My CLUE/ Street Level Health Project team:
Who are we:
The Bay Area Urban Project (BayUp) is the organization that was in charge of putting on the vigil that took place at the West County Detention Facility this 6th of July. BayUp is a group of students from different colleges in the Bay Area, as well as Reno and Hawaii, who have chosen to dedicate 6 weeks of their summer to learning more about God, His heart for social justice issues, and how we can be seekers of Shalom in Oakland, CA.
In light of the 4th of July, we chose to focus on the theme of “Liberty and Justice for All” for the 6th of July vigil that took place at the West County Detention Center. We took this phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance, which is usually recited daily in our American public schools by all students, documented and undocumented. While all students must recite this promise of liberty and justice for all, this message doesn’t hold true for our undocumented brothers and sisters present in this country. There have been many families that have been seperated, and there have been many students who have experienced the separation of a parent or loved one due to deportations. There are many undocumented people our there who were brought to this country as babies, so they don’t know another home aside from the U.S. There are many undocumented people who live in fear of being deported and therefore lack the liberty to roam this country, to find work that they enjoy, and to be free to visit loved ones back in their home country. Essentially, we wanted to get people thinking about where the “ liberty and justice” are for these people.
As a part of this vigil, we thought it would be important to have two testimonies that represent two different points of view. The first testimony was given by one of the BayUp students who comes from an immigrant family. She shared her perspective on the issue and voiced some of the struggles that undocumented people face. She also shared her experience growing up in the school system that required her to recite the Pledge of Allegience each day, and she shared about how she came to realize how these words don’t hold true for everyone in this country and how they were not written or intended for the undocumented population in the U.S. She also pointed out how much privilege is taken for granted here in the United Stated by its citizens, and how she recently came to realize that even though she came from an immigrant family, being born here has provided her with so many rights that often get taken for granted. In the end, she was greatful for all the people present at the vigil and their participation in these issues of immigration.
The other testimony was one on solidarity, given by one of the staff members of Bayup. She shared about her experience as a white American, growing up thinking that everyone did have access to liberty and justice. She talked about how once her eyes were opened to the truth that not everyone has access, she realized that the broken immigration system wasn’t just an immigrant problem, but it should be all our problem. She used the image of “the body” in scripture because when one part of the body hurts, the rest of the body is used to heal it. Our call as people of faith is to stand in solidarity with the immigrant community, even if the issues of the broken immigration system don’t directly affect us.
As a part of the vigil, the BayUp team presented a dance piece that was based off of an excerpt from a poem titled “Freedom’s Plow” by Langston Hughes. While this can be a fairly patriotic poem, we decided to let the moves speak for themselves and show the role of community in the immigration struggle. The main piece of the dance involved 3 people that depicted the lines of the poem as they were being read to the audience. We also depicted the engagement and lack of engagement of others in this struggle through our blindfolded team members standing in the back of the main piece. These blindfolded people are important in the piece. Some members would take the blindfold off which was representative of how many Americans become aware of these issues of immigration that they were blind to before. After removing the blind fold, some chose to leave them off and engage with the struggle while some chose to put them back on to show how others refuse to engage despite having been exposed to the issue. There were other members that never even took the blind fold off and never got exposed to the struggle that our immigrant brothers and sisters face.
All in all, the vigil was a success. Planning and attending this vigil was definitely a new experience for the BayUp team that put it together and attended, but it was an experience that they were grateful for having experienced. For the returning attendees of these vigils, I can only hope that they were able to gain a lot from the parts of the vigil that were unique to this group.