“I am here in this space, holding It together with you all for our lost tribes, for all our peoples, on behalf and with the blessings of my ancestors, for the future of my own children. I want us to take a moment to acknowledge that this soil we stand upon is covered in blood, sweat and tears. This soil is First Nations Peoples Land and this city was built upon by forced Black and Brown hands. Not much has changed in the short time America has been a colony.
People of color are still brutalized, criminalized and traumatized with violence and threat of violence, and much of this is either state, church sanctioned and ignored by society.
Our struggle has been going on much longer than the times our issues (life and death issues!) are viral or on the news cycle.
We know this is true for many different oppressed peoples.
Family separation is not a new problem affecting our communities. Families are separated all the time because of incarceration, deportations, preventable deaths, overworked parents trying to feed their children (in my community sometimes parents are feeding children here and in their own countries simultaneously on little to no money) on small incomes and wage theft.
Families in our community have historically been separated from their children through slavery, boarding schools and adoption systems, child protective services and unjust system that creates and then criminalizes the poor and oppressed, both parent and children for generations.
So what do we turn back from?
Today the Rabbi asked us all to wear clothes from our culture that reflects our grieving practices. I wanted to wear this dress today and by wearing it making myself completely transparent, naked, raw in front of you all. I wear this dress as a shroud. Almost five years ago, come August 11th, my three year old nephew died in a tragic accident. This is the dress I wore the last time I held my beloved sister’s beloved child close to me. I found no meaning in his death, I never will. I have nothing profound or particularly hopeful or religious to share with you about what has happened after. You never move on from a death, you just move forward. Carrying a spirit with you, a part of your loved one. The beautiful things about them, memories… all of that causes pain and love.
Noah was a child when he died.
Reflection on his person, his loveliness, fight for fairness, charming personality, sassy attitude when not wanting to sleep or needing to sleep are some of the qualities I carry of him in me. I have changed as a person because when I think of what would Noah have liked, I am forced to think like a child in order to truly do his memory justice.
And how are children? They are innocent, pure, opinionated, loving, imaginative, resilient, hope.
I want you to think about the devastation of losing a loved one, imagine the pain of losing a child. Now imagine the pain of burying a child and being deported away from your child’s grave. I want you to know that this is not something you should have to imagine, because I can promise you now I know many, many people whose worst fear isn’t leaving their friends and families, or comforts that this country pretends to afford us, or fear of having to give up the ‘american dream’ or going back to a country they do not know, or a country that was hostile to them which is why they had to leave in the first place, yes, all of these are valid and real fears too that my community face. But there is this one too.
When Noah drowned, the only thing we were ‘thankful’ for was that his body was recovered within an hour of going under, we wanted to be able to say goodbye, we needed to see physical evidence that there was no hope, no chance, no magic, no miracles left that he could just wake up or walk up and ask why everyone was crying. I cannot fathom the pain and devastation that families of disappeared peoples feel. I cannot imagine the pain that parents are feeling right now, locked away without understanding why or how they might be able to be reunited with their children, if their children are okay and alive and well, it’s not my place to testify to this pain.
I want to believe that there is hope, change, magic, a miracle that these families will not only reunite but heal from the violence and trauma they have had to live through because a day without your child in your arms, for a parent it is a thousand deaths and for the children is far worse.”