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Yearning to Breathe Free

Emma Lazarus is one of 6 women whose extraordinary life stories I tell through what I know, jewelry design. My 2018 collection in the Extraordinary Women Series : Women of Freedom, illustrates their contributions to FREEDOM. Celebrated or controversial, these women made enough noise to be heard. Read Emma’s story here.

As the daughter of an immigrant, poet Emma Lazarus knew what Lady Liberty would say to those who felt their children were safer in a boat on the ocean than on the soil of their birthplace. Lazarus spoke for those fleeing oppression and lack of opportunity, those who sought a better quality of life for themselves and their families.

“Give me...your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

This pendant, designed in the spirit of our national symbol of welcome and freedom, helps remind us of the standard of our core American values. It speaks of the moral code guiding how we treat newcomers to our shores. I believe Lazarus would agree that the heart of a country is illustrated not through what we do to keep others OUT but by how we treat the...

...“tired and the poor...the homeless, tempest-tost”

‘Freedom’ means something different to each of us and thus is a very personal and intimate concept. For as broad as our opinions about its meaning are, one thing we all seem to agree on is that freedom is worth fighting for. We All Need Freedom.

Freedom is worth speaking up for. Worth flexing our courage to step out of the fuzzy warmth of neutrality and take a side. Its either that or end up an accomplice since neutrality/silence has never helped the oppressed. Ever. I dare you to give me an example where it did.

So that made me wonder, why do we care so much about being free that we’d give our lives for it? I looked up every definition of FREEDOM but none felt personal enough to me, none fit my own intimate circumstances. So my first conclusion was that freedom IS what it means to you. The first Freedom is the right to define Freedom.

I am a maker of things. I use creative license to express myself through the things I make and I am free to use any means to do so. To be free means I can be my authentic self. I think we all feel that ‘Freedom of Expression’ has always been a basic notion of our country. I believe authentic expression is a key ingredient in great art, groundbreaking science, soul stirring music and literature. An artist creates a life-a future-from nothing but a dream.

By this definition, my second conclusion is that all immigrants are artists. Creating a future from nothing but a dream.

I know that I am only a few generations from my own immigrant roots. Both my grandmother and grandfathers fathers came here from Norway. I asked my grandmother once why she did not speak Norwegian any more. I was very young but I remember her face very clearly as she told me that to fit in with the other children, to be a part of their community, she adopted everything American. This never meant surrendering her heritage (no lefsa? NEVER!) but inclusion in the community was imperative to her. Their small Minnesota town was a collection of social circles with strong relationships between families, neighbors, merchants and workers. Our young country was a collection of these social circles. It doesn’t take deep wisdom to see the foundational strength in these circles.

My grandma was an American and was honored to be one. She regarded herself as fortunate. In my minds eye, I can see her face full of dignity. Her parents were free to create a life in the image of their idea, their be Americans. They were artists of their own life.

In eventuality, it doesn’t matter where you come from. Unless you are a Native American Indian, you are not from here. Somewhere back on that road, you came from somewhere else and your people became our people.

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