"I realized that by basing judgments about people off numbers (the statistics of 'illegals' who don't have documents) we take away the personal histories of this collection of people with different experiences. It's like saying, 'You are just a number. You are not who you think you are. You do not deserve your own personality. You are a number that I can manipulate as I please in an equation. I can reduce you. I can find your lmits. I can eliminiate you.' " Leslie Niiro, Duke Univ. Class of 2016
When I first read the above statement, it brought tears to my eyes. This simple, yet profound realization made it that much more important to facilitate a Fall Break experience that would not just be a moment...it would be a movement. As we began to interact with the women and teens at the Hope CommUnity Center, in Apopka, FL, I can safely say that all of our lives were touched by someone we met or something we heard. One of the greatest rewards that I have found, in education, is knowing that the students got it. The it that I speak of is the point when information turns into realization and practical application. When the group of 10 young women began on their journey to Apopka, FL this fall, I had no idea that three short months later they would have transformed into living words, walking purposes and agents of social change.
"...and once you have shared in someone else's story, you can never forget it....'Get into our shoes and walk with us, struggle with our struggle,' someone told me in Apopka. I have accepted this challenge, and call on each of you to do the same. Scientifically speaking, humans are creatures made for coalition and community. Our brains contain mirror neurons, cells that cause us to mirror and reflect the actions and lives of others around us. I challenge you to be this example for others to reflect, to thus work for social justice and create social change..." Jaclyn Dobies, Duke Univ. Class of 2015
As Reem, Aarti, Arpita, Lexia and Leslie spoke to a captivated group at W@TC (Wednesdays at the Center) at the Franklin Center, I sat and listened with my ears, but heard with my heart. I heard the hours of thought that went into developing every thought. I heard the intention with which each word was spoken. Heard sentiments and truths spoken that were heartfelt and spanned the generations in a clarion call to awareness and productivity. I hope that every educator finds occasion to embrace the joy in learning from their students. A deep and genuine concern regarding immigration issues was at the heart of every comment, every monologue, every note sung, every person spoke their truth and we found ways to support each other, understand each other, encourage each other and inspire each other.
"Thinking about it now, I should have never measured success by how far I could get away from home or from my struggling household and community but instead how much I can give back to my community and how I can use what I have learned to help improve it." Karina Santellano, Duke Univ. Class of 2015
Issues of immigration, here in America, are a crippling reality for many. There are children whose every day consists of worrying about whether or not they will see their parents again, at the end of a long school day. There are parents who have walked many miles, carrying the weight of a dream of a better tomorrow for their families. How many of us will take Jaclyn's challenge to be the example for others to reflect, to work for social justice? Who will believe in a new normal enough to work to create social change? Beyond the numbers there are voices, tears, and fears. Beyond the numbers there are faces, smiles, dreams and ambitions. Beyond the numbers there are people, documented and undocumented, who are beautifully human.
*The below links are the event at the Franklin Center on January 16, 2013.
"Beyond the Numbers"https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/beyond-the-numbers/id420541299?i=129546038&mt=2 Lexia Chadwick singing "I'm Here" at W@TChttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cn-6CbZPLo&list=UUkpf3D7UNhWFz525MtDthZQ&index=1
* "Beyond the Numbers" is a compilation of monologues that speak to the experiences of the young women who have traveled to Apopka, Florida with the Women's Center's alternative fall break.*