On the 4th of July 2011 I attended my first Solidarity Vigil, it was held this past Monday in front of the Detention center in Aurora. The Vigil was sponsored by Denver Fair Food, and it was an act of solidarity "...with all who are imprisoned, exploited or enslaved!" This vigil, which took place on the date of the independence of the United States, was symbolic beyond measure. The participants were of a diverse crowd with people from all ages, socio-economic classes and life paths. As we were making our way down the road there was this atmosphere that was charged with the intensity of the present, melancholic memories of the past and bittersweet hopes for the future.
The wind transported our loud, passionate and eager voices in all directions as we chanted "What do we want? JUSTICE, how do we get it? MELT the ICE". We were a sight to behold, because there was a lot of depth and symbolism accompanying the date we chose to go on that vigil. It was evident that we had acknowledged the progressive strides that have been taken in the America, but we also emitted a profound yearning for the amelioration of the conditions of those who have been and are still imprisoned, exploited or enslaved.
The vigil was also a very educational one; Denver Fair Food enacted a short skit that retraced the exploitative and enslaving roots upon which the American system was built, this skit provided us with enough knowledge to understand the gravity of the situation and prompt us to action. We were faced with the realities of America with all its flaws magnified.
The most moving parts of the day included the testimonies of the people, and the beautiful silence that was a silent cry of prayer. The people in the immigrant community who were bold enough to testify included a father, a mother of six who is forced to support her large family by herself, and another mother who has been deprived of her child. The only crimes that these victims can be accused of are the fact that they were born in another country and wanting to provide a better life for their children. Despite all these injustices, I strongly believe that these testimonies demonstrate fearlessness and bravery beyond measure and I wish I had half the courage and internal strength that these heroes have.
The first person who stepped up to speak was the Mexican father of two (a son and daughter) who had been detained in Montana and subsequently released. He tried to relay to us that he is not a criminal and that we need to keep on fighting; all he ever wanted is give a better life to his children and provide them with opportunities he never had. He mentioned how he can take them to the movies and those were things that he was not able to do while he was growing up. He explained the despicable conditions in these detention centers: in one room there were 70 detainees and they had to share five rolls of toilet paper, and they were reprimanded for pointing out that the toilet paper was not sufficient.
This inhumane treatment struck a chord in a Leticia, mother who has seen her son, Sharif only once in eight months, it caused her to wail in anguish and that was one of the hardest things I had to watch in helplessness. Her son was taken at 5:00 am in the Morning shortly after thanksgiving and he was taken to the GEO detention center. Last month he was transferred to Colorado Springs and has been detained there ever since. The third testimony was from a mother of six, two of which are sick and her husband has been detained in the Aurora detention center since March and she is struggling with taking care of her six children. She mentioned how she has been struggling to find a job and how it is hard to find day care.
My first vigil was nothing short of eye-opening and emotionally charged. I would have to say that my favorite part of the whole evening was when we were asked to get close to our neighbors and touch them, close our eyes and just take deep breaths. There was a cool breeze, the sun was setting and the beautiful silence that ensued felt like a silent victory and a promise that the best is yet to come.
- Written by: Fadima Gologo
The next Vigil: United Communities, Living in Freedom.
Monday, August 1st, 2011.
We will meet at 30th Ave & Peoria Street, Aurora, CO.
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm