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Love Is Never Illegal

June 17, 2010

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(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.

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The trip to Arizona and the most recent trip to DC with the walkers were among the most memorable times of our friendship because they got to see me as an artist. Not only as an online organizer, or press strategist, or task master – but as an artist – which is the role that I am most happy in. At Tonatierra where the gatherings took place, all of us where able to make art together and to collaborate with some bad-ass creatives like Ernesto Yerena and Cesar Maxit. Ernesto is pictured here (far left) and is the author of the world-known image of the little girl poster that reads WE ARE HUMAN (see below). Ernesto is someone I know from Los Angeles, a fresh hermano and collaborator.

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We also worked on stencils with Cesar Maxit who I most recently reconnected with when I was in DC (for the May 1st Trail of Dreams action). This photo here to the left illustrates the way in which all of our worlds collided, as artists, organizers, and people who love justice. Cesar was working on a stencil about Black & Brown unity that said SOLIDARITY and showed an image of Carlos Roa, one of the walkers, and David, a fellow student from Miami. (Carlos is pictured here on the left) The shirts they are wearing are shirts I helped design for the action. The intent was to show clearly who was undocumented and who had papers – showing the sheer madness at how people are divided because of their immigration status. Cesar (middle) is working on the stencil while teaching Gaby (far right) how to make a stencil. The phrase he is using in the poster, is s phrase that I also used in my piece. Its a very powerful phrase that the walkers introduced me to and a set of words that really sums up their journey. UNDOCUMENTED & UNAFRAID.

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Here are the shirts!

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This is the finished stencil poster by Cesar Maxit!

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.

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Here is a poster by my hermana and Just Seeder, Melanie Cervantes of Dignidad Rebelde, who helped send 500 posters to the march!

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Here are my posters! You can purchase the posters by clicking HERE and HERE. Support the work of AltoArizona.com!!

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