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Bricks Sent to Congress to "Build a Border Wall" Used at Hostos Community College to Build a "Wall of Hope" and "Table of Dialogue"

Anti-Immigrant Bricks Turned to Pro-Immigrant Art Installation

The Bronx, NY – May 14, 2012 – Congressman José E. Serrano joined with Hostos Community College President Dr. Félix Matos Rodríguez, community leader Bill Aguado and artist Hatuey Ramos-Fermín on Saturday, May 12, to unveil the first part of a newly installed art feature at the Hostos Memorial Plaza. The Conversing Bricks installation, which is in the form of a “wall of hope”, is made from bricks that were sent to Members of Congress several years ago in an effort to convince them to build a wall on the U.S. – Mexico border. The bricks were collected and brought to the Bronx for use in a pro-immigrant art installation—turning their message of hate and division into one of hope and reconciliation. Soon, a “table of dialogue” art installation, made from the same bricks, will join the “Wall of Hope” in the plaza.

“I was so pleased to be invited to speak at this important community event, where we reaffirmed our commitment to immigrants’ rights, diversity, and community solidarity,” said Congressman Serrano. “This art installation takes the worst anti-immigrant messages, and turns them into the message of unity and dialogue; the best message that the immigrant-friendly Bronx has to offer. Here in the Bronx we celebrate immigrants, we defend them, we uplift them, and we welcome them. Our example—a community of immigrants and long-time citizens living together in peace and harmony—should be emulated around the nation. This ‘wall of hope’ and ‘table of dialogue’ will be a constant reminder to the Bronx and the nation as a whole that we are a country of diverse origins, and must be a place of tolerance through dialogue. I commend Hostos Community College, Bill Aguado, and artist Hatuey Ramos-Fermín for their work on this project and their dedication to the message that it contains.”

“I am grateful to Congressman José E. Serrano and William Aguado, two indefatigable leaders and friends of Hostos, for their incredible long-standing commitment and dedication to our College and our community,” said President Matos Rodriguez. “The Conversing Bricks project and art installation have a new permanent home at the Hostos Memorial Plaza thanks to their vision. At its core, the Conversing Bricks project is about reconciling controversy through dialogue and art. We welcome the local community and anyone who wants to stop by to see Conversing Bricks by artist and Hostos faculty-member Hatuey Ramos-Fermín. The bricks were going to be a wall, but now they will become a table for dialogue here in the South Bronx and Hostos is its home. I celebrate this wonderful tribute with my colleagues and with my community.”

Conversing Bricks celebrates the contributions of so many and the inherent diversity in the South Bronx community and the nation, said Bill Aguado, project director for the Conversing Bricks installation.

“A round table has no head or foot, no person who sits at it can claim a more important position than the other; thus making everyone equal, the table becomes a symbol of equality for all citizens regardless of their immigration status,”  said Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, the artist who carried out the installation.

The Conversing Bricks project emerged from a campaign waged by anti-immigrant groups that sent bricks to members of Congress who opposed the construction of a border wall between Mexico and the United States. The bricks were sent with messages like “Build a Wall,” “No to Illegals,” and “Secure our Borders.”  Of the thousands of bricks sent to Capitol Hill, 273 were donated for this project. For the past three years, community leaders worked to conceive the concept for the Around the Table: Conversing Bricks, now titled the Conversing Bricks project. The bricks are meant to become a public art installation in the form of a wall and a round table with the intention of transforming messages of hate into a site for dialogue on issues of citizenship, immigration, and human rights.

The Hostos Community College Memorial Plaza, a public gathering place for students and community members recalls and honors the passengers that died on November 12, 2001 en route to the Dominican Republic in American Airlines Flight 587. The Memorial Plaza includes a water-wall of polished granite inscribed with the names of all that perished.  Since its founding days Hostos Community College has welcomed students of all backgrounds. Community leaders felt that the Hostos Community College Memorial Plaza was the best site for the Conversing Bricks art installation.

Artist and Hostos faculty member Hatuey Ramos-Fermín was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up in Puerto Rico. He is an educator and multimedia artist. He has studied at the San Juan Art League and received his B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Puerto Rico in 2002 and an M.F.A. from St. Joost Art and Design Academy, The Netherlands, 2007. In 2008, Mr. Ramos-Fermín was a core participant of the Night School project by Anton Vidokle at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City. Hatuey is also an alumnus of the Immigrant Artist Project at New York Foundation for Arts. In 2010 he won first prize in the “other media category” from the “Show Your Impact” contest by the non-for profit organization Tech Soup, for the project “I Heart East New York,” a book created in collaboration with the Center for Urban Pedagogy and high school students from Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Ramos-Fermín was awarded a grant from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Community Arts Development Fund for the public art project Conversing Bricks.

About Hostos Community College
Eugenio María de Hostos Community College, part of The City University of New York (CUNY) system, was founded in 1968.  In addition to associate degree programs that facilitate easy transfer to CUNY’s four-year colleges or baccalaureate studies at other institutions, Hostos also has an award-winning Division of Continuing Education and Professional Studies that offers courses for professional development and certificate-bearing workforce training programs. In four decades, Hostos has grown from a class of 623 in the fall of 1970 to the spring 2012 enrollment of over 7,000 students.  The college also serves an additional 10,000 students through its Division of Continuing Education and Professional Studies. For more news and stories about Hostos Community College, visit www.hostos.cuny.edu.

Media Contact:
Ana M. Carrión - amcarrion@hostos.cuny.edu
Soldanela Rivera - srlopez@hostos.cuny.edu
Phone: 718-518-6872 or 917-627-9097


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