man dressed in 1780s costume stands in bed of a new pickup truck holding an american flag

How has Texas changed in 20 years? She went home to find out.

After decades as a photojournalist in the Middle East, Tanya Habjouqa turns her lens to the place of her youth, where she says, “If you weren’t part of the privileged few, you were forgotten.”

Captain Tom Hicks, 53, a former U.S. Army pilot, stands in the back of his pickup truck dressed in a George Washington costume in Fort Worth, Texas, in July 2022. A father to three children, he comes from a close-knit family connected with his community. His family had joined their neighborhood’s Independence Day parade days earlier, installing a swimming pool in the back of the truck from which the children spritzed onlookers with water guns.

Serving in the Army for 20 years, Hicks deployed to Iraq twice and Afghanistan three times where he says he flew Blackhawk helicopters, reconnaissance airplanes, and drones. When his second son was born in 2003, he was stationed in Iraq. “I spent most of my adult life defending our country. I love our country.…. We just need to make it a better place. Whether we take a right or left turn, let’s just be adults and be respectful.”

I’ve known Tom since I was a teenager; he’s married to my best friend’s sister. We lost touch, though we were in Iraq at same time experiencing two very different realities.
This is one of eight stories from The Past Is Present project, a collaboration between National Geographic and For Freedoms.

Tanya Habjouqa experienced one of the first great ruptures of her life when she was four years old. While the family was living in Jordan, her parents divorced—and in the wake of the breach, her American mother brought Tanya and her brother back home to live in Fort Worth, Texas.

It wasn’t easy for a young multicultural girl to grow up in the heart of Texas in the 1980s and 1990s. She witnessed systemic racism against her Black classmates, and she couldn’t participate in activities like yearbook and photography that seemed to be the sole domain of blonde cheerleaders with wealthy PTA moms.

“If you weren’t part of the privileged few, you were forgotten,” she says.

Tanya left Texas in 2002 and returned to the Middle East, where she spent the next 20 years living in Jordan and Palestine as a photojournalist. While documenting the violence dividing that region, she watched in horror as hierarchies of class and race seemed to become even more entrenched in the U.S. Would she even be able to recognize the Texas of her youth?

She would soon find out: In this photo essay, Tanya reflects on the two months that she spent reconnecting with old friends in Fort Worth and examining the racial and economic fault lines of a place that she had once called home.

Tanya Habjouqa is a visual journalist, artist, and educator based in East Jerusalem in the Middle East. Trained in anthropology and journalism, with an MA in Global Media and emphasis on Middle East Politics, her work focuses on gender, representations of otherness, dispossession, resettlement, and human rights. With close to 20 years experience, Habjouqa has become a leading voice in the advancement of new documentary practices which seek to reframe news and politics through a more nuanced, culturally literate lens. She lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area between the age of four to 25. Follow her on Instagram @habjouqa.

This is one of eight stories from The Past Is Present project, a collaboration between National Geographic and For Freedoms.

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