Friday, February 25, 2011

Goree Island- a story in photos (part 1)

Joan's Thoughts on Migration -in Detroit and Dakar

Charity, Lizzy, and I received quite a welcome upon arriving in Senegal.  We stepped off the plane into early, dark morning, cool air, but much warmer than Detroit.  Going through customs took but moments.  We had no need even for visas.  With our American passports we entered the country freely and easily, and were greeted more than warmly.
In the short walk from customs to bag claim and then outdoors to find our taxi we got offer after offer after inquiry: “Do you need a taxi?” “Where are you from?” “Do you need to make a call?” “Can I help you carry that?” “What is your name?”  Such friendly curiosity, we were overwhelmed. 

At the World Social Forum, I found a play on “L’Immigration Clandestine.” Illegal Immigration.  The play started with four men sneaking off to a fishing boat they were planning to take it from Senegal to Europe.  Two other men played narrators, asking the migrating men what they were leaving and why, what they hoped to find, and imploring them to seek out alternatives that were safer and better for their families and country.  There were five women also, who pleaded with the men to stay, to reconsider the danger of the journey, to remember their families, to truly see the hardship they would face once in Europe.  

It was a beautiful play.  The men were stubborn and frustrated with their lack of opportunity in Senegal, and clearly fearful of drowning on the journey.  The women were broken hearted and left-behind, and the narrators wise.  But it is treacherous to sail from Senegal to Europe in a fishing boat.  The audience felt this, and all were afraid for the lives of these migrants.

Just weeks before leaving for Dakar and the World Social Forum a neighbor was picked up by ICE, and I wish the hearing I witnessed had been a play and not real life.  He has two young children and a two month old baby who is sick.  He had no lawyer, the judge was demeaning, and she questioned him on things he has every right to protect.  Though he was under oath, he lied in answering her questions.  He lied out of need to protect his family, and out of fear for what may yet happen to them. 

Going back quickly to the men in the play, even if they had reached Italian beaches they would not have received the greeting that Lizzy, Charity, and I did.  Their passports do not merit a warm welcome and easy passage.  The inquiries that meet them will also send them home.  They are overwhelmed with a country that fears them and a system that calls them illegal.

Being in both Detroit and Dakar, it is clear that migration is surrounded, even influenced, by fear.  The simple acts of traveling, finding work, living life, are not in and of themselves threatening but done within the context of our immigration system can be costly and harmful.  This system has been built on our need for control and out of fear of the “other.”  The danger immigrants face, and the fear they are forced to live with is not their own, it is the welcome we give them so warmly.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ahmina's Thoughts: Global Connnections

I wrote a journal entry while I was in the Social Movement Assembly that was on Thursday, February 10th during the World Social Forum and have included it below…

So I’m sitting in the Social Movement Assembly and I have to write what I’m feeling.  There is so much energy and passion in this room of over 200 people.  The moderator went about reading the Declaration created during the World Social Forum and it is very powerful and on point.  The declaration made statements on climate justice, land grabs, food sovereignty, human trafficking, womens rights, and much more.  (I’ve included a link to the Declaration below) The energy of the room reminds me of when I saw Evo Morales speak this past December.  There’s a collective sense of hope and desire for change.

After the declaration was read a Tunisian activist spoke about what was happening there, and the need for such revolution to happen around the world.  In the middle of his speech the announcement came that Mubareck was ousted.  The wave of elation that swept the room was amazing, the room was saturated with emotion!

Tunisian activist speaking at Social Movement Assembly

Although hearing from the Tunisian activist was a great moment, I found a simple statement made by a woman from Brasil the most insightful.  She said "Only local resistance will move us forward!" and that really resonated with me, on so many levels.  The entire week that I’ve been here I’ve been wondering how should we engage at this international level, and there was my answer.  Through continuing the work we’re doing in Detroit on the ground we are moving this global movement forward.  I kept wondering, where does EMEAC fit in, how should we act or be involved at the international level and by showing solidarity, continuing to fight and hold our government accountable for its policies that subjugate those in our country and worldwide, we ARE currently doing this.  So the work EMEAC does IS moving us forward! And we rely on our allies at the international level doing this work to be a part of those conversations within the U.N., WSF, and other spaces.  We are not able to do it all, and I have to acknowledge that meanwhile knowing our work IS furthering the movement.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Will Copeland's D2D Blog: Fourth Day Political Conversations

Today was a good day. So good, in fact, that if I had to go home today I’d stay the trip was still worth it. )I would be very disappointed that I didn’t see Goree Island that’s for later in the week) I had my first political conversation in French today! We touched on many topics related to the African Diaspora.

Old School and I were listening to music and he asked me about a line where Nas says that his father came from Egypt. I said I thought that was “symbolique” as many Black folks are referring to the cultural legacy of the Egyptians and not direct genetic descent. We then both agreed that Egypt has African roots- that its civilization comes from the South even though it is often treated like a separate part from the rest of Aftica. He asked if I were familiar with the historian Cheikh Anta Diop, who Dakar’s main University is named after and talked about Diop’s work establishing Africa as the cradle of civilization by showing how Wolof and other traditional languages have many of the same root words and sounds as ancient Egyptian languages.

I showed him a book by John Henrik Clarke, a Black American historian and explained how in the United States it is very controversial to use the term “African Holocaust.” He said he was familiar with the Jewish/ European Holocaust but thought that the term definitely applied as well to the forced migration that made up the slave trade and resulted in 50 million plus people being lost from the African Continent. Columbus paved the way for this holocaust in 1492 so he is quite irrationally credited with discovering America. Old School was surprised to learn that there is a holiday in the US. honoring Columbus and called it “ridiculous.”

He said “America is a land of contrasts and contradictions.” The discussion continued as he asked what I thought about Barack Obama.
I said I thought his policies were too much influenced by Republicans. So many Republicans cut too many services that people depend on with horrible social consequences. For example John Engler gutted funding for mental hospitals so now many former patients are now homeless or in jail. I said I thought Obama had too many compromises even though he is in a difficult situation because many Americans dislike having an intelligent Black person in a role of hierarchical superiority (I didn’t use so many big words in French). These cutbacks make it so that people without money can’t get the basics of life. I told him about the DTE utility shutoffs. He was horrified by the fact that 8-15 people die in Detroit each winter because they don’t have enough money to pay for heat. I showed him a picture of the DTE demonstration at the US Social Forum.

The supervising nurse joined in our conversation. She is a cool French woman who was a midwife before she worked in dialysis. I told her that I have a friend studying to become a midwife. I have great respect for midwives. She chimed in that it’s a shame that Obama’s hands are tied and that he cannot change the policies of the US.

This conversation made the dialysis session a lot of fun. It was a powerful experience to share.