Today, I showed up for my Papa who immigrated in the late sixties to this country a few years before I was born to him as an American. I would forever be a first generation Italian. I showed up for his Papa who came to America, twice at the turn of the twentieth century to make some money and then return to the old country. Today, I showed up for the Africans, ripped from their land, to unknown hospitality. I showed up for the Italian and Irish immigrants, who only wanted to work. Work with their hands, work with their strong backs, just work. Today, I showed up for the Japanese, the Mexicans, the El Salvadorians. Today, I showed up for the children who lay in tents and detention centers this very week. This is not new, my friends. I know this because I am the child of an immigrant.
I showed up, and it rained, it really rained. I did not want to leave my space on the steps of the City Hall. I wanted to stand, grounded in witness and strength of character while the cold Colorado rain drenched our hair and clothes. I did not want to leave. Two of my children came close in, crouched in the cold summer rain, "let's go, mom, come on!" I did not want to leave. I wanted to bare witness to the discomfort of the migrants, the mamas, the papas, the familias that came to us. Refugees of poverty and gang wars. I wanted to bare witness to their discomfort by standing in my discomfort if only for an hour. One of my church people finally handed me a sign to cover my head that said: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good (wo)men to do nothing. So, there I stood.
None of this is new. We can talk about the greater of marginalizations in this country. Which groups are more effected than the other. The problem with this, is that generational trauma is alive and well. The children of those Italian immigrants and their children are still living and know what it is like to live in a country where the "Americans" (the ones that have already forgotten they they once came from immigrants too), treat them as less than. Therefore creating a culture where the brown skinned are not as worthy. Papa was the child of World War II, rural Italy, no indoor plumbing and the last child of eight. Papa's, Papa died in that war, in his small town, on his front stoop. Papa's brother's died also.
I am small very olive skinned women with curly black hair. Here is what you need to know...despite the fact that my mother is light-skinned, mid-western, tall American, I am first generation Italian first. And, this is why: I am the small women that people say: "all I want to do is speak Spanish to you..," I am the women that men are shocked when they experience my quick tongue and strong voice (it's confusing for small brown women to be strong), I am the women that was raised with insecurities because my parent was vulnerable and therefore, I am too. I am the women, in professional settings that hot irons my curly hair to be straight because it will be more acceptable- more American. I am the women that others say: "wow, you speak such good English." Even though I am not bi-lingual. I am the women that was told, maybe you will do better in a state like Texas because everyone there will look like you. This is the country that we live in. It's scary and hard and narrow. It is also the country that is "free." This is confusing.
So, don't for minute think those children are going to be okay. That is why I stood today. Grounded in witness for my Papa and all the other Papa's and Mama's and all the bambini that lay in tents under foil blankets. I stood to bare witness to their trauma and the trauma that they will hold as they do this free land we call America.