Backpack Journalism at Creighton University is a collaboration between the Theology Department and the Journalism, Media, & Computing Department. It came about because of a theologian interested in social justice and filmmaking and a journalist and an artist interested in filmmaking and social justice.
Each summer, a small group of students travels to a community in search of a story. Led by professors Dr. John O’Keefe, Tim Guthrie, and Carol Zuegner, the students immerse themselves in the communities, interviewing, filming, recording, and writing. When they return to Creighton, they take the stories they have collected and develop them into a short documentary film. The Backpack Journalism documentaries have been accepted at several film festivals, including the Omaha Film Festival. The class has traveled to such far-flung places as the Dominican Republic and Uganda, Bethel Alaska and Nogales Arizona/Sonora. The next project is tentatively planned for Northern Uganda in 2018.
I grew up in a conservative, small town in Wisconsin. I was raised to believe that immigration was wrong and that the “illegals” were stealing our jobs. I accepted that because I wasn’t exposed to the reality. Perhaps that is why I am understanding of those who are still against migration. The north is like a bubble, safe from the truth of the ugly parts of the south. However, it is a personal responsibility, no matter where one lives, to be educated and exposed.
When I entered college, I began to think for myself and discover what makes me mad. For me, anger is the strongest motivator. I am so angry here. I am angry that for every person found dead in the desert, there are ten more bodies. I am angry that men have come back to the comedor with bloody, torn up faces because BC pushed them into barbed wire. I am angry that the cartel keeps constant watch over the people and migrants of Nogales. I am angry that our country is just now processing paperwork from 20 years ago. I am angry that the reason some migrants carry drugs is because of the Americans who demand them. Mostly, I am angry that these people are classified as criminals and rapists when a large majority of them are just trying to survive.
As I said, anger motivates me. I’m the type of person who needs to brainstorm solutions whenever I hear a problem. I think that stems from my dad’s catchphrase, “Ok. So what are you going to do about it?” With him, I could never just complain or vent, I had to take action to solve my own problems. Listening to the stories of the people here, from both sides of the issue, has confirmed my desire to attend law school so that I can start a solution of my own.
So many of the people we have interviewed here have talked about young people and how they give them hope. A lawyer we spoke with called us “dreamers”. Those same people have also said that the dreamers fade out and the next round comes in and tries to change the world. I don’t want that to happen to me. I want to learn until I am no longer ignorant. I want to think until a problem is solved. I want to dream until I am no longer angry.
This morning we met with Joanna Williams who took us to the Comedor in Mexico. I was very surprised how easy it is to get into Mexico. All we did was walk along the sidewalk until we were in Nogales, Mexico. We didn’t have to show a passport or even talk to a single person. The lines for vehicles were very long to get into the United States because people wanted to get to work.
Once we got to the Comedor, eight of us went inside to help with breakfast and eight went into Nogales. I stayed and helped with breakfast which was a great experience. After making the plates and serving them I talked to a man who is from Mexico City.
Joanna was helping me translate because i know very little Spanish and the man I met knows no English. He was telling me how he left his home because his weekly wage went down $20 US dollars. I asked where he worked and he said he was a welder for a automobile company. He worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week.
He arrived in Nogales two days ago. He has family in Sacramento and Florida but neither would help him and his family back home. He decided that his conditions back home weren’t good enough for his 2 daughters. He didn’t tell his daughters that he was attempting to cross the border. He only said that he was going to a near by city. I asked where he gets his strength from and he told me his daughters are his joy and world. He told me, “God’s greatest gift to me was my daughters and I love them.”
He hopes to cross the border once he can get enough money to hire a guide. Saying goodbye to him was sad in a way because I will probably never see him again and also because I will never know if he will make it across the border. I was also filled with inspiration because he made a 2 day journey by bus, alone, in order to get to this point. Hearing about how the Mexican authorities in both Mexico City and a town just south of Nogales would stop him and search him and how he had to pay them 100 pesos not to get in trouble and another 100 pesos to help him. This is just a snippet of one persons story. There are hundreds if not thousands more that never get told. I hope to keep you all posted on these stories and more that I come across.