Wednesday, October 22, 2008

working for social justice, cada dia

Don't have a photo of me, but that is not important. This picture is of the artwork that Nancy Scobles, the art teacher at a local school brought of her children's art. The children were studying Molas an textile art form practiced by indigenous people in Panama;we thought it added a nice touch to the setting.
I was fortunate to have played a small part in a forum that we held last Friday (Oct 17) in the local Episcopal Church. The reverend to quote" I interpret our work with the recently migrated Latino population as a non-negotiable Christian moral value. After all, as a child Jesus himself was an immigrant to the foreign land and culture of Egypt. As an adult, Jesus did the vast majority of his work crossing cultural borders to work with those who were considered to be "outsiders."
As you know I am not a believer in the traditional sense, but I believe with all of my spiritual being that we must live the moral values that the Rev. refers to.

Here is the text of my opening speech, si te interesa....
Soon you will hear from our esteemed panel members who will share with you their extensive research about the realities of our immigrant population, but first I would like to share some personal reflections. My name is Ann Crew and when I retired in 2002 I had a goal of learning to speak Spanish and travel to Latin America. I am still working on the language skills but in the process I have made many trips to parts of Mexico that tourists never see. I have always traveled alone and was initially motivated to attempt to help our Latino population to return the favors of the generosity, kindness and courtesies I was shown in my travels.
I have never been to Cancun but I have been to Ixmilquilpan. Ixmilquilpan is a small town in the Mexican state of Hidalgo. Many of the people living here in Washington are from the rural area around this small town. I feel fortunate to have the experience of seeing some of the culture of the descendents of the original inhabitants of North America; cultures that have struggled to retain their traditions under centuries of oppression and struggle. This centuries’ old way of life is being destroyed by the winds of a global economy that leaves the small villages and farms struggling to exist. This is the human side of globalization which our policies such as NAFTA-facilitated corn exports make it all but impossible for subsistence farmers to make an even a poor living for their families. Many of our latest immigrants come from towns with no future and are lucky to avoid rape, murder, or starvation on the way to our community. When I meet people from this part of Mexico who now live in my community I know how motivated they are to make their lives here a success. These hard working families are trying to live the American dream, and if we do not stand in their way, their children will follow the same general upward movement, the same as other immigrant groups, the same path my immigrant predecessors followed. If we do not stand in their way, by the second generation most will have moved from the fields to the universities and into the professional ranks of the U.S. workforce and by third generation like other immigrants will not be able to understand the language of their grandparents. When I volunteer or substitute in our elementary schools I see the children of these immigrants who come into kindergarten speaking only Spanish and see most enter first grade, comfortably bilingual. These Latino children are often the most serious, hard working children in the room, a reflection of the parents desire to succeed.
I have never been to Acapulco but I have been to San Pablito, high in the remote mountains of Puebla state. Most of the people in town spoke Otomi, but the only fluent English speaker in town learned in Durham, North Carolina. In this isolated place I talked to people who had been to my town and had family living here. The only product this town made was fiber paper made from the bark of a fig tree, the same process and type of paper that Cortez observed being used by the Aztecs. Since the hardening of our borders the people in this tiny village, no longer go back and forth as freely. This means that people living here in Washington are going to settle and stay. The boss of the subcontractors that framed my house was from this town, started work at 11 and worked his way up, now as a success in this country he cannot go back to see his aging parents.
I have met so many hard working Latinos in my community, with the kind of values that I want members of my community to have, the Latino culture places the highest importance on the family with the motivation to work hard to provide and succeed for their family. When I see these vibrant families here in our community I am confident that all they have all they need to succeed and enrich our community, if we simply allow them to.
I want to clarify that I am not courageous, far from it; my life has been a privileged and easy one, compared to the most recent immigrants in my community. We chose the subtitle Beaufort County Testaments of Courage when the steering committee was in the early stages of planning for this forum we thought it would be dramatically effective to have personal testimonies from immigrants living in Beaufort County. We wanted you to hear personal stories of courage, sacrifice and perseverance. But we found out time after time that the climate of fear and intolerance promoted by some in our community had a chilling effect on anyone we asked to tell their stories. We talked to employers of Latinos, we talked to various Latino members of our community, we talked to people who we knew were legal and those whose status was unknown, the answer was always the same, No puedo, I am sorry, I cannot. Sadly, our experience was an education for us in how persuasive is the general climate of fear affects all Latinos, and demonstrates the critical need for forums such as this.


John said...

Wow, Ann. That was great. And from the heart. Ever think about running for public office?

late 50's said...

thanks, it is from the heart...and no public office for me, I just want to live my live in peace and harmony and help when and how I can.