We Belong Together

Words and pictures by Steve Pavey

All month long, diverse communities from across the US have been working together to unite movements for Beyond the Moment, a May Day National Day of Action.  Over 37 sponsoring national organizations along with hundreds of local communities representing, “Black and Brown people, immigrant communities, Indigenous people, the economically unstable, women, children, the disabled, the LGBTQ community and those fighting for our right to clean air and water” are marching, striking and resisting hate and white supremacy.  Among those calling us all to action on May 1 are children from these diverse communities who came together in solidarity during their spring break for the National Domestic Worker Alliance’s sponsored We Belong Together Kids Caravan from Miami to Washington, D.C.

On April 13, these children gathered in front of the White House to share their stories of struggle against hate and to show President Trump that they were not afraid to fight to keep their families and communities together!  They joined hands in unity around a bright rainbow colored circle that read “We Belong Together” as a symbol of the solidarity commitments between these Black and Brown, immigrant and indigenous children and youth to resist the same hate that targets their different communities criminalizing, profiling, incarcerating and deporting their family members.  On May Day these children will be leading their communities Beyond the Moment of striking, walk-outs and other direct actions to building an ongoing movement of resistance.  I joined the children along their caravan and the following are the words and images of resistance against hate they share along their journey.

Washington, DC.  April 13, 2017.  Elena and her friend Leah of the We Belong Together Kids Caravan supporting one another during their final action in front of the White House.

“My name is Elena.  I am 17-years old and I'm a member of WeCount! . . . My dad was deported five years ago back to Guatemala because he was driving without a driver’s license, and it has been really hard. My mom takes care of me and my four siblings as a single parent. . . .  I don’t know what I would do without her.  Now it’s my turn to protect her. . . This caravan is about kids and youth coming to DC to deliver a message to Trump . . . we do not want our communities and families to be separated because of hate . . . We are here today in front of the white house to show Trump that young people are unbreakable, we are strong, and we stand up for what is right.”

Washington, DC.  April 12, 2017.  Yoana speaks to the crowd in Raleigh, NC in front of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction along the journey from Miama to DC for the We Belong Together Kids Caravan.  Yoana’s father, like Elena’s, was deported under the Trump administration.

“Hello everybody.  My name is Yoana.  I am 13 years old. I am a member of WeCount and American Friends and I live in Homestead, Florida.  I live in a farm worker community where we are all connected and we all stick up for each other.  We are a powerful community because we work hard and feed everyone around us.  We are also not afraid to stand up to Donald Trump.  This is why I joined the WBT Kid’s Caravan to Washington, DC because I want to protect my community by any means.  I know I am young but I also know my community needs me more than ever.  So my message to Donald is the following:  You are a bully that wants to destroy my family and put fear in the heart of my community.  But unlike you I was raised right by a single mother who worked day and night in the fields.  She taught me that no matter what the attacks we get against us . . . we have the right to demand respect. . . . For me, this is a special and powerful opportunity to show my mom how much I love her. She works hard in the fields every day to be able to feed us. Defending her from Trump’s hate is the least I can do for her.”

Washington, DC.  April 13, 2017.  Leah celebrates the joy of resistance on the shoulders of fellow We Belong Together Kids Caravan rider, Thomas, after their final action in front of the White House.  Leah joined the caravan in part to fight for the dignity and rights of her undocumented mother who works as a domestic worker in Miami.

“My name is Leah and I’m 11 years old.  I live in Miami Florida.  I am the proud daughter of a domestic worker who taught me to treat people with kindness, love and respect. I am here today to tell you all that us kids are strong and that we will defend our immigrant families and communities from hate.  We are here to stay.  As a kid, I live with fear of being separated from my mother every day.  She has an order of deportation which means that immigration can come and take her anytime . . .  It is not fair.  It breaks my heart.  It is not a happy thought.  It is a horrible feeling.  . . .  if she should get deported I will never see her again.  I don’t know how long it would be to see my Mom again if she was sent back to Nicaragua. . . . Why can’t I just enjoy being a kid. All I can think about is my Mother getting taking away from me.  I am so worried about my life.  But I also know that it doesn’t have to be this way. . . . We do not have to deport Moms, Dads, sisters and brothers. . . . I want to tell Mr. Trump that he is a bully and that no matter how mean he is, and No matter how hard he tries, He will never break our spirit!"  We are strong kids and youth and we are ready to protect our families . . .  I want to be an example to other kids who are going through the same problem as me.  I want to tell them to not give up and to fight for their family.  You are not alone. . . . “

Atlanta, GA.  April 11, 2017.  Jasmine on the We Belong Together Kids Caravan bus with her mother who currently has DACA but fears losing it.  Jasmine’s mother tells me she is her hero.  She has joined this caravan in part to fight for both her mother and her undocumented father.

“My name is Jasmine, and I’m a 10 year-old activist from Florida with the American Friends Service Committee. . . . I am going on this trip to support our families, so they can stay together forever. . . . Being with my parents makes me feel safe because we all get along and love each other.  My mom was born Mexico, and has DACA. I don’t want that to get taken away because then we might not be able to stay together.  I want President Trump to know that families are forever.”

Washington, DC.  April 13, 2017.  Jeanette Vizguerra was just recognized as one of TIME's 100 most influential people in the world. She is an undocumented mother and activist who has now sought "sanctuary" at a Denver church because ICE considers her a priority for deportation. Two of her four children, Luna (age 12) and Roberto (age 10), traveled to DC last week to join the We Belong Together Kid's Action, and stand here addressing a crowd in front of the White House.

 “Hi people. My name is Roberto.  Today I’ll be talking about the problems I’ve been going through. So my Mom has been going through this struggle of getting threatened and us getting scared by ICE. . . . Why are (they) wanting to (do this) . . . We’re all the same.  We’re all human beings. . . . "

“Hello.  My name is Luna and I came here to talk about what’s been going on here in the United States. . . . Many have been deported and they live in fear of their parents being deported. I think it is not fair for children to live in fear or parents to be without their children because families should be united and I think we should all help each other. . . “

Washington, DC.  April 13, 2017.  A child of immigrant parents who joined the We Belong Together Kids Caravan stands at the reflecting pool between the Lincoln memorial and Washington monument.  The challenge they pose for us is whether we be able to see their reflection – of human dignity and courage – beyond the lies and delusions our monuments, memorials and mythologies blind us to.

I spoke with Cynthia Moreno, an organizer with WeCount! from Homestead, Florida, who joined the children on the caravan and who is working with them to organize their local May 1 action - A Day without Immigrants.  She remembers back to 2006 when she was 16-years old and she first began taking action by joining her high-school walk-out to support the dignity of immigrants.  She tells me, “It is really powerful that children are leading us now, because it’s usually been the parents standing up to protect their children.”  These are children whose immigrant parents largely work as day laborers, farm workers, construction workers, and domestic workers.  While they faced the same kinds of human rights threats under the Obama administration, Cynthia tells me that ICE and the community are much more open with their hate and targeted violence.  “The community is experiencing a lot more fear,” she says.  The May Day National Day of Action for the community in Homestead and across the US is about coming together to take a stand for the dignity of all workers and immigrants, she tells me, and they will continue the resistance against wage theft and illegal mistreatment of workers.

Will you join the children of the We Belong Together Kids Caravan and others across the US for the Beyond the Moment May Day National Action?  Come out to “march, protest, strike, and resist May 1st as we stand for labor rights, immigrant rights, reproductive rights, criminal justice, Indigenous rights, Black liberation, gender justice, LGBT rights, and our collective power as the people. May Day we resist together!”

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