(Trail of Dreams walkers heading to Arpaio’s office, Phoenix, AZ)
Just got back from DC where I traveled to after spending week in Arizona, where I was with the Trail of Dreams as they faced off with Sheriff Arpaio on June 1, 2010. Like many others, I was extremely worried for the walkers facing one of the most anti-immigrant sheriff in the country. Three of the walkers are undocumented and Arpaio is dangerous and unpredictable, but their courageousness amazed us all. We traveled to Arizona to participate in the May 29th mega-march and to do what had never been done before – undocumented youth to confront Sheriff Arpaio. In their letter to him, the walkers said, “…we are writing to request an audience with you to discuss enforcement measures in your county, particularly the 287-G program. We want to share our stories so that you understand what it’s like for the millions of immigrants in this country who are unable to fully participate in society. We want to help you see the fear and destruction your policies spread, and convince you that there is a better way.”
There IS a better way, and the four walkers taught me and many others that that way is love. When Gaby walked out of the building, with all the cameras on her, she said, “I gave him a piece carbon that symbolized a piece of him and a piece of me. When I pass away to another life, I will become carbon, and so will he…” You can hear her words in the video above. At first I was struck by her words, I could not think of Arpaio as anything but an evil troll, a grotesque enemy of our people. Hearing her made me uncomfortable. But as the days went by, I reflected more and more on Gaby’s message. What she was saying was that as we reclaim our humanity as immigrants, we must fight HATE with LOVE. We cannot fight HATE with HATE. That stuck with me. Interestingly, I came to meet the walkers when I was feeling very unloved, coming out of a bad few months of poor loving. Since I met them, my commitment to their struggle, to their journey and to each one of them is something that has grown because of love. Love for them, love for my people, and love for the kind of transformation we all want badly.
The movement for immigrant rights is one that brings us all together. From Los Angeles, Oakland, Washington DC, and Miami – we all came together and now are a part of each other’s lives, and will continue to collaborate in the journeys ahead. This is also why its key to have artists involved, because we are the ones who document these stories through images, making historical documents of our struggles.
Here is a poster by my hermana and Just Seeder, Melanie Cervantes of Dignidad Rebelde, who helped send 500 posters to the march!