Hello BlueNC community! First, an introduction: NC Equals is a grassroots movement of Charlotte's Latin American Coalition. We're working to build political power among low-income communities, people of color, youth and immigrant communities in Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro and elsewhere across the state. A great deal of our focus at the moment is on the DREAM Act and 287g programs. In addition to on-the-ground, face-to-face activism and advocacy, we're ramping up to utilize the wealth of tools new media and social media provide, along with the great resources available among North Carolina's progressive blogosphere.
Once a week, we'll post our advocacy staff's weekly commentaries and join in on discussions as much as we can. We hope to become a valuable part of the BlueNC community and we hope you find our staff's thoughts interesting, thought-provoking and challenging. The commentary below is from our Raleigh-based field director, Irene Godinez.
New Media Coordinator, NC Equals
Have I told you…
by Irene Godinez, Field Director, Nov. 26, 2010
A few days ago I came across the new book by President Obama, Of Thee I Sing. This treasure of a book is written in a kind of call and response way. The prompt is “Have I ever told you that you are ___adjective___” and then the facing page highlights the story of someone in US history whose life and contributions to our shared history depicts the adjective described in the preceding page.
In these days as we near a vote on the DREAM Act I am inspired to share with others the incredible plight and pride that I’ve witnessed and experienced in the movement for immigrant rights.While I know that I won’t be able to capture everything and everyone I’ve experienced, I’d like to share what I consider the highlights of this year. I invite you to add and write about your experiences as well if you have already been connected to this movement.
Have I told you that you are incredible?
A year ago most of us who have been active in the immigrant rights movement (Comprehensive Immigration Reform/DREAM) in North Carolina and across the nation did not know one another. Then a movement building training happened on December 5th and 6th in Raleigh. These trainings expanded across the nation in the months after, training thousands of community members including immigrants and non-immigrants, allies, youth, faith leaders, and many others. This was the first time that we began to see the foundation of an actual grassroots movement led and fueled by those affected by the broken immigration system and their allies. Though not everything was perfect, the biggest gain of this initial movement was seeing how relationships began to forge and we too began to see the power that we have as a collective. Days after our NC training, we took action by filling an entire room at the hearing of the NC Community College System on whether to allow undocumented immigrants in their institutions. Many leaders have risen from these trainings and are the spark that has reignited the fire for DREAM to be where it is today.
Have I told you that you are resilient, even in the face of the worst storms?
On the week of April 23rd the community in Arizona gathered in a peaceful prayer vigil in protest of the SB 1070, which perpetuates racial profiling. A small group grew to a few dozen and within a few days had escalated to thousands in Arizona and across the nation standing in solidarity with the community in Arizona who were facing the most xenophobic law in recent memory (even the Department of Justice has intervened). Everyone across the nation was eager to support the immigrant and minority community of Arizona by holding prayer vigils of their own and by raising awareness of SB 1070 and its effects not only in Arizona but also in other states who soon began to push copycat bills in their own legislative bodies. The community in Arizona held hands, prayed, organized walk outs, made their voices heard and fought with dignity against this incredible tide of hatred.
Have I told you that you are bold and courageous?
In January we began to hear of the Trail of DREAMS,a group of four students who began a journey by walking 1,500 miles from Miami to D.C. to raise awareness on the urgent need of immigration reform and the DREAM Act. By revealing their legal status, they too began to put a human face to the issue of immigration not only in the southeastern states they traversed but also at a national level. By early Spring, hundreds of other undocumented students across the nation participated in “Undocumented and Unafraid” Coming Out events in their communities. For the first time in this movement for immigrant rights, students were stepping out of the shadows and stating openly that they are undocumented. They were freeing themselves from the burden of what for many was a long held secret, known only to their families. This year we saw the birth of a true, national immigrant and ally movement led in great part by students and would-be students. This continues to live in the tradition of other movements including the Civil Rights movement.
Have I told you that you are visionary?
In the spirit of students and youth from previous movements leading and shining a light on their struggles and that of their community, North Carolina has seen a rise in action by immigrant and non-immigrant youth alike. In the early summer, several youth began a hunger fast to raise awareness on the DREAM Act and to call on their community to take action by asking Senator Kay Hagan to support the DREAM Act. Youth action intensified with a hunger strike conducted by three undocumented young women which lasted two weeks. The hunger strike was held in plain sight of legislators at the NC General Assembly, near the Governor’s mansion and down the street from Senator Hagan’s office. The birth of NC DREAM Team was perhaps one of the biggest successes this year, in my opinion. This group has carved out a place for undocumented youth to belong and lead alongside allies, while raising awareness on the urgency of the DREAM Act as a down payment on immigration reform. Undocumented youth across the nation have also been participating in civil disobedience in various Senators’ offices and even in front of the White House on May 1st. They can be seen at town hall meetings that their Senators’ conduct, keeping the issue of the DREAM Act in constant sight of these power brokers. We will not relent, not even when others say that DREAM will not happen, nor Comprehensive Immigration Reform because we are willing to fight with all of our might in order to keep our families together and to provide opportunities through the acquisition of education for all youth.
Have I told you that you inspire a hopeful future?
I continue to be amazed by all of the accomplishments that our movement has achieved in less than a year! On top of organizing consistently and often unlike any other time (with regards to immigration reform) we have also kept our promise of voting and participating in civic engagement. In North Carolina alone, we were able to register several thousand eligible voters, most of them youth; we also reached out to over 15,000 registered voters to remind them to vote leading up to the elections. In my opinion, it was our participation that helped push back on the Congressional shifts that happened most everywhere else in the nation.
We’ve brought together 250,000 people in D.C. all clamoring for immigration reform, we’ve mobilized millions by sharing our stories, we’ve acquired and refined organizing skills, we’ve created a solid immigrant rights movement, we’ve established relationships with people who are now like family to us, we’ve marched, we’ve voted, we’ve engaged our friends and family, we’ve prayed for an entire summer, we’ve held die-ins, we’ve held elected officials accountable, we’ve called Congress, we’ve written letters, we’ve fought tirelessly for our detained brothers and sisters, we’ve held our heads high when others tried so hard to knock us down.
I’ve met the most incredible people this year who have not only survived, even this immigration enforcement climate and despite all of the half-truths and myths floating around about our community. The people I’ve met have thrived and excelled with what has been given to them. They have been brave, dignified and have conducted their work with the utmost integrity. I have no doubt that regardless of what happens in the coming days, our movement will not die rather it will strengthen. We will have ups and downs but so long as we keep present that we are fighting for the same outcome and for the same community we will continue to succeed as we have thus far. It has been an honor being in this movement with so many of you, my brothers and sisters. We shall overcome.
This commentary by Irene Godinez cross-posted from NCEquals.org.
BlueNC is dedicated to making North Carolina a more progressive and prosperous state. If your intention is to disrupt this effort, please find somewhere else to express your opinions.