The Only Reason

[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #11 in July 2010]

The giant red sculpture in Chicago’s Federal Plaza is a piece called Flamingo by Alexander Calder. On most days, this public square designed by Mies van der Rohe is not particularly active. But on May Day in 2006, it was filled with thousands of protestors during a pro-immigration rally, part of a national movement sparked in late 2005 to protest against HR 4437, The Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act. The buzz of human activity served as a beautiful counterpoint to the traditional public art represented by the Calder sculpture. Federal Plaza became a physical site transformed into a social framework.

Around this time, I found a calling card made by the KKK in the 1970s, in a book about propaganda design. It said:

The Only Reason You Are


Today Is Because Your

Ancestors Believed and Practiced


I decided to make my own version of the card to show the connection between the current immigration movement and earlier civil rights concerns. It wasn’t that long ago that being Black or being a woman also meant you did not hold equal legal status with other Americans. The immigrant rights movement and the gay rights movement are a continuation of civil rights struggles.

Card : The Only reason you are a citizen today...

Like the titles claimed by hip-hop icons Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore, I am appropriating language and transforming it into an alternative mode of resistance. The physical gesture of trading a business card is minuscule compared to the grounded metal bird in Federal Plaza. It’s a simple piece of paper, but a business card is a tool that helps people connect with one another.

This image is my alteration of the KKK calling card, intended to be distributed as a print multiple. This piece creates an opportunity for dialogue inspired by the ambitions and failures of traditional resistance tactics. The immigration movement that energized in 2006 continues today, and since that time this card has served as a way for me to initiate conversation about an issue that’s important to the future of our culture. ◊

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