It’s been about a month since I’ve moved from Texas to the Baltimore area, and this was the first time I have had the opportunity to attend any kind of rally since arriving. The atmosphere up here is definitely different than that of Texas in terms of the migrant justice movement (for obvious reasons) but it’s been a pleasant surprise to see that the passion and desire to see justice for those wrongly incarcerated is no different than in Texas.
Frankly, as someone who has recently been experiencing a lot of frustration and fatigue at the way things seem to be unfolding in politics and the media regarding immigration in this country, this rally was exactly what I needed. Between the speakers who were courageous enough to share their own experiences and pain, to the singing and kaddish that were called out in hopes that the people inside the Howard County Detention would hear, I left this march on this day of communal mourning with a renewed sense of hopefulness and determination.
I think it’s important to realize what a state of tremendous privilege having hope even is. It’s sometimes so easily snatched back by people with the privilege of freedom who can take the time needed for self-care and “turn off” things that may be troublesome to them. Sometimes it makes me feel slightly guilty, but when I come to these things and see the hope and passion with which many are fighting I am truly reminded that it takes a strong village to accomplish true change.
With working at the bus station and doing detention visitation, it’s always been my hope that people inside who have maybe lost hope know that there are others out there who are fighting. Kind people who want nothing more to see families reunited and innocent people freed who want nothing more than to escape terror and violence to seek opportunity. Hopefully those inside could hear our voices.
This is only my second time visiting the Rio Grande Valley, but both times have been experiences that I have walked away from completely inspired; the folx who live on the border here in Texas are absolutely some of the most persistent and passionate I’ve had the opportunity to come across. My first time was a few weeks ago, when me and a friend volunteered to work at the bus station with Angry Tias and Abuelas of RGV (this group of fierce RGV women recently received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award for their work with immigrant families). This relatively small group of women is working hard at the bus stations and bridges every day to provide support and comfort to immigrants as they try to make their way to their final sponsor destination. They do this not just because they’re angry about the current administration’s policies, but because they deeply believe that it’s the right thing to do. Similar to when I was in El Paso, there is a feeling in the RGV that it’s not simply an extracurricular duty to volunteer to help these people so much as a moral imperative for which there really is no question. These people come from the other side of the bridge – we can see them, they’re right over there! – and they are people like us who are deserving of respect. The invisible line that constitutes the border is even less of an issue here in these border towns where people frequently cross back and forth, blurring the lines between “immigrant” and “American” and simply making people “friends” or “neighbors.” Hence when their friends or neighbors need help, they don’t think too hard about it. They just do it.
Chief among many border residents’ concerns about the border wall is the access to the Rio Grande that many would lose. The fight of farmers who stand to lose access to the river they rely on to feed their crops has gained a lot of traction in the news, but this is just one piece of the bigger picture. Residents of border towns on or near the river will lose their ability to take a day to fish, to jump into the river’s cooling waters on a hot Texas day. This essential part of every day life for many people will simply cease to be accessible.
Losing access to the river in this way is not something many people think about, I think. Within activist circles, it has been discussed at length the absolutely devastating effect the wall would have on the Butterfly Sanctuary in the RGV; and though this is not to be minimized, the small experiences of simply being able to experience the waters of the life-giving Rio Grande are not something I hear a lot about. The loss of these experiences are devastating in a different way, but they are a part of the larger picture of ruin that the construction of a border wall would wreak upon the RGV.
I was incredibly fortunate to be able to travel down to the National Butterfly Center (where part of the proposed wall will be built) for a gathering of several groups in the area to protest the border wall and pay tribute to the beauty and power of the Rio Grande. McAllen Poet Laureate Edward Vidaurre and other poets read poetry, songs were sung, food was shared. It was abundantly clear to me that the community fighting against the border wall in the RGV is a strong and passionate one, and it gives me so much hope for the future to know that this was only one small group among many others who are fighting for what they love out there.
So to be truly honest, I have no idea how many people will know or even care about this post. Though Amanda Palmer has thousands of Patreon subscribers and a fiercely loyal fanbase, I have never really met another person that was really acquainted with her music. I have been a huge fan since high school many moons ago, and lacking a person to share this experience with has made me a bit protective; Amanda Palmer’s music has been something I have clutched close to my heart in one way or another for 15 years. Amanda’s music is intensely intimate and personal in a way that inspires you to feel like she is sitting beside you and laying bare her innermost thoughts and feelings just for you (which makes it easy to understand her fiercely loyal fanbase). If you have a few minutes, check out her TED Talk to get a taste of what I’m talking about.
For one reason or another, in all these years I’ve never been able to see her or any of her various musical endeavors live. So when the chance came up with the release of her newest album There Will Be No Intermission, I snatched up tickets and booked a flight. A few days before the show, she announced on her Patreon that two wonderful ladies had asked her to officiate their wedding before the Atlanta show and that everyone was invited. It was a beautiful wonderful queer gathering of intimate strangeness.
This year on Mother’s Day, local Florida activists and witnesses held a march at the Homestead Refugee Children’s Detention Center. The ever-expanding for-profit detention center holds over 2,200 unaccompanied minor children seeking asylum in the United States and is run by a private company with no government oversight. I was fortunate enough to join the witnesses at Homestead – along with Tornillo witness Joshua Rubin, who had recently joined the vigil at Homestead – in February and March when I was in Miami for work. This was my first time doing long-term witnessing and along with my visitation at the nearby Krome Detention Center (more on that later) it profoundly changed me. I was lucky enough to meet so many passionate and kind people during my trip there and now consider Miami one of my many homes away from home. So last week when I heard about the Mother’s Day march they had planned, I knew I had to drop everything and head back to join my resistance family. I flew in on Saturday, dropped by for a visitation at Krome, and then headed to Homestead to help set up for the next day. A small group of us scrambled around all night trying to stake our claim on land where the employees had been instructed to park their cars in an attempt to block witnesses from being able to park nearby. As each shift turned over, we placed all manner of nonsense (coolers, cars, chairs, we broke out the caution tape…) where the employee cars once were. Then, after decorating and shooting the shit, we slept outside on the grass outside of a children’s detention center – something none of us probably ever imagined we needed to add to our bucket lists.
On the 91st day of holding vigil at Homestead, hundreds of people joined us to march against the injustice of child detention. There was singing, laughing, crying, and beautiful artwork. I feel so damn fortunate to be able to call many of these inspiring people my friends and family and can only hope that the children inside were able to hear us outside as we tried to communicate to them that we were all united in fighting for their release.
If you are interested in learning more about Homestead, you can do so here: