Tags: juan, Latino Youth Collective

Posted on March 26, 2010 by juan | Post a comment

As I type this, Rusty is flying down a long road at 60 miles and hour on our way to Charlotte, NC. Wilfredo, our driver, sits at the wheel, with Latin music streaming throughout the darkness all around him. The music is his energy, his companion, his muse –a tenuous thread connecting him all the way back to Miami, to Puerto Rico, to generations upon generations of rhythm giving greater meaning to stagnant bodies. The music is the thread of a thriving civilization of passionate people, deafening laughter, all-encompassing devotion and love. It is a thread that holds tight and true –that binds the displaced, the hopeful, the resilient, and the pioneering.

THIS is what I know of Wilfredo –this thread that is often so hard for me to understand. I look inside me many times trying to find such a thread; a rope; a root –a sample of the texture, look, and taste of what is meant to be my culture, my history, herstory, OURSTORY. Where is my thread? Where does it lead? What happens to that thread when it is stretched across an ocean? Across a desert? If we could stitch together the lengths of all our threads, would it make a quilt? Would it make a tapestry? Could its beauty be more breathtaking than that of an ancient Persian rug? Would it be able to tell the true story of OUR people? Wilfredo sits in the darkness at the wheel of the RV and I understand suddenly how he manages not to feel lonely –sitting on the magic carpet of the OURstory of The People as we continue flying swiftly down a highway on our way to Charlotte tonight.

            Today is our rest day…

            We thought of watching some movies to have a momentary distraction from the rampant flux that is our lives. Carlos suggested that we watch, “American History X” –explaining that it has a powerful message for us, a critical message for the thorough understanding of our journey. The movie hurts me (as it is meant to). A few moments ago, I needed desperately to step away. Perhaps I have ruined it for myself. Perhaps I never got the message. It is difficult for me to subject myself to so much anger and hate. Think of me what you may. Call me what you want. I know I’m probably not as strong as most –unlike general opinion. In a way, I feel guilty because I know that Carlos was trying to tell me something. I promised him that I would listen… and I will, but I couldn’t at this present moment. You know… sometimes I just can’t. Sometimes it’s hard for people to hear or to listen. Again, it is confirmed that all problems in this world can be traced back to miscommunication.

            I wish that I could listen more. Stay quiet and just listen. Maybe if I spent a week in silence I could learn a little more of Carlos. Its difficult, of course, when you are trapped in a world where men aren’t REALLY meant to communicate with one another. We’ll nod our heads. We’ll wave from a distance. If we’re lucky, perhaps we may shake hands… and hope that through this choreography we could interpret a single word of meaning. Yes, I wish that I could listen more and not be so afraid to listen. I wish that I could know entirely who I have committed to stand with in this struggle where circumstances have forced us to trust each other blindly out of the desperation to retain ANY of our rights, the faintest decibel of our voice –knowing simply in the journey that only through our unity will our existence be audible. We are converging frequencies of sound amplified only by our impact. I am reminded of another movie that taught me how sometimes we drift so far apart that we end up needing to crash into one another just to feel something.

            I see Carlos and understand, without words, that he misses his mom. Perhaps I have no right to say that. How could I possibly interpret such a message when I can barely empathize with the idea of missing my mother? A voice inside me asks, “who?” and this question hurts me… It hurts to see Carlos miss his mom. So much so that it makes me wish I could have met her. So much so that sometimes I walk 16-18 miles hoping with every fiber of my being that someone else could understand what that feels like.

            It isn’t fair for people to be hurting this way! Can you see that it isn’t fair? Can you hear the cry piercing this country, so high our ears can barely notice? Can you feel that thread stretched across the deserts and the oceans? Across a thousand invisible “border lines”? Stretching so tightly that they’re threatening to snap? God, if you exist at all, please help us so we NEVER LET THEM SNAP!

            I don’t know what’s happening to me. Rusty keeps flying into the darkness and here I am, trying to touch the tapestry, the quilt, that carries me, that brought me here, that made me. Trying to determine the color of the thread so that I could describe it to you. I wish I could describe it to you…

            I stepped away from the movie because it kept filling me with rage against my will. Hating myself in many ways for asking myself to continue watching, continue trying to understand the lesson buried beneath the hatred that still exists throughout this country. Felipe touched me and I flinched. Violence does that to you –it makes you defensive. I felt a sting as I noticed my body retreat, my insides curl, my mind panic from the contact… of someone I love. I hurt him when I reacted this way, and I simply could not imagine what possible words I could say. I hurt him as a result of my own fear: the fear I felt when a girl named Meagan identified me in a crowd in St. Augustine and I introduced him to her as “a friend”; the fear he felt when we entered that marketplace with our arms around each other and (seeing only a single pigment of human flesh in the crowd) let go of me; the fear we feel with each step of this journey through the South, too petrified to hold each other’s hand.

            And I wish we didn’t have to live in fear…

            I wish we wouldn’t all be so afraid of getting to know one another; seeing each other; hearing each other –uniting to connect the loose ends of our torn quilt which has the capacity to bring us all warmth in the darkness and the cold. Rusty keeps flying deeper into the darkness and the cold.

            Yet I find security in knowing that here we are unwinding our own tangled thread:


Bound to the students in Miami DREAMing of being permitted the opportunity of completing their education;


Bound to the workers in Mayo, wishing that they’ll make it back home at the end of a long and arduous day of exploited labor;


Bound to the lawyers in Tallahasse petrified of being banned from the career of defending justice;


Bound to the mothers in Bainsbridge terrorized by the prevalent scar of racism;


Bound to the 11-year-old child in Albany under threat of losing his father to a broken system of broken laws;


Bound to the pregnant woman in Atlanta that yearns for her child to be recognized as SOMEONE as I try to have her understand that SHE, TOO, IS SOMEONE;


Bound to the husband in Lawrenceville that knows not how to console his daughters since his wife was detained while taking the kids to school;


Bound to a young man from Jersey who drove to South Carolina just to find another glimmer of HOPE.


            This is the thread that I help to weave and that I carry with me through the cities in this darkness, across the plains and hills, across the woods, across the silence –hoping that you’ll see this quilt stretching behind me in a thousand mile trail, around us, and inside you. Do you see the trail? Do you feel this thread? Do you hear its sound as it quivers in the wind streaming from the wake of Rusty’s flight? Were you able to pick up on even a fragment of our message?

Leave a comment:


Posted by: Ada on March 29, 2010, 11:58 a.m.

Your post made me think about this quote from Septima Clark --- "I know that I am not weaving my life's pattern alone. Only one end of the threads do I hold in my hands. The other ends go many ways linking my life with others."

Posted by: Emily on March 30, 2010, 8 p.m.

I can feel the urgency and anger in your words. I feel them, too. It was an honor walking with you all today in Greensboro. Activism is the only way to fight back. I'm with you. Lots of us are!

Posted by: Suzette Luster on March 31, 2010, 6:27 a.m.

I am so proud of all who are participating in this walk for change. I work daily with a group of students that feel as if life is hopeless as they too do not have papers. This inspires me to do more and continue to fight for those who do not have the voice. I am not an immigrant and have not experienced this journey, but I a human being and see the need for compassion and am willing to reach out others.

Posted by: Fran Ricardo on March 31, 2010, 10:01 p.m.

Yes, as the quote from Septima Clark states, you certainly have linked with so many people. By taking this historical journey you are weaving a tapestry filled with solidarity, inspiration and hope. All of you are amazing and as I read the testimonies that you have motived others to write, I am touched. You have inspired so many others to become activists.