Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“New Colossus,” Emma Lazarus

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemoller

With this vertical juxtaposition of two internationally renowned compositions – my intention is to bring into sharp focus the contrasting values of someone viewing oppression of the ”other;” and doing nothing about it – and the other value of viewing oppression and welcoming those oppressed “others” to come and find a safe harbor for themselves and their families.

This school season, I had the great good fortune and privilege to work with refugee and immigrant families in our Connect & Communicate program.  The sessions, however, were initially advertised as Family Reunification workshops.  When we got right down to it – both titles were applicable.

After the first gathering with these families, I found myself looking up the Statue of Liberty poem – New Colossus.  I hadn’t read the entire poem for decades – just memorizing, as many of us do, these verses: Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. 

These immigrant and refugee families I am honored to work with, without knowing;  inspired and challenged me to put myself in their shoes.  The shoes were painful. From the harrowing and oft times fatal journeys from their Homelands to America; the crossings of deserts on foot; children traveling alone; being detained in camps for months at a time – and on and on and on.  And then there are the reasons people strike out for the unknown – leaving behind the home they Love; the family and friends they Love.  Reasons you and I cannot even wrap our minds around.

In short, I want to encourage us all to push back against hate.  Push back and actively participate in any event; in any activity; in any march that you can for Justice.  It is imperative, it is time.  There can be no Peace if there is no Justice.

First they came for the immigrants…..

Naeemah Jackson, Family Programs Director