Immigrant and Refugees Welcome (i.e. Peace and Love, Understand?)

Last night I went to a couple protests, met beautiful people and and jumped a few fences. It was a great night.

I woke up yesterday morning to the cat sneezing, and got up to give it its cold medicine. Somewhere in between that and making coffee I happened to check the news, which is something I’ve been avoiding for a few weeks now. I don’t remember quite what it was that energized me, but all of the sudden I was pulling poster board out of the closet, and making protest signs at 7 in the morning.

Flash forward to later that night, and I’m attending a Refugee and Immigrant Solidarity walk with my coworker Eva. I was late to the march, and arrived with my sign just as the group was walking off. I parked, consumed a bowl of hot vegetable soup I had brought along, jumped out of the car, and caught up with the end of the line marching down Emanuel Cleaver Blvd. where I fell into step with a nun. She started talking to me and soon she was hugging me as we discovered she is a dear friend of my grandmother’s.

I move up in line and talk to another man who has brought along his little chihuahua who is half the size of my cat, and I feel the solidarity with this diverse gathering of people.

A woman yells out of her car as she’s driving past- throwing her whole body out for the full effect,

“GET A LIFE AND GET A JOB.”

Other than that moment, people just ignored us or took pictures of us. I posed for many people’s pictures from their cars with my “REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS WELCOME” poster up to my chin as we walked down Main street. We also had police “escorts”, three cars who pulled up right next to me while we were at a stop light. I almost put my sign down because it scared me a little bit, the way they were acting, but then I held it up again proudly for the rest of the night.

My friend Eva held the microphone and shouted chants to the crowd for most of the march, and soon we were at the end of our march. We gathered inside the Unitarian church in town, and all sat down to listen, and to eat.

There were many speakers. Lots of activists, all positive. All looking toward change and work to do, not toward doom. The most impactful part of the night were the three Hispanic youth who raised their voices. They were all young- 20s and 30s, and the first two had been undocumented for most of their life, and had only just gotten documentation this past year. They started crying as they spoke about the guilt they felt for being documented now, while so many of their friends were not. They spoke about how though they were official American citizens now, they still identified as undocumented immigrants, because so much of their identity and life was shaped around that. They cried, we all cried, and they told us thank you so much for being here. For supporting them. They said that when they woke up on Wednesday morning, they felt like half of the US hated them. They felt unwanted, and in the wrong place. They said that tonight, they feel loved and supported, and they feel empowered again to fight for justice for their undocumented friends, and all other people facing injustice and inequality.

I knew a few people at the rally- one of them was a local activist leader who I want to get to know better. Another one of them was one of my past coworkers. I went up to tell her hello, and she seemed distracted. She showed me the posters that her five kids were carrying, and that they had made themselves. The posters expressed love and acceptance and our global humanity.

Later that night, she was called up to the front of the room, and she expressed with strength and beauty some of her personal struggles. She told us that her DACA had expired, and she was currently terrified, and had no answers for her children. She expressed the same sentiment as the first two, and thanked us all deeply for being there for her and everyone else who needs support right now.

We all ate food and sat around tables talking after that. They had shuttle runs back to our cars for those unable to make the walk back, and everyone else sat around talking and sharing and signing up to help different organizations with the same cause.

I feel at home in the immigrant community. The more diversity of life there is- the more it makes me want to cry with happiness. I am so proud of my generation, and the way they are handling the shock of the current events. The way that the microphone is handed over to the voices not being heard, and they are shouted aloud, and validated and encouraged by everyone else around them.

We want to hear you. We want to grow. Help us grow by sharing. We’ll help you grow by listening and learning from you.

What is DACA? I knew a little bit about it, but not enough to speak confidently on it. I went home after the protests and did my research, and I would like to share a breakdown of what I learned with you.

“On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status,” –www.uscis.gov

There’s a good video on this website that explains how you file for DACA, and what it requires:

https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca

At the immigrant rally, they gave us all a safety pin to wear- the symbol of safety for immigrants in the UK during Brexit. We are using it here now, too.

https://www.good.is/articles/safety-pin-solidarity-immigrants-uk

Some ideas of what we can we do in Kansas City, and in other communities:

Mondays- once a month, SURJ meetings (white people organizing for racial justice: White Silence is Violence)

Tuesdays- once a month Amnesty international meets

Wednesdays- once a month volunteer orientation at JVS (become a volunteer and mentor new refugee families, or come meet new Americans at public events)

Saturdays: 8 am: Planned Parenthood- come support pro choice activism and women’s right

Sundays: 4 pm Food Not Bombs (share a meal and solidarity with the people of Kansas City on Independence Avenue)

One Struggle KC is a great resource, and where I learn about most of the social justice events happening in my city. It’s the Black Lives Matter group of Kansas City, incorporating all other social justice events of the city into the intersectional approach to change.

Once a month AIRR walks (Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation).

There is a great Indigenous and Environmentalist community in KC, that hosts NO DAPL protests routinely. I find these events, like most of the others, on facebook.

There are lots of rallies popping up all over the city opposing Trump’s election, the electoral college, and plain old Love Rallies in support of humanity and healing.

Message me if you have questions, or you want to go together!

I work at a refugee resettlement office, and we were given some tips about moving forward. For policy related things, you can sign up for LIRS Action Alerts. You can educate your community about their rights and to use the United We Dream hotline (1-844-363-1423) to report rights violations. You can engage more leaders in your community and attend public demonstrations. You can join together and take action against unjust immigration policies and anti-Muslim sentiment. Together, we can start a protection network to help stop racial profiling or deportations- something that should have been in place long ago, but the energy is here now, so let’s grab the energy and move forward.

Talk to your local refugee resettlement agency about how you can get involved, or become informed about local immigrant and refugee politics. Standard donations to resettlement offices include furniture to set up apartments for new refugee families (everything except beds). Also needed, especially with winter coming:

-Scarves, Stocking hats, Gloves

-New socks, bras, underwear

-Coats

-School backpacks & supplies

-School uniforms (navy or white polos, khaki or navy pants)

-Clothes for work (nonslip shoes/black dress pants for men & women)

-Blankets

Also consider eating at restaurants owned by refugees/ immigrants in your neighborhood or throughout the city.

Also, check and see how you can volunteer at your local resettlement office. They can use all the help they can get, and the immigrant community can use all the support you can give. Volunteer opportunities can be as simple as showing up for resettlement events and making new immigrant friends, or can be as in depth as mentoring a new refugee family (helping them with English, American culture and customs, getting around the city, and being a support in their life when it might seem to them they have just arrived in a country that disagrees with them being here). Through these new friendships and mentor programs, it’s important to realize that while you are helping your new refugee friends learn about America and your culture, part of the exchange is learning about their culture, and listening to their voice. Invite them over to your homes, show them respect and equality, and enrich your life with their insight and life experiences.

Activism and love comes in many different forms.

The second protest I went to last night was a “Love Trumps Hate” peaceful protest. We marched to City Hall, and then gathered in front for a rally. They passed the microphone around again, having a lineup of marginalized peoples raising their voices, and letting us hear their worry, their ideas, their hopes. The gay community was there, the feminist community, black and brown communities, immigrant communities, jewish community, everyone. We rallied together, and I cried a little bit for the second time that night, as I thought about how beautiful and powerful this all was. The fact that we were all gathered around because we cared about people, because we cared about basic respect of other human beings, and the right to be free to be you and me.

My car was locked in a secured parking lot when I got back from the protests, and had to jump a spiked fence, which seemed symbolic for the night. I landed on my feet on the other side, and ran to my car, and made it out of the locked area.

I spoke with one of our Siberian couch surfers, Mikhail, through facebook today. They are currently in Washington state, and not appreciating the cold. I asked him what he thought of the election, and he responded,

“Oh my god. I can’t think about elections… On the 8th of November we were going from Cali to Washington state with a truck. And a driver was a funny guy making jokes all the time. And when late in the night he said that Trump won, we thought it was just a joke, we could not believe him for whole night.. And just in the morning when we went to get breakfast we saw the news on TV announcing that orange man is a president of the US now… That is unjust terrible and unbelievable..
We have made it all the way through the whole country, met dozens of people and just two of them said to us that they support Trump. I don’t understand who are the people who voted for him..
And also the whole system of US elections is set up the weirdest way.. He got less votes than Hillary and still won. How the f*ck is it possible!
This all is just crazy..
Well what do you think about it?”

Organize. Be present. Love one another. Welcome the stranger.

Solidarity.

 

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