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>  Crowd-hitch a ride to explore America's new frontiers

Rose Petal Pathways

Track: Explorers
Region: West

Journeys Through Iranian America

$5,115 Raised out of $5,000
97 Supporters
-278 Days Remaining

What is your project?

Rose Petal Pathways: Journeys Through Iranian America is a foray into the work I consider my real passion: documenting the peculiarities of the Iranian-American experience.

There are millions of Iranian immigrants and their American-born children living in the United States. At a time when relations between Iranian and American political leaders may finally be thawing, we need to hear the stories of the courageous, enterprising individuals who have a foot in both worlds. With the help of a few friends, I aim to tell those stories through my project, Rose Petal Pathways: Journeys Through Iranian America.

The rose is the national flower of both Iran and the United States. Iran is a country that has seen strife, turmoil, and mass exodus in recent decades. The tragedies of modern Iran make it like a rose whose petals have blown off and scattered in a gale; the places where those petals land form paths that Iranians follow on their way out -- many to the United States.

My undertaking is organized in part by the Millennial Trains Project, which hosts this crowdfunding platform. Meeting my funding goal gets me a seat on the train; then I'll be taken on a ten-day ride from Los Angeles to Miami in March 2014. During that trip, I'll meet with Iranian families and individuals in cities across the country. Through interviews, videos, and photographs, I will compile the information that tells their stories of separation, rebirth, and triumph.


What is your perception of the future, and how does your project respond to that perception?

The present moment constitutes an easing in tensions between Iran and the United States, the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades. The durability of this detente is up for debate, but we do know it depends on which direction we choose follow: the one toward peace and love or a path that’s much more uncertain. There are things we can control and things we can’t, and we’ve got to find it in ourselves to distinguish the two, otherwise the rest of our lives on this planet will be a total mess.

Mutual understanding and freedom from fear are the key ingredients to positive outcomes between people. That's why Rose Petal Pathways is about getting to know Iranian-Americans on the individual level: if we can better understand what links Iran and the United States, we can better guess what the future holds for these two countries.


How will you use your time in each city to advance your project?

In each city, I will find Iranian-Americans and talk to them about their lives. With a network like mine, chances are I know a recent arrival or another American-born Iranian person whose cousin’s husband’s niece owns a cleaning business in Chattanooga, somebody else knows someone in Albuquerque, and so on for the other cities on the Millennial Trains Project route. I want to meet these people see how things are going. If they’re immigrants, when did they move here and why? If they were born here to immigrant parents, do they feel connected to their heritage, and how do they navigate the cultural blend they inhabit?

Imagine what the answers to these and other questions could tell us about the differences -- and similarities -- between Iran and the United States. Imagine what broadcasting these conversations could do for the spread of peace, love and tolerance across cultural and national borders. Nobody’s done a project like this on Iranian-Americans; why shouldn’t Rose Petal Pathways be the first?

If I hit a city where my network comes up short, I’ll use my time there to write, edit video, and brainstorm the next interview’s questions. There’s always my favorite activity, too: wandering the unfamiliar streets, finding inspiration for the next endeavor.


What is your project designed to accomplish?

My father left Iran in 1979 on the last plane out as the Islamic Revolution enveloped the country and deposed the ruling monarchy. That upheaval has reverberated through the Iranian psyche now for decades. He, like many of his fellow countrymen, came here to build a new life in the wake of all that; but the weight of Iran’s past, present and future hasn’t been shaken off so easily. It has changed countless lives -- and created even more. For instance, if not for the Islamic Revolution of 1979, I probably would not exist, because my father may never have come here, met my mother, and started a family.

What’s more, my parents and I are but three of millions of people like this in the United States. What about the rest of these Iranian-Americans? What are their stories? These questions affect me on a personal level, but if I find the answers, they could be helpful to other first- and second-generation Americans familiar with the unmoored sensation of living in a diaspora.

After all, the decision to leave one’s home and re-settle halfway across the world is momentous. This particular form of risk-taking is the foundation of American culture; a country of immigrants is a country of bold people indeed. That means my look at the immigrant community I come from could end up saying a lot, not just about what it means to be Iranian-American, but about what it means to be American at all.


How do you plan to share the outcome of your project and the impact of your MTP experience with others?

My method of storytelling centers on the written word. I plan to take portraits of my subjects and the cities they call home, but these images will serve to bolster the essays and stories that result from each interview. In the end, I’ll have a multimedia piece of journalism to share with my supporters on the lives, hardships, and joys of the Iranians I’ll meet across the country.

But there’s also the train ride itself. Follow me on this trip and your social media feed will blow up with crazy/fun snippets of my cross-country adventure. You’ll be privy to the most unique experience yet of my life, and you can bet your data plan I won’t waste the opportunity on a barrage of uninventive selfies. From Twitter to Instagram to Snapchat to my blog, follow me and you’ll get article links, sick pics, off-the-wall observations, and quirky hashtags galore. Don't underestimate me; I once rode a giant rabbit in an empty Arizona town.

We live on thousands of miles of beautiful, majestic land, and I’ll be giving ten full days over to it and to sharing the artistic impulses it inspires. Come be a part of it!


February 10, 2014 - Crunch time!

It's crunch time! As one last hurrah in support of the campaign, I am hosting a dance party on Friday night (Valentine's Day) at the Iranian-owned Zeba Bar in Washington, DC. The Facebook event page is here: Be My Iranian Valentine. All are welcome and I anticipate a good mix of people, including a mix of Middle East/Iran policy types. Please join us!