Thankful For Immigrants: Manolo Mesa paints Unity, Equality, and Inclusion in Pennsylvania

Tomorrow the US marks the Thanksgiving holiday, our great non-religious gathering of families and friends that most people enjoy precisely because of its non-sectarian foundation. We break bread together and celebrate in a spirit of gratitude our brotherhood, sisterhood, goodwill, and the harvest.

Manolo Masa. “About The Community”. For SSJ Neighborhood Network. Erie, Pensylvania. November 2019. (photo © Iryna Kanishkeva)

For us at BSA, we’ll probably be thinking about this new wall in Pennsylvania that openly celebrates the many nationalities who live together here in relative harmony day after day, somehow building a sense of community despite our cultural differences.

Manolo Masa. “About The Community”. For SSJ Neighborhood Network. Erie, Pensylvania. November 2019. (photo © Iryna Kanishkeva)

Says the mural organizer Iryna Kanishcheva, “We managed to bring together a wonderful group of neighborhood residents, portraying a huge hug made up of all their ethnicities and ages.”

Initially drawn to the Rust Belt for jobs in industry and to escape famine, war, and economic disaster, the immigrants who first established the neighborhoods in this town of Erie were German, Polish and Irish. Later, some Greek and Russian. Today the new residents have been arriving from Bhutan, Syria, Iraq, the Congo, Somalia, Bosnia, Ukraine, Eritrea, and Liberia. Each immigrant story is uniquely theirs, and each uniquely American as it weaves with the stories of neighbors.

Manolo Masa. “About The Community”. For SSJ Neighborhood Network. Erie, Pensylvania. November 2019. (photo © Iryna Kanishkeva)

The question you may ask is “How do you say ‘Thanksgiving’ in all these new dialects in this town; The most common now are Nepali, Arabic, Swahili, French, Somali, Bosnian, Ukrainian, Russian, Tigrinya, and French- along with the existing vestiges of  German and Polish from earlier waves of immigrants.

Spanish Street Artist Manolo Mesa took his new photographic mural project quite seriously under the guidance of the folks at The Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network and asked for the most inclusive group of locals to gather to represent the current character of the city.”We gathered a group of neighbors, he took some pictures, and within a few days, the mural emerged.”   

Manolo Masa. “About The Community”. For SSJ Neighborhood Network. Erie, Pensylvania. November 2019. (photo © Iryna Kanishkeva)

“Each of these people feel proud of where they come from, live together and belong to their neighborhood,” the artist says on his Instagram page. “This Mural would not have been possible without you. A big hug.”

Manolo Masa. “About The Community”. For SSJ Neighborhood Network. Erie, Pensylvania. November 2019. (photo © Iryna Kanishkeva)
Manolo Masa. “About The Community”. For SSJ Neighborhood Network. Erie, Pensylvania. November 2019. (photo © Iryna Kanishkeva)
Manolo Masa. “About The Community”. For SSJ Neighborhood Network. Erie, Pensylvania. November 2019. (photo © Iryna Kanishkeva)
Manolo Masa. “About The Community”. For SSJ Neighborhood Network. Erie, Pensylvania. November 2019. (photo © Manolo Masa)
Manolo Masa. “About The Community”. For SSJ Neighborhood Network. Erie, Pensylvania. November 2019. (photo © Iryna Kanishkeva)

Artist: Manolo Mesa @manolo_mesaMural title:  About the Community  
Curator: Iryna Kanishcheva
Photographs: Iryna Kanishcheva 
Commissioned by SSJ Neighborhood Network

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