I arrived to Arizona on Sunday evening to do some work around the upcoming May 29th mega march. I came for various reasons - to lend support to an organization I have longed admired, the National Day Laborer's Organizing Network (NDLON), and to assist the Trail of Dreams as they visited Arizona for the first time. Three weeks ago, the walkers of the Trail of Dreams finished their walk from Miami to D.C. But their journey is not over for them. They are in AZ because this state is ground zero for the failed immigration policy that is happening under the Obama administration, a time where we are witnessing increased detentions, deportations, and even deaths in the hands of ICE. Obama's recent decision to send the National Guard to the US/Mexico border is a sign that he has become a highly dangerous force for immigrants around the country.
I am grateful that I was invited as an artist. Its inspiring to me when organizations understand the very vital role that art and culture plays in social transformation. NDLON deserves great praise for the work they have done on AltoArizona.com, where they have activated artists, musicians and celebrities to speak out on behalf of human and civil rights.
I traveled to Phoenix a few weeks ago on Mother's Day to document the women and children of this grassroots movement. While I was here, I heard the story of 10 year old Catherine. She is a little girl who witnessed her parents being taken away by ICE (Immigration Customs & Enforcement). When she spoke of the sadness she experienced, the nights she could not sleep because she would wonder where her parents were. I was so sad and outraged that I blogged about my experience meeting her (read here), and I eventually made a piece about her (see above). This piece will eventually be for sale on the AltoArizona.com website and will be used to raise funds for the organizing efforts here in Phoenix. (Stay Tuned)
I also made a second poster of one of the girls I photographed at the march. She was holding the sign over her head and it made me laugh for a moment because the sign was almost as tall as her. And then I realized that this girl, was learning about her own political voice at an early age. Not because of any fault of her own, but because she was growing up at a time when her family and community members are criminalized simply for wanting a better life. The words I used, "Undocumented. Unafraid" is a phrase that I picked up from the Trail of Dream's walkers. They would walk in to 287 G counties, to confront anti-immigrant foes with their shirts that would read, UNDOCUMENTED. Its a term that I believe was born in the youth movement to get the DREAM Act passed.
At at time when ICE and hostile figures such a Sheriff Arpaio terrorize immigrant communities, one of the most powerful things we can do is to let go of our fear and demand our dignity. As Steve Biko said, "The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor, is the mind of the oppressed."
To close out this post, I will end with a message from one of my favorite musicians, Alex Lora of the Chilango band, El Tri. I love El Tri because their songs taught me to have pride in my culture when I was growing up in Mexico City. They have inspired a few of my pieces and when I saw Alex Lora on May 11th, I almost rushed the stage!
His closing lne inspired me to write today, "Que Viva el Rock & Roll!" (Long live Rock & Roll) Yes, there's even a space for Rock & Roll in our immigrant rights movement! ¡Que vivan los músicos y los artistas de la lucha! (Long live the musicians and artists of the struggle!)