Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thanks, Ms. Johnson. You made a Difference.

A Youtube campaign in August had individuals making videos thanking the teachers in their lives that made a difference. When I saw this, you were the first person I thought of, and though you are no longer here, I wanted to thank you, Ms. Johnson, the only way I know how.

In American Lit at La Salle High School my Junior year, I remember reading Richard Wright’s Native Son as a class, and how you didn’t shy away from explaining the masturbation scene to a classroom of 20+ 16 year-olds. Or how you talked to us like people. You spoke about “impotence of power” with such earnestness I couldn’t giggle, and I had to listen.

As we followed Bigger Thomas around a dark and impoverished Chicago, as we read Wright’s graphic murder scene, you posed a question to us: “What happens to a person who has never seen beauty?”

What happens to a person who isn’t allowed beauty? You asked this, and I have never stopped trying to answer your question, Ms. Johnson.

You taught me other important lessons that I have not forgotten about literature and essay writing, and you were the first person to introduce me to feminist ideas. But it is your question that follows me everyday into the classroom, and it is what I now ask my own students. It is the question I look for every time I open a book; it is what I carried with me in my pack hiking in the Arizona desert; it is what I work for every time I write.

Thank you, Ms. Johnson. You made a difference in my life.

Monday, September 26, 2011

9 Days in the Desert: A Photo Essay

First two nights with no more deaths we camped out in an old convent in Tuscon, AZ

A poster from No More Deaths' WRR campaign against SB 1070

The before photo. So fresh and so clean and ready to go.

Day 1: The road to Arivaca, AZ

The road to Byrd Camp aka NMD's home base

The desert in blume

Day 2: My first water drop.

The Surban with a broken frame but a working radio

Me hiking.

We left messages on the water to let the migrants know they could trust it. We also wanted to pass on some hope.

A gila monster we found dead and turned over on the road.

Day 3: Josseline's Shrine

This marks the where the body of Josseline--a 14 year old girl traveling with her younger brother--was found by a No More Deaths volunteer after her coyote abandoned her in the desert.

Hiking among desert blossoms and underneath a blistering sun.

I love the flowers of the barrel cactus.

A breathtaking desert sunset.

Downtown Arivaca, AZ

I do believe it is hot here.

Day 4: A Migrant Trail

Me, ready to quit.

A water gallon slashed by Border Patrol. This is a common occurrence.

My Sharpie sketch of La Virgen de Guadelupe.

Montana Peak aka Hippy Mountain over looking Ruby and Ruby Lake beach.

Ruby Lake, less a lake and more a pool of green sludge, but when you haven't showered in days, you'll take it.

Refreshed and feeling good.

A virtual fence. These towers monitor hidden censors all over the desert that track migrants.

Day 5: We Reject Racism in Byrd Camp

A dead tarantula in camp.

A dead baby gopher snake that a team of ants carried under a fellow volunteers tent.

A shrine to the migrants.

Welcoming and kind instructions for migrants.

The newbies looking good in front of the Frankentent and water supply.

Day 6: Morning glory.

It's hot and dry.

Desert life aka an ant hole

A destroyed and abandoned car in the middle of nowhere

Feeling good after the "Oak Tree" water drop and hiking into a canyon

The view

A live tarantula. They tend to come out at dusk.

Day 7: Dead Man's Pass and a view of the Baboquivaris mountain range looking south.

Border Patrol are notorious for slashing water in Dead Man's

Attempting to look rugged in DM or "Gumdrop Valley"

The view of the east. It's hard not to look out and wonder who is out there, who is in need?

The port of entry at Sasabe, AZ

"The Wall"

Sleepy Sasabe

Day 8: Byrd Baylor's home

Day 9: a rainbow over my tent

Saying farewell to the desert and some fellow volunteers

One last photo to remember the violence and death that is occurring right now in our country, under our watch. Border Patrol slashed this gallon and countless others, very well knowing that people are dying from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Illegally crossing borders is not punishable by death and humanitarian aid is never a crime. No matter what your stance on immigration, let's remember that people are dying, and their only crime is dreaming of a better life for themselves and their families.

For more on Border Patrol abuses please check out A Culture of Cruelty--the extensive NMD report documenting thousands of abuses. It isn't a few bad apples; it's a culture.