Thursday, June 3, 2010

Strength in the Struggle
Trail of Dreams
Posted on May 25, 2010 by felipe

Flying between Miami, FL and Phoenix, AZ- I write this now as the Trail takes on wings and climbs higher and higher into the sky aboard a plane on its way to Arizona. I just saw the waves of the ocean from a vantage point I’m not used to. I remember the first time a family friend took me out on a boat to fish in the ocean, just beyond Miami’s shore -it was definitely not pleasant. In fact, it was traumatizing. My excitement to engage in the activity was offset by the alarmingly large waves -they were huge! The boat rocked back and forth in synchronized chaos as two hours of sickness and fear overwhelmed me. Needless to say: I never fished again. However, from here in the sky, the same powerful waves become relatively tiny -so small I could seemingly fit them into a box of chocolates. From this view, a mighty sea capable of causing me so much fear can look incredibly fragile.

When I first heard the Arizona State Bill, SB1070, had been signed into law by Governor Brewer, I didn’t know how to react. At first I was appalled, then I became angry, and the anger morphed into a peculiar feeling quite similar to what motivated me to walk all those months on the Trail, despite my chronic back pain or the emotional beating from the painful reality of our country’s unjust immigration laws. Day after day, the prevalent stories of families separated and broken dreams. It was at that point that I recalled the wise words of my dear friend and fellow organizer, Subhash Kateel: “Felipe, it’s not about the pain, but rather, about the struggle.” It reminded me of his recent wedding and the vow he made to his wife that they would always “struggle together” as we all keep struggling so that families may not be torn apart. I thought of the communities in Arizona; so many years facing discrimination and inhumane treatment under policies that seek to bring us back in time to when it was somehow “appropriate” to live in division and treat each other as less than ourselves or sometimes even as property; years upon years of families struggling together to overcome adversity in ways that go beyond my own understanding. SB1070 has quickly become a symbol of the prevalent racism and xenophobia that is still felt all across this country, and it has set off a flame that catapulted a nationwide, nonviolent effort to stall the bill’s enactment. The effects are remarkable… and yet, we must not fail to acknowledge the many years that the same people in Arizona suffered under the treatment of oppressive, insensitive law enforcement officials such as Joe Arpaio, with little support from leaders of the movement at large to help improve the escalating conditions in Arizona that led the state to SB1070 in the first place.

We are on our way to Phoenix, the epicenter of unfair treatment against immigrants and Latin@s in this country, and I simply can’t wait to see the faces of the amazing people keeping this passionate struggle for justice alive. During the walk, we have reiterated many times that our fight is not against anti-immigrant legislation but rather a greater movement for dignity and human rights. We fight for the freedom to love and to be loved as we spread our compassion to every human being that crosses our path. It is through this love that I found the strength to struggle and that I survived the gradual slaughter of my spirit.

I’m looking outside the window at this point and I see robust clouds as we depart our beautiful Floridian peninsula. Juan looked at me, smiled and whispered in my ear: “will you protect me?” Without thinking twice I replied, “Yes! But how?” He replied, “Love me forever!” This is the greatest call to action one could ever receive. If we allow ourselves to simply be the next people on the list to get deported, how will we protect the people we love? At the same time, how can we motivate and empower other families so that they may have the courage to fight with us?

I remember at the beginning of the Trail, watching birds fly south as we took our steps northward. I wished so much that I could be just as free as those birds and fly high into the sky, away from the cold and away from danger! Nearly five months later, I’m flying to seek refuge in the arms of my sisters and brothers in Arizona. Here we are once again, following the steps of those who fought for justice before us and hoping that our small contributions could be matched by the voices of millions. If we would only look closer into ourselves, we would find the strength that fuels the raging seas. If we would only look closer into ourselves, we would realize that we can shake the establishments of this country –as waves do to small fishing boats- and deliver our communities to freedom from fear and the procurement of human dignity
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