Author Archive

Celebrate Advent with the Quixote Center

Download your Social Justice Advent Calendar Here.

Advent season is a time of great expectation in the Christian faith. During this time, we are awaiting the coming of the Messiah and reflecting on what his birth means to the world today. We believe that with Jesus’ birth comes hope, joy, love and peace. Isaiah 9:6 (The Inclusive Bible) says, “For a child is born to us, an heir is given us, upon whose shoulders dominion will rest. This One shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Strength of God, Eternal Protector, Champion of Peace.” However, Advent is also a time of self-reflection, prayer and a time for us to put our faith into action by acting in solidarity with those who are oppressed by unjust systems.

This year the Quixote Center wants to help you celebrate the season of Advent with our Social Justice Calendar. On it you will find creative ways to honor this holy season and help to build a world more justly loving. Please click the link below to download your calendar today, and please share with your friends and family.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

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Chairman Fred Hampton and Why His Life Still Matters 50 Years Later

Photo courtesy of Haymarket Books

“We should be working together.”

An older White man said this to me as I listened to his story about how his Latinx immigrant friends were beaten by Black youth in Southeast, Washington, D.C. I could see that he really thought I had the answers as to why it happened – as if Black people have banded together against the Latinx community or immigrants. He just couldn’t comprehend why I, a Black woman, wanted to raise awareness about the U.S.’ inhumane immigration policies and detention. Why would I be interested in helping them?  

“I feel called to serve the least of these…as Jesus commanded. I am a minister,” I responded.

There is a video embedded in this post. Please visit the website to view it.

These kinds of conversations are why the life and teachings of Chairman Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party still matter today. True knowledge of Hampton and the Black Panther Party would dispel the myth that Black people have not spearheaded political movements rooted in solidarity with other oppressed people and that Black people only care about the conditions of other Black people. This is simply not true. Fred Hampton recognized and taught how the elite or those in power use racism to divide the working class, and he was leading an effective movement to work against it. He wasn’t just the leader of the Black Panther Party. He was a leader for all oppressed people. And that’s what made him so dangerous.   

50 years ago today, Fred Hampton was assassinated by the Chicago Police Department along with his comrade, Mark Clark. Their murders were state sanctioned and in partnership with the FBI and its COINTELPRO program. His pregnant fiancé, Aku Njeri, was in bed with him that night when the police fired hundreds of bullets into their bedroom. He was only 21 years old at the time. He only scratched the surface of becoming the man and leader he was determined to be, but his impact was monumental nevertheless and surpassed his years. He had the ability to attract and ignite disenfranchised youth, and he was on the way to building a multiracial socialist movement. He promoted political education and solidarity, and he was conscious about how to combat racism, capitalism and the injustices that faced all oppressed and poor people.

Fred Hampton’s legacy continues and his spirit is evident in the leaders that have emerged in the last five years – specifically those from Ferguson, Missouri who protested and organized after the murder of Michael Brown by police. Sadly, many of those comrades and revolutionaries have met a similar fate to Hampton, but we continue to fight.

Hampton’s life still matters and his legacy lives on, and despite what mainstream society thinks, Black people are continuing to organize, unite, and fight for the humanity, dignity and freedom of all people.

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In Memoriam: Barbara Cullom

On September 8, 2019, the Quixote Center lost one of its prophetic voices with the death of Barbara Cullom, who worked at the Center from 1983-1986. Cullom earned advanced degrees in theology including a Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame and an M.Div. at Howard University School of Divinity.

At the Quixote Center, she worked on what was originally called the Theology Project and served as a bridge between the work of Priests for Equality and Catholics Speak Out. In her work, Barbara centered efforts to call out the sin of sexism and raise up the liberationist goals of feminism within a theological context. After moving on from the Center, she devoted much of her life to pastoral ministries and support to patients in hospice care.

One outstanding part of Cullom’s legacy is the Mary Canon, a liturgical text she co-authored with Dolly Pomerleau, a co-founder of the Quixote Center, which we include here:

Mary Canon

By Dolly Pomerleau and Barbara Cullom

We give you thanks, God of all, for Mary our sister.

We think of how she might tell us of her son’s life:

“While I waited with my cousin Elizabeth

I felt my child move,

felt him grow and kick and turn in my womb. I said:

This is the body of my body.

     This is the blood of my blood.

In Bethlehem, I held my newborn son,

keeping him close to me as he slept.

As I cradled my firstborn in my arms, I said:

This is the body of my body.

     This is the blood of my blood.

At Golgotha, I held my dead son,

feeling his brokenness and my own.

As I cradled his corpse in my arms, I cried:

This is the body of my body.

     This is the blood of my blood.

On Olivet, I held my risen son,

thrilled that he had triumphed over death.

As I held him in my arms, my heart rejoiced:

This is the body of my body.

     This is the blood of my blood.”

In closing, we quote Barbara’s own words from a piece she wrote for a Quixote Center publication titled Set My People Free: Liberation Theology in Practice, offering an eschatological vision of her work within Christianity – a vision that is still being fulfilled – and that now serves as a fitting way of capturing her memory and the fond memory so many hold of her:

We shall someday see the New Jerusalem, a heaven and an earth beautiful as one who is to be married, a place where there are no more tears. We shall see it, just as one day there were women and men who bore, touched, loved and struggled with Emmanu-el. I do not know when that day will come. But I do know that even now, women and women-children can sing in their souls: “I found God in myself, and I loved her, I loved her FIERCELY!!”

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Family separations and U.S.-sanctioned trauma are not new

Sketch of a slave auction. (Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture)

This week hundreds of emails by Stephen Miller, senior immigration advisor to the president, were unveiled and we discovered what many of us knew already – Stephen Miller is racist. Big surprise. CNN states:

In the emails, Miller promotes a notoriously racist French novel that paints a dystopian picture of immigrants as subhuman hordes. He encourages a Breitbart reporter to emphasize stories about crime by  immigrants and non-whites. He expresses dismay that Amazon had stopped selling Confederate flags after the 2015 Charleston church shooting.

Miller’s white nationalist ideology explains why he and this administration have been so draconian in their immigration policies, specifically the explosive detention numbers, family separations and the number of children detained in the U.S. The Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border led to the incarceration of at least 3,000 children in the spring and summer of 2018. Some of these children have yet to be re-connected with parents. Over the course of FY 2019, the Office of Refugee Resettlement held 70,000 children. At the beginning of the fiscal year as many as 14,000 a day, and for an average detention of 93 days! These policies shocked many in this country, and probably more than any other development, energized a grassroots backlash to the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Today’s Daily Dispatch: “Stephen Miller Must Go”

However, as we in church circles like to quote from the Bible, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Family separation, the criminalization of self-determined people seeking a better life, and the gross abuses of enslaved and indigenous people have been around since the founding of this country. These methods of oppression and disenfranchisement are as American as apple pie.

Africans who were enslaved by the founding fathers and colonizers were ripped away from their countries, religion, culture and families by the millions. The threat of having their families sold away was a regular torture tactic used by slaveowners to keep enslaved peoples in line. Those who are familiar with the history of indigenous people in the Americas know that many of their children were ripped away from their families and forced into boarding schools for assimilation. From the article, “Slavery and America’s Legacy of Family Separation:”

Harriet Mason remembered her mistress forcing her to leave her home and family in Bryantsville, Kentucky, to work in Lexington as a servant at the age of seven. She remembered, “when we got to Lexington I tried to run off and go back to Bryantsville to see my [mother].” The grief of a childhood spent away from her family at the whim of her owner led her to suicidal thoughts, “I used to say I wish I’d died when I was little.” Even in her old age she was firm that, “I never liked to go to Lexington since.”

Her recollections capture the cruelty of family separation and underscore how children were big business in the history of slavery. They were laborers and valuable property. They could be hired out just like Harriet Mason. Slaveholders borrowed against their human property. They gifted enslaved children to their white sons and daughters as children, upon their marriages, or as they struck out to begin their slaveholding legacy. And of course, slave children could be sold down the road and down the river. Children knew that at any moment this could happen to them.

The separation of Black families didn’t end with Emancipation. The “Black Codes” and Jim Crow ensured that Blacks would not have equal rights and resulted in uneven enforcement of laws and sentencing, which in turn, made their families more susceptible to forced separation. Malcolm X describes in his autobiography how the foster care system removed him and his siblings from their mother’s care after his father’s murder. More recently, studies have shown how the U.S. welfare system and prison industrial complex have separated families and instilled intergenerational trauma into Black families. The “man in the house” rule is a primary example of how the U.S. government has been intentional in destroying families. The North Carolina Law Review states:

Under the type of state welfare regulation popularly known as the “substitute father” rule, children otherwise eligible for benefits under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children’ program are denied assistance if their natural parent maintains a continuing sexual relationship with someone of the opposite sex. This person is deemed to be a non-absent parent within the meaning of the Social Security Act, thus rendering the family ineligible for AFDC payments. Whether this person is legally obligated to support the children is irrelevant; whether he does in fact contribute to their support is also irrelevant; eligibility under such a rule is determined solely by the relationship between the parent (usually the mother of the children) and the “substitute” (usually an unrelated male).

Children in poor families would not be eligible for welfare benefits if there was a man living in the home – whether that man was financially supporting the children or not. This forced many fathers to leave their homes and encouraged the explosion in Black children born in single-parent households. This was by design. One of my favorite movies, “Claudine,” with Diahann Carroll and James Earl Jones, shows how the welfare system was design to keep families separated, keep fathers out of the home, and keep Black and poor families trapped in poverty.

Stephen Miller’s emails and his position in the Trump administration confirm what we already knew about U.S’ immigration policies and many of the other unjust systems in this country. They are rooted in racism, and if do not force a change of course, generations of people will continue to suffer.

More information:
‘Barbaric’: America’s cruel history of separating children from their parents
The Racist Roots of Welfare Reform

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The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation: Impactful or Nah?

When we’re done pontificating, what’s really going to be done?

*I use Black and African American interchangeably.

This week the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) held its annual legislative conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The 2019 theme is “400 years: Our Legacy, Our Possibilities…” If you’re not familiar with the CBCF, it’s a “nonprofit nonpartisan public policy, research and educational institute that seeks to improve the socioeconomic circumstances of African Americans and other underserved communities.” There are many panel discussions on a variety of issues affecting African Americans including affordable housing, the 2020 Census and economic equality. It’s also a huge networking opportunity to meet Black legislators and other professionals who care about and are in a position to affect public policy.

This wasn’t my first time attending the CBCF. I’m a Maryland native, and CBCF week is a highly-anticipated event in the college-educated, middle class Black community. I say “college educated” because the event does target a specific demographic. Many, including myself, call their target audience the “Black Bourgeoisie.” The Root senior writer, Michael Harriot penned a hilarious description of CBCF week; however, I have to warn you – if you’re not Black, many of his references will go over your head. I laughed all throughout his piece because Harriot is accurate in his description of the stark class differences between most CBCF attendees and us regular Black folk. There is an air of elitism and privilege at CBCF.

However, I respect that the CBCF seeks to find solutions to systemic issues. There were many informative panels seeking to educate and raise awareness about pressing concerns in African American communities. They talked about the spread of misinformation through social media that disproportionately targets African Americans; apparently, over 50 percent of people of color get their news from Facebook. They talked about the 2020 Census, affordable housing, education and the condition of Black men and boys. The panelists and experts shared a great deal of information to wrestle with and consider when trying to build a world more justly loving. There was also a huge exhibiting hall with vendors sharing resources. Several government agencies had tables in the exhibit hall.

But despite the major networking opportunities and the chances to speak face-to-face with Black legislators and lobbyists, the most moving part of the CBCF for me was when I left the convention center to add more money to my meter. A Black man I assume is homeless asked me for money. I gave him a couple of dollars I had in my purse, fed the meter and went back to the conference, but couldn’t help thinking about the dichotomy of the homeless Black man and the conference attendees carrying Prada bags, wearing silk suits and Christian Louboutin shoes while exchanging business cards hoping for their next “come up.” Some Black people have seats at the proverbial table, but many of us are still scraping for the crumbs that fall from it. Many Black people view the CBCF as an opportunity for the Black Bourgeoisie to pat each other on the back, flaunt their wealth and titles, and party to put it simply. Despite their success, there still is a huge wealth gap in the Black community. Gentrification has forced many Black people out of the former “Chocolate City.” Police still target and violate the rights of Black people in Washington, D.C. at disproportionately higher rates than other demographics. Trump pulled Rep. Elijah Cummings card, when he challenged Cummings on his effectiveness in Baltimore and then had his people interview residents in Cummings’ district about their living conditions. I’m no fan of Trump, but you can’t ignore the testimonies shared online of the people Rep. Cummings serves. I’m sure there are many poor Black people like the man I encountered who want to know exactly how the CBCF affects them and if the CBCF cares about their experiences.

CBCF can be a good time, but I hope that “we” haven’t gotten so far removed from the people we claim to be trying to help. I know the homeless man outside of the conference reminded me of why I do the work I do. I’m there to speak for him. I represent him and many others who don’t have conference passes to make their voices heard. I hope others remember this as well while they’re rubbing elbows with their political idols.

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Daily Dispatch 8/19/2019: Voices Crying Out

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InAlienable
Daily Dispatch

August 19, 2019


We continue to learn more about the effects of the massive ICE raids that recently took place in Mississippi food processing plants, the latest being that a four-month baby that is still nursing has been separated from her mother. The woman’s husband is facing his own deportation trial. Presently, he is raising their three children, including the baby, while they wait to see what their fate will be. All three of their children were born in the United States, and are, therefore, American citizens. Many migrant parents facing deportation will be forced to make hard decisions about where their children will go and who will raise them.

The husband spoke to the Clarion Ledger under condition of anonymity because of his undocumented status and fear of arrest or reprisal. His priest, the Rev. Roberto Mena of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Forest, served as translator.

He and his wife have three kids. The oldest, an 11-year-old boy, is in school. Their 3-year-old boy has a sweet smile and is full of rambunctious energy. And their youngest is the infant.

All three children were born in the U.S., and therefore are American citizens.

For people who entered the country without permission, like the parents, the few existing paths to obtaining legal status are highly restrictive and complicated. There’s no way to “get in line” for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants, according to the American Immigration Council.

The husband came to the U.S. 14 years ago. He left his hometown in Guatemala because there was no work there, he said.

Orange Is the New Black stories

Actress Diane Guerrero from Orange is the New Black (OITNB) opened up on The Van Jones Show about how her parents were deported back to Columbia when she was a child and the trauma it caused her. An immigration reform activist herself, she’s challenging the administration and those of us who have our ears to the ground, with what will we do with the children who are traumatized by these massive raids and the children who might get left behind once their parents are deported.  

Meanwhile…being included in a plot arc on OITNB offered increased visibility and reach for the National Immigrant Detention Hotline, a project managed by Freedom for Immigrants. Yet the power of a pro bono detention hotline was apparently threatening for some. Just a few weeks after season 7 was released, it is reported that the hotline extension has been shut down by the powers-that-be. Freedom for Immigrants is urging prompt action:

Once again, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attacked our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. This time by terminating our national hotline pro bono extension, which we’ve operated for six years.

The termination of the National Immigration Detention Hotline occurred within two weeks of the premiere of Season 7 of the popular Netflix show Orange is the New Black (OITNB), which featured Freedom for Immigrants’ hotline by name.  Freedom for Immigrants’ hotline was featured as a storyline throughout multiple episodes of this season, and the organization’s connection to OITNB garnered dozens of media articles.  For example, InStyle Magazine published an op-ed written by Freedom for Immigrants staff, BuzzFeed published an op-ed by OITNB executive producer Carolina Paiz about her visit to a detention facility with Freedom for Immigrants, Los Angeles Magazine published a profile piece on Freedom for Immigrants. Dozens of other new outlets, including People Magazine, Salon.com, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The Hill, NBC New York, published stories mentioning Freedom for Immigrants. 

Ironically, Gloria (Selenis Leyva) tells Maritza (Diane Guerrero) in Season 7, “You gotta be careful though. Apparently as soon as Big Brother figures out you’re using the hotline, they shut it down.” Being featured in OITNB brought massive attention to the organization’s work regarding abusive and neglectful conditions in immigration detention centers. And for this, we are being punished by our government.

The suspension of Freedom for Immigrants’ hotline extension is impermissible retaliation to the organization’s First Amendment-protected expression. The hotline’s termination also creates the clear appearance ICE is attempting to silence critics and limit the public’s awareness of alleged abusive conditions in immigration detention. 

The Quixote Center has endorsed an organizational sign-on letter directed to USCIS officials, copying executives at Talton Communications, a Homeland Security contractor that profits by charging detained persons to make calls to connect to the outside world, and that is also supposed to make pro bono legal defense calls available to detainees, calling for the reinstatement of the hotline, allowing for continued accountability of the government and its contractors that profit from immigrant detention.

A wealthy heiress and her anti-immigration mission: A close look at Cordelia Scaife May  

And, shining a spotlight on the elitist roots of the modern anti-immigration movement, today The New York Times profiles Cordelia Scaife May, and the story of how this wealthy woman’s views on population control and the environment led to her anti-immigration beliefs and how one of her legacies, the Colcom Foundation, continues to fund the anti-immigration movement and many of the most extreme policies to close off the United States to migrants. The Independent reports:

Fourteen years after May’s death, her money remains the lifeblood of the anti-immigration movement, through her Colcom Foundation.

It has poured $180 million (£148 million) into a network of groups that spent decades agitating for policies now pursued by current US president Donald Trump: militarising the border, capping legal immigration, prioritising skills over family ties for entry and reducing access to public benefits for migrants.

“She would have fit in very fine in the current White House,” said George Zeidenstein, whose mainstream population-control group Ms. May supported before she shifted to anti-immigration advocacy.

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Showing the Faces of White Supremacy

“Why do people share these guy’s [sic] photos. Don’t you realise that’s exactly what they want?”

This is the comment a follower left on QC’s Facebook page after I posted a photo of the El Paso shooter along with a blog post about the massacre. I reject the premise that we should not show the face of a killer. I understand that there are terrorists who seek infamy from heinous acts, and who may thrive off notoriety. However, we need to put a face to white supremacy and domestic terrorism, and in most cases, it’s the face of young, white males.

Statista reports that 64 out of the 114 mass shootings that occurred in the United States between 1982 and August, 2019 were committed by white shooters. That’s more than half. Showing the faces of these murderers helps to combat the narrative that the real threats to our society and the United States are people of color including Black people and immigrants. Showing their faces is important if we are going to put an end to the criminalization of people of color and immigrants. The media matters, and as a Black person, I experience the effects of media’s power every day. I’m met with stereotypes about Black people and Black women in particular everywhere I go whether it’s in the workplace, churches or schools. Noam Chomsky addresses the power and political implications of the media in his book “Manufacturing Consent.” We can’t deny that what we see affects our opinions and actions, especially when it comes to what we allow and support as American citizens. This is why the president continues his hate-filled rhetoric about people of color and immigrants.

The 1915 film, “The Birth of a Nation” is the perfect example of how media is used to shape the public’s opinion of a group of people. In the movie, a white actor in blackface portrays a Black man attacking a white woman and engaging in all kinds of criminal behaviors. Many suggest that the movie revived the Klu Klux Klan. Even today, Black men and boys are criminalized in the media to shape public opinion and influence outcomes in the educational and judicial systems to name a few. The “Preschool to Prison Pipeline” is an example. It shows that 47 percent of preschool students who are suspended are Black despite being 18 percent of the total preschool population. Studies also show that “Black men who commit the same crimes as white men receive federal prison sentences that are, on average, nearly 20 percent longer, according to a new report on sentencing disparities from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC).” These are only a few reasons why I feel passionate about showing the killers’ faces from the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. These men, who happen to be white, are not misunderstood. They did not play too many video games. They did not come from “great families” and merely made mistakes as New Jersey family court Judge James Troiano said of an accused rapist. According to their own manifestos, they are racists and white supremacists. It’s time for us to call “a spade a spade.” 

Also, let’s juxtapose the pictures of these domestic terrorists to images of Black death. When it comes to the violent deaths of Black people at the hands of the police, we are bombarded by those images. Many of us saw Philando Castile die in his car after being shot by the police. We saw Michael Brown’s bloody body in the street. We witnessed Eric Garner be choked to death. We saw Sandra Bland violently detained by police. We saw little Tamir Rice shot to death in seconds by police. Why do we want to veil the faces of those who commit mass murder, but when it comes to Black death, the masses are allowed to consume those images for weeks and sometimes years?   

We know that words have power. Well, images have power too. It’s time for America to stop covering its eyes to some of the real threats to our society – racism and white supremacy. Maybe if we not only name these evils – but also stare them in the face – we will be in a better position to defeat them.

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Lights for Liberty Vigil

In my church we sing a song that goes like this, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.” That’s exactly what me and hundreds of other protestors did in Columbia, Maryland Friday evening for the “Lights for Liberty” prayer vigil. We let our lights shine in support of immigrants in Howard County. We also protested against Trump’s mass deportation raids that were supposed to begin last weekend. The vigil in Columbia was one of many vigils all over the nation.

Man telling his story about being detained by ICE.

The vigil took place at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center and was filled to capacity. Actually, the turnout shocked me. I didn’t expect hundreds of residents to show up on a hot Friday night in support of those seeking refuge in the community. Some of the speakers even expressed their surprise. The center was so full that they had two overflow rooms. I sat in one of them. The vigil began with an interfaith prayer service in which a rabbi, imam and Christian minister prayed for those seeking asylum in the United States. We also heard the story of an undocumented man who was captured by ICE after the car he was a passenger in got into an accident. He explained that when he couldn’t produce identification, the local police turned him over to ICE. He told us that his two daughters kept asking him when he was coming home during his incarceration. Thankfully, with the help of organizations who assist immigrants, he was able to remain with his family in the U.S.    

Overall, the vigil was extremely moving. It encouraged me to see so many people standing for migrant children and families. The sense of unity in the place was also inspirational. My hope is that people’s passion to help immigrants lasts and transforms into real change in this country. The organizers offered ways we could help including purchasing groceries or running errands for those afraid to leave their homes. This is a start; however, real systemic change needs to take place.

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The Definition of Torture

Yesterday on “The View,” Meghan McCain expressed her displeasure with the use of “torture facilities” for the detention center used for migrant children in Clint, Texas. During the heated debate, Joy Behar and Sunny Hostin tried to get McCain to understand that the focus should not be on how we describe the centers, but on what’s happening to the children in them.

“We should care about the dead kids coming out of them,” Hostin said.

However, in traditional Meghan McCain fashion, she kept berating her point about not calling detention centers torture facilities because she’s “been to an actual torture facility.” McCain said that the use of the word torture is hyperbole when it comes to the living conditions of migrant children in the detention centers, and we shouldn’t keep describing them that way.

My first question for Meghan is do you have children? My next question is have you ever watched how they responded when you left them and they didn’t know when you were coming back? Or if you were coming back? I’m a mom, and I know the fear, anxiety, stress and trauma seeming abandonment can impose on a child. Have you ever encountered a child who was lost and couldn’t find their parents? Have you seen their panic? This story doesn’t compare to the what migrant children are facing in detention centers, but I remember when my 4-year old got trapped in the bathroom at the gym while I was working out. The workers weren’t paying attention, and she got trapped in the bathroom with the lights off. She was banging on the door hysterically, screaming and crying. She was deathly afraid. Now, imagine the panic and fear these children face sleeping on concrete floors behind fences and in the dark without their parents? It’s torture Meghan.

 Also, after interviewing hundreds of those children, they confirmed what many of us already suspected. The children said they have been physically and sexually abused in these centers. Abuse combined with the unsanitary living conditions like sleeping on concrete floors, babies with no diapers, open toilets, no soap and not knowing when you’ll ever see your mom and dad again sure sound like torture to me. I can remember times when I dropped my children off in the care of someone else and hearing their cries and sometimes screams because they didn’t want to be without mommy. These children haven’t seen their parents for weeks; they’re living in dangerous and unsanitary conditions and being subject to abuse.  

The back-and-forth between Meghan and the ladies on “The View” is the perfect example of how these horrible injustices go unresolved because people get caught up in the superficial nuances of what’s actually happening. The point is, Meghan, that children are suffering. They need to be returned to their parents. The behavior and zero-tolerance immigration policy of this administration is deplorable, and something needs to be done about it today.  

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We marched to the White House

Last Wednesday, Mfon Edet and I participated in the “Moral Witness Wednesday” march to the White House organized by the Rev. Dr. William Barber and his team at Repairers of the Breach. The purpose of the march was to publicly indict the president and his administration on how immigrants and the poor are treated in the United States. Hundreds of clergy and laypersons from various faith traditions gathered in the morning at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. to organize, go over the rules and share fellowship before the march. After that, we lined up, five persons in row, and marched through the streets of Northwest D.C. to the White House.

This was the first time I participated in a march of this size. Most of my organizing and political activism has taken place on a smaller scale with community residents against police brutality and economic injustice. Also, my denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.), goes to the State House in Annapolis annually for “A.M.E. Day” where we present our priorities to legislators. I’ve also worked behind the scenes supporting movements. This was the first time I actually marched as a public witness with other persons of faith.

As an ordained minister, standing as a moral witness is not foreign to me. It’s part of the job. I am called to be a physical representation of God and to speak for God against that which doesn’t line up with truth, justice, love and equality. My presence as a clergyperson is supposed to invoke repentance in cases of evil and injustice. The presence of the clergy on Wednesday and our moral witness were aimed at calling President Trump to repentance. I guess he felt some kind of way about it, because he closed down Lafayette Parkbefore we reached it and didn’t allow us to come near the White House, so I don’t think he heeded the spiritual warning.

Despite his cowardice, it moved me to see Muslim, Jewish and other faith traditions standing in solidarity and unity as a moral witness to the atrocities that take place in our country when it comes to family separation, migrant detention and policies against the impoverished. The speeches I heard were powerful and moving. The refrain of the first speech I heard as we gathered on the sidewalk outside of Lafayette Park was, “America is not well” to which everyone responded in unison. This was a direct challenge to the president’s claim that America is on its way back to “greatness” under his leadership. I saw ministers there I knew, some I followed on Twitter and never met face-to-face until that day, and I even met new people. The spirit was very collegial and uplifting, and I felt hopeful in the midst of the group.  

However, in the midst of the collegiality was also a reminder that we still have a ways to go. A non-Black woman in our row said to my coworker, Mfon, “See, Black people can drink Starbucks.” She said this as she pointed to an African-American man present holding a Starbucks cup. We don’t know what point she was trying to make; we think her statement was in reference to the recent incidences in Starbucks where the police were called on Black patrons. However, it is a reminder that despite our good intentions, we still need to address the prejudices, racial biases and just plain ignorance within ourselves and organizations because they are what lead to the inhumane policies we spoke out against and the apathy that many Americans suffer from even when seeing the conditions of detention centers and the effects separation has on migrant children. Sojourners magazine recently published an article from Itzbeth Menjívar about the racism she faced as an executive at a progressive social justice nonprofit.

The incident doesn’t take away from the success of the event. It’s just an opportunity for us to take a close examination of ourselves and address issues that are pervasive in our society even in social justice work. However, the event was a success despite the president’s cowardly move of closing down Lafayette Park. I look forward to supporting other events organized by Repairers of the Breach and the Poor People’s Campaign. I hope you do the same.

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)