“I’m the Map” by Connor Grim, at Freedom Tower MOAD
I stick out in Miami. Contrary to Orlando, my home city, Miami and its surrounding metropolitan area is a place where an innumerable amount of cultures come into contact; my home city is a place full of chain restaurants and Americanized individuals- neither of which is inherently a bad thing. I am very much a product of that kind of society, being a white man whose family has been in the states for as long as we can trace back. Because of this, I stuck out at the Freedom Tower as well. I do not believe, however, that this affected my appreciation for the building and its significance. Although I could not relate to the thousands who emigrated into the city through the tower nor the children who were scattered across the nation, I was able to feel it.
What I felt at the tower is paralleled by what I felt my first year at FIU: Real people belonging to authentic, living cultures that I had only heard references of or seen in media. Of course I have met non-white, non-hispanicLITE people before in my life, but through interacting with those cultural contexts on a daily basis and seeking to know people at a deeper level, I was put onto the weight their cultural context played in their identity. It’s the same for those involved in the freedom tower, whether it was the cultures that inspired its architecture, those who were processed into the states through it, or the creators and subjects of the various cultural artifacts throughout the exhibition, such as a few early maps of Florida.
In these maps I found a past version of myself, one who only had a rough idea of the cultural landscape present in the states. Just as the early Europeans, I know Florida better through exploration. I do hope to bring less disease and racism along with me, though.