Migrants from the Benito Juarez Sports Complex shelter in Zona Norte, Tijuana organized a march in order to demand to be processed for asylum, Sunday Nov. 25.
The march started after leaders of the caravan held a prayer using megaphones. Mexican federal police blocked the entrance to Puente El Chaparral, a bridge that pedestrians and automobiles use to arrive at the border-crossing area. As the migrants approached the police line, a caravan organizer told the group to stop walking.
“If we will be crossing, we will be crossing in peace,” he said.
The marchers stopped and gave thanks to the Mexican state for sheltering them, sang the Mexican national anthem, gave a solidarity cheer with those who participated in the International Day of Action march in San Diego, all while waiting for the police to let through.
After about an hour of waiting, caravan organizers decided to go around the blockade, down a street that runs parallel to the inaccessible bridge. Police immediately began pushing people down with their shields. The migrants gained momentum as the police continued to use force against womxn, childrxn, and journalists.
The migrants crossed the Tijuana riverbed, helping each other keep steady so as to not fall into the water. They arrived at the car port of entry where Mexican military troops watched from above.
The group I was with made their way to the edge of the large parkway that makes up the border entry point. Four migrants scaled the wall that divided Mexico and USA. US forces on the opposite side pointed a high caliber rifle at the young men. The migrant group then sought another area of the border fence.
The migrant group reached another section of the border crossing point, opened the fence and continued through. I was stopped by riot police and not let through. One officer hit me repeatedly with his shield.
During my walk back the way I had came, I witnessed an officer, who was giving orders earlier, continuously beat and harass a migrant. A Mexican checkpoint official alerted the officer that he had a camera on him and the officer ceased to hit the migrant.
Mexican federal police then sealed the border car port leading into the US. Soon, US Department of Homeland Security Special Response Team forces and US military appeared and began to install razor wire, completely sealing the border and announcing that any unauthorized person will be met with lethal force.
I made my way to meet the group of migrants who were being shot with tear gas and rubber bullets through the border fence by US forces. Mexican federal police rallied them up and forced them back into Tijuana city limits. The final image was the last one I could capture before the tear gas effect became too much for my senses.
When you live in a community where you are statistically more likely to go to prison than to receive a high school diploma, most of your time growing up is not spent thinking about the school to prison pipeline & other forms of systemic oppression.
You are too busy struggling to make something good come out of each day.
I grew up with two constant factors: we moved around a lot within Orange County (mainly within Santa Ana), and money was always tight. My parents, both undocumented at the time, worked day-in and day-out to make ends meet.
I have always strived for a better life, that is something that will never leave me, but along the way I have realized that I have an intense yearning for the betterment of the community that raised me.
Fast forward to August 25th and I see colleges, organizations, resources, artists, and youth, all in the same space conversing with each other.
Connecting, building bridges, inspiring each other. This is what community looks like.
There are three moments that I want to share about that day that I feel have deeply impacted those who were present.
The first was during the community roundtable portion of the event. At the space were influential artists, musicians, young community members, educators, and organizers. Each person gave their introduction and story. From surviving suicide, to finding strength through teaching, each story added to the intimacy & impact of the gathering.
As time progressed, so did the amount of creative energy in the room.
The second moment was one that no one could have predicted.
“Let us record an album, right now. Who is with me?” said KRS-One, with enough conviction to convince an entire room to raise their hands.
In one minute, I would find myself on the sidewalk with everyone in the room, walking towards the nearest studio, in disbelief that KRS-One was completely serious in his words.
In two minutes, I would find myself in an overcrowded studio, with all of the musicians, a beat in my eardrums, and a microphone in the corner.
Depicted above, is the third moment. A spontaneous cypher.
The name of this series is taken directly from a lyric that was sung, “I’m Not Your Slave, This Is Freedom”.
Freedom, as defined by my experience that day: the mental capacity to create something that empowers those around it.