Celebrating the Immigrant Heritage of Cultural Ambassador Ray Digby
Both my wife and I are immigrants to the U.S. She was born in Canada and grew up in the U.S., while I was born in India, grew up in Canada, and came to the U.S. in 1992 when I got married. All our parents are from India. We both hail from large extended families with first cousins living in eight countries who have lived in 15 countries. I have a cousin who lived in six countries. Today he’s privileged because he lives in the home of the Hoagie (Philadelphia).
Because we are from India, diversity is a given. India is a country where 6 religions, 22 languages (inclusive of English, spoken by 150 million Indians) and multiple cultural traditions peacefully co-exist. Christmas is a public holiday in Bombay—a city where only 5% of the residents are Christian. The fact that my immediate family has lived in so many places and has welcomed multiple religions (Christianity, Hinduism, etc and multiple national origins) means that our network of cousins grew up knowing the world—because the world is where our family lives.
My global family speaks multiple languages and has lived in multiple places which has equipped many family members (including myself) to thrive in the global business environment. Language and cultural skills are going to be key success factors for the next generation of Michiganders, and Southeastern Michigan’s cultural and linguistic diversity is one reason I love living here. Pazckis, Greenfield Village, the Red Wings are some other things I love about Southeastern Michigan (my wife’s more into the pazckis, while I’m more into the Red Wings!).
The immigrant heritage of my extended family is as diverse as the American experience itself. Starting with the story that might feel the most familiar, my father-in-law built a career in the auto industry right here in Detroit. My own father traveled more widely, sailing ocean-going ships into some tight situations. Once on his way to the Brussels World Fair in 1958, his ship got stuck on a sandbar in Uruguay, after almost being sunk in a tremendous storm in the North Sea some years earlier. Other relatives took their part in history in service of other nations like the U.K., where my uncle served in Occupied Japan with the Royal Air Force.
In more modern times the theme of my sprawling family’s energy and exploration continues. I have cousins producing movies in Hollywood and abroad. My wife’s extended family ranges from doctors to rock stars—Ian D’Sa from the band Billy Talent! My own son has now represented the U.S. on international exchanges in Japan in a delegation of Boy Scouts of America.
My proud heritage exemplifies the restless curiosity and hope of America’s immigrant heritage. Moving for love or economic opportunity did not pose a threat or a challenge to us. 55 years after my extended family first left India, we still keep in touch on a global basis. Members of my family have not only been immigrants, but serial immigrants. Coming first to Canada and then the U.S., my own nuclear family is a family of immigrants. Only one member, my daughter, is a native born American.
Our story stretches across the globe, but Southeastern Michigan and Metropolitan Detroit is my family’s home. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the U.S. except for where I am today. Detroit and the region are more connected to the global economy than most of us realize, and that’s important for our children’s future. As parents, our challenge will be to equip our children with the tools to be successfully connected to that global economy. Recognizing our rich immigrant heritage is only one small step.
— Ray Digby is Managing Director at AmCan Financial, an international brokerage firm.