I still remember when Dr. Traci West asked me to lead my Christian Ethics classmates in dancing the Macarena. I’m not sure why she approached me with this request, but I did know the dance from my middle school days. I agreed to do it, then promptly made all my friends in the class promise to dance too. I don’t remember now what point Traci was making with this exercise, but since then I have grown very comfortable asking groups of people to act silly with me.
Six months after graduating from Drew, I began my dream job at BorderLinks in Tucson, AZ. My co-workers and I facilitate educational programs focused on immigration and border issues. Our programs are comparable to the cross-cultural immersions that Drew requires of M.Div. students. In fact, in 2011 we hosted a group of Drew Theo students here on the border for their cross-cultural requirement! Our participants meet with a variety of people and organizations to learn about the complexity of these issues and engage with diverse perspectives. This includes migrants, activists, Border Patrol and ICE agents, faith leaders, humanitarian groups, human rights organizations, and many more. Drawing upon popular education and liberation theology, we prioritize the voices of folks who are most marginalized by immigration and border policies. We ask our participants to reflect deeply upon their experiences here and draw connections to their own lives.
I believe that we humans learn with our whole selves – with our minds, bodies, emotions, spirits. We often carry in our bodies the effects of our emotions, which brings me back to acting silly in groups. There’s something healing about crying together, participating in a ritual of remembrance, or dancing and singing together, after an intense conversation with someone whose family was separated by a deportation. In order to work for justice, we must learn to sit with the pain caused by injustices. We must honor the experiences of people who are being systematically targeted with violence, exclusion, and intimidation. We must acknowledge our own pain (and often shame) upon seeing how this system works. Dancing the Macarena together might be a good way to process some of these deep emotions so we can have the strength to keep struggling for justice.
When I moved to Tucson in 2009, I was eager to live the U.S.-Mexico border region. Tucson is one of the places where the Sanctuary Movement began in the 1980s, and it is currently home to several humanitarian groups combating the crisis of migrant deaths in the Sonoran Desert. My work with BorderLinks feels like a continuation of my journey at Drew. Every day I ask myself how to live into my values, and luckily I find a community around me that also seeks to bring together values and practices. We are organizing strategies for self-care and collective care in the midst of challenging work and the heavy reality of life in a militarized region. How do we keep following the call towards justice in ways that affirm our humanity rather than draining us? We do the best we can, remembering to have patience with ourselves and each other, learning from mistakes and successes. I am deeply grateful for my Drew community, who prepared me in so many ways for the challenges and choices we face here on the border.
- Margi Ault-Duell (T’09)