Surviving and Thriving: The Immigrant Experience of Venice Ishibashi

"Whatever you do in life, be respectful and humble. 'Pray answers all things.' No matter what, God answers prayer."

The Immigrant Experience and Pursuing the American Dream

How do you feel being an immigrant/child of an immigrant impacted what you saw as career possibilities?

As an immigrant I had dreams, but they were far away, so I stayed heavily focused on work and earning my keeps getting a job and making money which is part of the immigrant story. I had to figure out my survival story at all cost. Going to church is the immigrant way of life, as well as upholding the importance of God. Immigrants will continue to come to the United States of America and risk it all because they/we/I believe that this country can make our dreams possible.

Do you feel the Black American experience is different than the experience of Black Immigrants? 

The Black American experience is indeed different from the Black immigrant experience: immigrants will do any job that pays, even when the pay does not reflect the workload or nature. In comparison, black Americans will not take on certain jobs moreover to work for less than minimum wage. Also, immigrants do not have a voice in the local and presidential elections, and Black Americans do, yet some choose not to exercise that right. Not having the same rights as Black Americans gave me the drive to survive, so I had a better understanding and appreciation of the need to succeed, especially when I saw people doing things I could not do due to my status. Yes, as an immigrant, it hindered me from accomplishing certain things, pursuing my dreams, have a say in who makes decisions in my community, but I was more determined to survive. Therefore, I told myself that I could do this on my own because my mother taught me that I must work for what I want. There is no handout.

What was the goal for you? What helped to drive you to your accomplishments?

When I came to America, my goal was to live the American dream: to get a job, become a U.S. citizen and own a house. I had a wake-up call when I became a single mother and could hardly provide for my kids because I did not have an education. I went back to school in my late 30s, failed my GED four times, and graduated with two degrees, a minor, and with honors. I went on to get a master’s degree in a year, without student loans, thanks to working as a grad assistant and financial aid.

Were there any rules of thumb or sayings repeated to you in your childhood that you live by to this very day?

Absolutely! My parents would always say, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat,” meaning you need to work for what you want in this life. “Manners will take you around the world even if you don’t have an education” Whatever you do in life, be respectful and humble. “Pray answers all things.” No matter what, God answers prayer.

 Pick three theme songs for your life. One for childhood, one for when you just entered the working world, and what’s your current theme song?

The song from my childhood is Everything’s Gonna Be Alright by Bob Marley. The first time I heard that song as a child in the mid of my struggle, I believed every word of that song that everything was going to be alright. The song for the working world is Hope by Shaggy. This song was relatable and to never give up hope. Lastly, my current theme song is, This is me by Keala Settle. Today, I am experiencing the American dream, and I can be anything I want to become.

Did you know that by being who you are and pursuing your aspirations, you would be helping to write the following chapters of Black History? How does that make you feel?

I never thought my story could be a chapter of Black History. All my family and I wanted was a way out of poverty and a place that would allow us to dream and make that dream a reality. Today I am a proud American Citizen, and I am still having new dreams and watching them become a reality. That makes me so proud to say I am an American.

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