This guest post was written by my Chicago Public Schools student, Daniella Cruz.
I boarded the plane at 5:45 p.m., embarking on a journey with no idea what to expect, except that I would learn how to take action. My mother gave me “una bendición,” a blessing through the phone, as I was about to depart from Chicago to Washington D.C. After weeks of feeling restless, the elevation of the aircraft intensified the tension.
I’m fortunate enough to have been born on the very soil that promised many immigrants the opportunity to flourish. That is where my privilege lies, but I was afraid. However, my heart was eliminated of all the fear I had once felt and had converted it into something else: anger.
United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the U.S, created spaces for DREAMERs and allies to collaborate on March 5th. The day held significance as the deadline Trump had given Congress to make a decision about DACA. Everything back home went at its regular heartbeat, while mine accelerated as I put down my name and contact information to say: “I am willing to put my body on the line for my people.” That weekend, nearly three dozen of us planned, in the basement of a Baptist Church, our civil disobedience, accompanied by 75 others.
The nerves swam through my whole body and made their stay in the pit of my stomach. We walked with signs saying “Help our immigrant youth!” and “Stop the recklessness Trump’s pen and paper has created in the last year.” The chants still ring in my ear, screaming at the top of our lungs: “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
The cold ground felt bittersweet under us, as we sat in formation as planned the night prior. Chains and locks bound us at our waist and ankles. Tubes, carabiners, and rope secured our arms and hands together: the ultimate sign of unity. Being swarmed by cameras and people yelling, the crowd kept the Capitol police distracted long enough for us to hold our ground on Independence Street, a block away from the Capitol building. Two hours of sitting, chanting, and waiting for the tight zip ties to be sealed around our wrist and our “ice-cream truck” awaited to take us to the warehouse. At our arrival, a yellow band was strapped around my wrist with big bold letters stating “LOCK UP.”
Everyone of us was to share a small cell with the cockroaches crawling up and down the walls. We were woken up at 3 a.m. to be given wristbands, withheld for eight hours to await a court hearing, and fed a sandwich with a Dixie cup of water. We sat in a tiny waiting room occupied by 40+ women to hear from our public attorneys. Let me tell you, the conditions of the facility were anything but a safe haven. Yet, we found a way to liven up the white, dull walls by sitting in a circle and having a dialogue. We sang, danced, laughed, and gave a chance to the women who were there for personal reasons the opportunity to give their two cents in the small dose of hell we endured for only 24 hours.
The pain of these women brought light to another problem: our incarceration system, the very facilities that were made to oppress people of color, reminding me of those suffering in detention centers. The light we shined, for a sliver of a second, was suddenly dimmed by the realization of a million things that still needed to be reformed, changed, and even destroyed.
As the clock ticked, we maintained our sanity as one by one we were called by our numbers. In these facilities, in the government’s eyes, you don’t deserve to be called by your name -- you don’t deserve to be human. Walking through the zig-zagged hallways and being rid of my ankle cuffs, I walked into the arms of the people who worked all night to ensure we were out with no charges. That’s when the tears started flooding my face.
We were left with no permanent solution, left with nothing done by our government -- again, left disappointed. A lot has been lost, but our hope still remains. There is much to be done. There is much to be said. And there is so much to change. United, we were able to raise tensions, hold our ground because we truly did have nothing to lose but our chains. Time and time again, they’ve tried to tumble us down. They’ve tried to keep us underground, treating us like dirt over and over: “They tried to bury us, but they forgot we were seeds.” We will flourish. We will rise. We WILL win.
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