Freedom + Action in 2017.
I met with a colleague the other day and they told me a story about how they petitioned the principal to be able to be free to play on the playground when they were in 4th grade.
He said he just knew something wasn’t right about he and his clsssmstes not being able to play. (duh — why shouldnt kids get to play at school?)
It got me thinking: when did I first feel that something wasn’t right?
I often tell students that if I had their awareness and political consciousness at their ages (mostly late teens and early twenties) I would be a very different person than I am today.
I have to think there was some reason I was chosen by the universe to be a “late bloomer” in this and many other areas of my life. But that topic is for another article.
For now, let’s stick to 4th grade playground petitions and the like.
I wonder if I knew something wasn’t right when I learned from my mother that if I left the country I wouldn’t be able to come back. I was 11 going on 12. I really didn’t know what immigration meant except that we had submitted something for “papers” and we were in the queue to get them sometime soon. I also knew that for some reason, my older sister wasn’t in the same queue. If she left the country she could actually never come back. Whereas, somehow, because I made the age cutoff I would be getting my “papers” (green card) soon.
This deeply saddened me.
To watch my sister live in fear of being deported. To pray every day of every year and be let down that her number wasn’t “up”. To watch my parents ask priest after priest when she was destined to be married, and could it be to someone with capital-P-Papers, so that she could be “legal”, finally? (Many Indian folks depend heavily on the word of a priest).
I lived this daunting cycle for about 15 years until my sister got her papers when she was in her mid thirties. Which happens to be my age currently.
I can’t even imagine living in this current political climate without the ability to legally work or live in fear of deportation at my current age.
Then, and even now, the fear still lives deep inside me. The trauma is always just beneath the surface — its mouth being covered by my proverbial hands. Immigration is now more than ever a topic of heated conversation around the world than it was 10 years ago.
The difference might be that people and families most impacted by this phenomenon, and in some ways this epidemic, are showing up in droves to stop mass deportations and to create policy that moves the U.S. forward while not harming people.
Who is writing these petitions? Who is showing up at the airport to stop deportations? “We are the ones we have been waiting for” (Indigenous Hopi words). It is time for us to channel, or-rechannel, our 4th grade selves. To peacefully fight for freedoms for all human beings. Because if you aren’t free, and we are living on this planet together, than am I really free?
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Gratitude to my menteees and colleagues (Blake Simons and Nate Tan) for sharing their light and stories with me, and for allowing me to share their words with more people. And to my sister for her endless supply of hope and courage.