Harvard FIG Magazine recently sat down with student Fariba Mahmud and interviewed her on how Pavé The Way® Jewelry pieces resonate with her style and story. Read her full Q&A below:

Can you tell me what you see as the American dream?

The American Dream has been something deeply personal to me from an early age. Being a child of immigrants, I’ve always seen myself as a product of the American Dream, with my parents coming to this country with hopes for a better life filled with opportunity for themselves and their family. Because of them and their sacrifice, I have always cherished the American dream. But I think the way that I think and have come to understand it has evolved. Rather than an individual dream that is typically available to those with privilege or luck, I now see the dream more collectively. 

As I have come to college, I think part of me has become less enamored by the American Dream. It’s a concept that I really admired when I was in high school, and something that I thought America could strive to live up to, but as I have come to understand the American Dream more, I am less sure it can and should. In college, I’ve seen different aspects of the American Dream that I probably hadn’t previously, such as the economic ways in which it’s politicized by the government to act as a tool to further oppress marginalized communities and the lack of access people have to opportunities that will allow them to dream such as citizenship and laws. In this way, the American Dream is not only a tool that is used to give hope but a tool that has been used oppressively and been denied from many. 

Because of this, I’ve come to question whether people can have a good definition of the American Dream or if they are even able to dream in the first place, if underneath all of these dreams  there exists these nightmares. 

Even using the word “American,” for instance; is limiting. It is unclear if that encompasses everyone in the US or all the Americas, or if it is limited to US citizens or US residents. Not only is the term “American” nebulous, with no clear definition of what it is, but I also question why the dream is limited to just “Americans.” However, I am hesitant to prescribe the American Dream and the want of the American Dream onto others and other places.

It does seem important to change- especially because the American dream is so often specifically capitalist and about the family and the white picket fence. I like what you’re saying about not wanting to place that on other places– we assume its the ideal, but does it have to be? 

I think we need to reimagine what the American Dream is in the United States. And I think that it is a collective imagining that needs to be done, not by people in power, but by communities and specifically marginalized communities in the United States. That doesn’t necessarily need to be done by “Americans.” But I think we need to better identify what that dream is. Because that dream is different for everyone. It’s not just the heteronormative, white picket fence dream. It’s so different depending on where you are in the US, who you are, what your identity is, what your family looks like, whether you want a family like that or you want community, and I think like that idea of a family with a really good dog and a white picket fence, a house, like even that itself is already so much. Not everyone wants to do that. And I don’t think we need to force that upon anyone.

This sounds like so much self determination. Seems like such a nice thing to allow one to be able to dream individually as opposed to choosing from some option A to D.

I think it’s more about dreaming, and practicing community care because I think it’s hard for American dreams to even be able to occur without practicing and acknowledging the harm that the idea of the American dream has caused. And I think these dreams are so often more a collective dream than an individual dream.

Do you feel like you hold a specific American dream or have a dream that’s been placed upon you? And if so, what is it like?

I think in a lot of ways I’m living the American dream, and I think my parents are too. For instance, my parents and my grandparents have always valued education, and now, being able to attend such a privileged institution that is world renowned for its education, in a way, is living the American dream. I think it’s partly my American dream, but it is also the dream of my parents, my grandparents, and my communities. In many ways, it is a collective dream. But obviously, I think and dream that I could do more. And I think what my dreams are now are really about uplifting and redefining what it means to be American and who that is open and available to.

Can you talk a bit about why you chose these pieces?

I chose this necklace with these different tools because it represented the amount of work and labor that goes into making dreams a reality. Just as you need a toolkit to build things, you also need a toolkit, which often consists of your communities, to be able to dream and achieve your “American Dream.” To me, this piece paid homage towards the tools, the people, the resources, that make dreams and dream making possible. 

I chose the lock earrings on two levels. On one hand, the tools of the necklace may provide individuals with the key to opening the locks. On the other hand, I also see how lack of tools or access to tools can often lead to doors being closed and locks being locked. In this way, I saw these pieces as relating to the American dream in highlighting the collective aspects of the dream and achieving it through one’s “tools” (resources) but also how it continues to remain locked and closed from others.

What role does jewelry play in your life?

From collecting charms for my charm bracelet whenever I travel to marking big celebratory events with jewelry to using jewelry to connect to my culture to wearing certain pieces every single day, jewelry has been a part of my life every single day, from small moments to big ones. Jewelry, for me, has been a beautiful form of expression and is something that connects me to my past and also my future and something that has connected me to my family through shared and passed down pieces.

Read the full Harvard FIG feature and more at harvardfigmag.com

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