asphalt fields,
Where my brokered ancestors were lost in trade,
Behind the concrete mountainside,
Where Garner died,
He choked on freedom, her Blue defenders say.

When my shrouded azure eyes,
Expressed themselves in my daughters’ DNA,
Revealed a shared story of violation, that we hide,
an unspoken secret of the modern slave.
The promises I make to her in trade,
for coinage and salvation
Stained Greenbacks from a lying nation,
Celestial acres and a mule,
Trumpet a metaphorical revelation,
that the Verdigris master who we idealize,
is herself, a slave.

Unspoken endorsement of sacred text sustaining our oppression,
Imposing the artificial borders that restrict our connection,
Unable to scream about our lives’ intersection,
She enforces her master’s series of “distinguished” restrictions.
From constitutional fallacies to dogmatic lies,
Eliciting fear of the commonality we call humanity.
While othering the nonconforming profiles of anyone not White,
Cis-Gendered, and Christian,
Success that is mostly chattel driven,
As the Overseer binding free speech to inaction, restriction.

“Give me your tired”, they’ve been here I say,
But address the innocence you’ve allowed slain in His name.
Torching morality, telling me I am complicit,
because I do not listen,
Lying by omission,
That we are a Nation that always refuses,
from civil war to civil rights,
we have died undoing your Master’s Restrictions.

Can we set free the one slave that America’s Beast would save to maintain the unraveling shroud of progress, she once represented to “some”?
Evidence her crown’s debasement into talking points for politicians,
Now a galvanized symbol of our accepted restriction,
Then strip away rays from her pluralistic benediction,
Until the day, we all bear the torch of her lost mission.

Marie, one day you shall be free.


Note: Marie Bartholdi is the person the Statue was modeled.

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Liberty’s Burden, When Can We Set The Statue Free?

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