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    I’m still hyped that I got to be a part of the #hyperbole2018! Our youth are beautiful. #donotbesilent #splitthisrock ❤️ Today I ran a workshop for the #HyperBole2018. I made myself vulnerable. We opened with “Fear in a Box” where everyone, high school and college students, anonymously wrote their fears and hopes on a piece of paper. Then they crumbled the paper or made a paper airplane to fly into the box. We went around the room and opened up the fears and hopes. One girl noticed that the hopes were internal expectations and the fears related to something or someone external to us. 🤔
I shared my fear: deportation. My workshop was on immigration and immigrant poets. I am not afraid to be the immigrant in the room. I am that girl, but it don’t come easy. I ran the workshop twice, but the first time was the harder one. I have shared my story before, and yet, I never know how my heart will cope on any given day. 💔Today I had to breathe in before saying the words “my fear is deportation” because it is a very valid fear no matter what people say: I’m praying, down with Trump, it’ll be alright. I don’t know if I will stay in my America. I hope that like the fears the youth shared such as letting people down, being alone, spiders, and jellyfish, my fear can be overcome. #callcongress #saveTPS Morning hour. 😴 At a new temporary office! The life of an immigrant poet.
#workweek #before8am
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1,000 miles: step 86

It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’d like to enjoy that in under 9 hours, we’ll start a brand new year.  The thing is that you can put a name on it: “New Year’s” but without any collective effort and planning, it’s gong to be the same year masked under “2018.”

We don’t want 2017 to roll onto 2018. In 2017, the immigrant community received several hits:

We Have to Protect Immigrant Bodies

I recently watched From One Mistake: How Immigration Became My Very Personal Fight, a documentary available on YouTube. It’s told in a simple narrative style with Hendel Leiva speaking into the camera for most of the film with some glimpses of hate crimes on the national level, but with a focus on New York race relations.

In a candid way, Hendel shares with the audience that at one point in his life, he spat out hate speech to immigrants as a “prank.” It wasn’t long before his conscience and the worth of the human body caught up with him. In this hour long documentary, Hendel explains what steps he took to amend his past by turning to advocacy and empowering people to share their story. One of his projects is Immigration MIC, a podcast that features interviews with immigrants vocal in their community.

Hands

Photo: CC0 Creative Commons

The film is a story of redemption, and I wish more, if there are any, converts would share their story. I wouldn’t know about Hendel if he had not found me online and invited me to the conversation.

Stories shouldn’t collect dust in our hearts. Stories have to be passed on, through literature, through music, through film, through our very mouth. To protect all kinds of bodies next year, we need spaces for stories. We need ready ears.

2017 Was a Year of Not Listening

This year I worked with the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program, a Baha’i sponsored community program. This is where I met Ron Lapitan, whose goal is to speak with all types of people regardless of religion or political background. His published book The Earth is One Country is part of that community goal.

This year, I had my own sort of revelation about community. The Culmore area, where I’ve grown up, has a reputation as a dangerous zone. For years, I’ve been cautious to know my own neighbors. Through the junior youth program, I met families and youth in the area. I learned their names. I learned to change my community by engaging with it.

When I see youth in community groups, I see potential. We have to start preparing the future early. And the stubborn adults of today? We have to understand what’s made them who they are and what misconceptions they carry.  This is particularly important online: ending disagreements with “you must be an idiot” or correcting people’s grammar with the goal of making your opinion “right” don’t make any of us morally superior.

I’ve been told some people are lost causes, and sometimes, when I’m feeling too woman, too brown, too immigrant, I think that myself. I don’t have any magic fix for the country, but let’s not wait until our present becomes a dirty past, until the history textbooks group 2018 with 2017 as another year that didn’t listen.

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Claudia Rojas is poeta. She’s also a TPS (Temporary Protected Status) holder. TPS protects individuals fleeing natural disaster and war on a temporary basis. The program has been extended for many years; no permanent solution has ever been presented. Currently, the countries of Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan have lost their TPS designation. El Salvador, Claudia’s country of origin, has 200,000 TPS holders whose lives are at risk should Congress or America fail us. Call your member of Congress today through the FWD.us tool or find your representative’s info online. We cannot delay.

 

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1,000 miles: step 79

The fall semester is now over.

I have submitted “finals,” known as projects to the English major. Grades are coming in. I have gaps of time–yes, time. It has all gone by so fast.  This semester I made a savvy choice, and I took all poetry classes: a small-sized workshop, a course taught in Spanish, and a course covering African American poetry from the 50s and beyond. I’m grateful for the semester; I gained exposure to an unbelievable range of poets and interesting perspectives from classmates.

At school, I ate a waffle in the library, learned a little salsa, attended a few open mics, carved a pumpkin, and started a gym routine. I didn’t plan some of these things; they just worked themselves out. I also attended two literary festivals in September: the Library of Congress National Book Festival in DC and Fall for the Book events on campus. In November, I spent three hours at the African American History and Culture Museum. Time spent well, all in all.

In the spring, I’m once again taking poetry classes. I want my final days as an undergrad to be full of poetry. When I think of the future, it is still scary, but I’m more willingly to get there.

2016 has been good to me. There have been bad days. I’m not going to lie: I spent post-election day crying–mourning to be precise. This week wasn’t entirely good either. Tuesday night I was upset with news of Aleppo. Wednesday morning I woke up further into sadness with this tweet still in my mind:

And it is because today I am alive, and yesterday I was alive, that I am thinking of everything–support, laughter, art, growth– that 2016 has offered me.

Thank you, world.

fall2016