American Faces No. 68
American Faces #68 might well be the epitome of what the American Faces series is about. Peter Oyebanji is a Nigerian-born Minnesotan and a student at Iowa State University studying Mechanical Engineering. He came to Minnesota over a decade ago by way of Cameroon where he, his sister and his mother began their journey towards the American dream. His father sent them off with hopes for a new life while he remained home in Nigeria where he still faithfully serves in the country’s Air Force. What this family has sacrificed to build a life here in the States is awe-inspiring. Especially when I think about the relative simplicity of living my entire life in one geographic region.
While working as a model for me on a recent photoshoot for Zubaz (art directed by Randy Hatanpa, overseen by Jill O’ Flannagan, with make-up/wardrobe styling by Tracey Tischler), Peter became a quick friend to all on set and humbly shared a bit of his life with us. While I might have thought his Nigerian roots would have led him to a warmer climate, Peter has fully embraced being a Minnesotan, and is an all-around amazing guy. He said before embarking on his collegiate journey, he was a high school wrestler, in the National Honor Society, the Key Club (community volunteering) and part of a group called Pack of Friends that shares life with people with special needs.
As I look back through this series, each one of my subjects really redefines the American experience to me. I consider my story about Peter, and it makes me realize that while race, place and a whole host of other things can create division, when we strip all that stuff away and look at our common humanity, we find a deep connection with one another. We are humanity. Peter, you are what American Faces is all about!