Annabelle’s Story: “She said to me, ‘This is your day. You pass.’ And I started to cry.”

Annabelle's Story

About the Encounter

“The [immigration officer] said, ‘Well, you’re applying for your citizenship. I’m just going to ask you a few questions.’ She had a stack of books like this on her desk for me. She asked me, ‘Name one of the longest rivers.’ And I said the Missouri River. She said, ‘Who votes for the president?’ I said, ‘Citizens 18 and older,’ like we were having a little chat. And she said, ‘Oh you planned for this! You know it all!’ I said, ‘Yes ma’am.’ And she said to me, ‘This is your day. You pass.’ And I started to cry.”

Annabelle, age 61, immigrated from Jamaica to Canada in 1992 and from Canada to the U.S. in 2003

About the Seeing Immigrants Series:

From the time she was a medical student, Joanna Sharpless has been collecting immigration stories to learn more about the struggles and celebrations of being an immigrant in America. For a social medicine project undertaken during residency, she combined excerpts from interviews with a half-dozen of her immigrant patients with photographs of these immigrants holding something of importance to them. Three of these photos and excerpts are presented here. More will be featured in a later issue of Pulse. All of these photos and excerpts are exhibited at the family health center where Dr. Sharpless saw patients during her residency–in the hopes of creating a welcoming atmosphere for current and future immigrants. For Joanna Sharpless’s own story of her interest in immigrants, see “My Immigrant Patients.”

About the Encounters Project

The Encounters Project began in the summer of 2017 as a collaboration between Pulse visuals editor Sara Kohrt and two medical students from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Kristen Lee and Erin McCoy. The three photographed and interviewed patients who attend a family health center in the Bronx. Patients were asked to talk about their healthcare experiences, to share stories about their lives outside the clinic walls and to reflect on how these two worlds affect each other.


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