Tag Archives: Creighton

Started from the Bottom, Now We’re Here

I knew from the start that my passion for social justice was about to grow indefinitely. I was completely right. I have learned so much on this backpack journalism trip. 

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I’ve learned how to be a better photographer. I’ve become an amateur film maker. I’ve learned how to conduct interviews, set up cameras, make sure all of the chords are plugged into the right places, always have backup sound in case you forget a chord, converse with the interviewee, and edit the final product. I have learned how to capture a variety of shots in one setting so that I can edit them into one scene later. 

I’ve learned about the Avery Dulles’ Models of the Church. I was introduced to the many varieties of these models and how they can differ depending on the location of the Church. While I grew up in the Catholic Church, I never thought of the concept of the church being based on models. I also had this idea in my head that the Church was the same everywhere. I personally thought that everyone had the same old way of doing things. I became bored with the monotone masses I was attending and found myself not being able to relate to anything concerned with the church. In my time at Marian and Creighton, I have had my views altered and had them evolve. Avery Dulles, SJ, brought up a whole new dimension to the church in his book, Models of the Church. Before  I read this book, I saw the Church as more of an institution of old men and chanting people.

I believe that Dulles brought to mind some good points and recognized the disadvantages as well. It went hand and hand with our trip to Nogales. I assume that the knowledge will help me in the future as well. I wa able to learn more about the Church as well as myself and my position within the Church.

I read and watched a lot about Jon Sobrino, S.J. who is a liberation theologist. He discussed this idea of the Crucified People. 

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We are called to stand in solidarity with migrants who can easily be seen as a Crucified People. These are our neighbors that we are talking about here. Since we as Americans are the more privileged of the two, we are called to advocate for those who cannot. Both countries have a shared “faith that calls for a living and just world, not one that is ruined by violence and discrimination.” We followers of Christ, we must work and pray for the universal good.

My confidence in the subject of migration has evolved and although I am not a master, I am more educated. I know that I will be able to live differently by how I handle myself when encountering strangers. Everyone has their own cross to bear, their own hardships. It is not my place to turn a blind eye or judge them. Instead I will meet them where they are and walk with them as my brothers and sisters. 

Why?

My Beautiful Mother & I A lot of people say that I look and act like my mom. We have the same cheeks, on our face and rear end. We both like to talk way too much and think we are funnier than we really are. I always have to be careful when I am in public because the odds are that someone knows who my mom is. I used to annoy her by constantly asking “Why?” to things that she said. I was never satisfied with simple answers.

St. John's June 20, 1992My mom used to tell me about her college days at Creighton. These were some of the best years of the first part of her life before I was born (the dull years). After I was born, the next 21 years would be her favorite because, duh, I am a delight.

There are two specific events that my mom recalls the most. 

The first being when she met her best friend, my dad, in a car on the way to the store to get party supplies. Intrigued by hi

s silence, she asked her friends about him. Eventually, she befriended the quiet, brown boy. In an attempt to flirt, they would play tag and run up and down the stairs, chasing each other in circles. She sprained her ankle one too many times. Whether or not this was an effort to trap my dad into feeling bad for her or if she was really hurt, I do not know. After dating for seven years, they got married in Saint John’s on June 20th (Happy Anniversary).

My Parents on June 20, 1992
My Parents on June 20, 1992

They waited two more years before they had the most incredible child they could ever dream of. Afterwards came three more hooligan children with whom I have had to teach how to be civilized.

The second noteworthy experience that my mother had at Creighton was her immersion to the Dominican Republic with the ILAC program. She was one of the first females to lead a group as well as one of the only non-medical students. This experience helped her become more fluent in Spanish. I would flip through her albums and see her grinning with her braided hair talking to the Dominicans. This was one of the few moments that I thought my mom was cool. There was one picture that I distinctly remember. It was of a little girl, maybe 3 or 4, and a bowl full of dirty water where she was cleaning her sandals. I took interest in the photograph because the girl looked to be around my age at the time.

A girl from the DR washing her shoes in a small tub.
A girl from the DR washing her shoes in a small tub.

Why?

That was my first exposure to the third world and to those less fortunate than me. 

My mom planted a seed within me. Ever since then, she has taken me along with her to serve those less fortunate in our community. My mom made sure that I would become a women for others. She has taught me that it is important to pray, but even more important to act. She has taught me that it is important to act, but even more important to do thoughtfully and intentionally. She has taught me to do things with purpose and with love. She has taught me to not be satisfied with the initial image that I am presented with while serving others. But to rather ask why things are the way they are? 

During my journey to the border, I tried to keep her lessons in mind. I saw a wall that literally divided a city into two, that sliced streets right through the middle. What happened that the US felt a need to build something so ugly and disrupt a city? I saw women and children who had been exposed to the desert, left to fend for themselves. Why were they left so vulnerable? I experienced the border patrol and the stone cold faces that they wore. Why the cold vibes? I saw the unjust Operation Streamline and how many people a day, in just one court setting, were prosecuted as criminals for illegal entry and re-entry. Why do they need to be prosecuted as criminals and face time in private jails? Why are people okay with putting millions of their own tax dollars into private people’s pockets by putting migrants into jail? I saw people face dehumanization, corruption, violence. Why have we become so immune to these injustices. Why do we find it okay to devalue someone else’s life? 

Why am I just now discovering all of the injustices that are going on at our Southern border? What other injustices have I not yet learned about? How can I continue to act and serve when I am just one, broke, college student?

Because of Backpack…

I anticipated that I would finish the five weeks with new knowledge of immigration, the ability to turn a camera on and other practical skills every journalism student should know. I had no idea that the knowledge would change me. I know, I know that it sounds incredibly cliché, but it’s true.

Because of Backpack… I am a seeker of truth.

Because of Backpack… I am margin traveler.

Because of Backpack… I am a listener.

Because of Backpack… I am a team player.

In my first blog, I wrote about how I am a “Yes Woman.” And even though I found this trip by saying no, it taught me that it is almost always right to say yes. By saying yes to the early morning B-roll, the extra interview, the longer explanation… I have learned so much and gained an incredible amount of confidence. It is Because of Backpack that I have grown as a writer, a film maker and as a friend. Saying yes, even to something that scared me, has been the greatest decision of my life.

Because of Backpack… I am thankful.

 

My teammates. My friends.
My teammates. My friends.

 

So, what is something I can do differently based upon what I learned? I can stop worrying about needing to say no and start embracing my love of yes.

For now,

Natalie

Piece by Piece

My comfort zone is located in several odd locations: any rollercoaster, local coffee shop, or airplane.

However, you won’t find it anywhere near spicy food.

You won’t find it by a scorpion.

You definitely won’t find it behind a camera.

After two weeks of hanging out with all of the above, it felt incredible to be welcomed back with words.

I was in my element in Hitchcock 203. The satisfaction of seeing the story sprawled out on the surface was spectacular. (Side note: I love alliteration. Can you tell?) I loved collaborating with my teammates and organizing our hundreds of pages of material. It was much harder than expected to make the cuts; I wish our movie could be a day long, but I don’t know any film festivals with that requirement.

Overall, I loved reading the interviews again. That’s when I knew we had something special, when I was excited to read an interview that I already knew by heart. The writing team would shout out great quotes from the transcript they were reading and we would all comment on how much we adored it. Praise for our people became a regular pastime in that room. I hope… No, I know that we will make them proud.

I have a wonderfully excited feeling about this film and I cannot wait for you to watch it.

The Piecing Process. PC: Carol
The Piecing Process. PC: Carol/Aly

More to come,

Natalie

The Realization of Complication

Complicate.

It’s a word that we learned on our very first day in Nogales. One of the Kino Border Initiative’s main goals is for groups to leave with an understanding of the complicated reality of migration. After two weeks on the border, I can’t imagine anyone leaving without complication packed in his or her baggage.

I thought I learned complication from the desert walk, our discussions with people who work on the border, Operation Streamline or the migrant’s stories, but I didn’t understand it until I got back home.

When my family asked what I learned, my mind went blank. I felt like every question, every frustration, every sign of hope was at the tip of my tongue but couldn’t escape; I had so much to say, but no way to say it.

That frustrating feeling was when I truly understood the layers of complication that migration carries. I always knew the layers were there and I uncovered even more during the trip, but to know and to understand are not the same thing.

I think this is part of Kino’s magic; they taught us as much as they could, but left the understanding for a later date.

Now that I truly understand, I am so thankful for the outlet of film.

Even though I often find myself frustrated and overwhelmed with migration’s level of complexity; knowing that there will be an epic film full of b-roll and sick edits, gives me relief.

Credit to CU Backpack
Credit to CU Backpack

More to come,

Natalie

If Memory Lane were a Photo Album…

When I studied abroad in Rome last year, one of my favorite professors forbid photographs. He would take us to the most beautiful churches in the world and go absolutely ballistic if he saw a student snap a photo.

Despite my initial annoyance, I learned how to appreciate whatever was in front of me (something very hard to do nowadays). Besides filming and updating the Snapchat, I didn’t take pictures during my time at the border.

Thankfully, my classmates did.

Here are some of my absolute favorite people/memories:

Lil' John. Our tour guide for the desert walk.
Lil’ John. Our tour guide for the desert walk.
Fr. Neeley and Daniela
Fr. Neeley and Daniela. Two awesome interviewees!
Desert walk selfie!
Desert walk selfie!
Some of the CUbackpack team
Some of the CU backpack team
Dinner/Dance Party!
Dinner/Dance Party!
Shrine in Tucson, Arizona
Shrine in Tucson, Arizona
Entrance to Mexico
Entrance to Mexico

(Photos do not belong to me)

Operation Streamline

PC: hrw.org
PC: hrw.org

There has never been a definitive, defining moment in my life where I thought, “Yes, this is it. This is why I want to be a lawyer.” I’ve just always sort of known.

Although we had been prepared for what happens during Operation Streamline, I still felt a familiar feeling of excitement when I entered the courthouse. I find law and the idea of justice to be intriguing because visiting courts is like taking a peak into my future.

When I entered Operation Streamline, however, I felt shame. There were about 60 captured migrants in chains and headphones. They were quiet and they looked scared. Despite how angry I felt when I saw the chained people, that anger didn’t compare to what I felt when I saw their lawyers. They looked carefree and comfortable.  They were standing around casually chatting with each other and laughing while their clients sat alone. These were the people I was supposed to look up to?

Now, the moderator in me has to be fair; I have no idea what the lawyers said to the clients before entering the courtroom. They could have been kind and compassionate, I don’t know. What I do know is that if I were in a new country, surrounded by a language that I didn’t understand and waiting to hear my fate, I wouldn’t want the person who was supposed to be fighting for me to look like they were on a lunch break.

My inner optimist would like to believe that these lawyers are good people. They are defending one of the most vulnerable populations, after all. But  I want the migrants to feel respected. I want the process, despite it’s regularity, to be respectable.

Although the whole Operation Streamline process, not just the attorneys, disturbed me. I don’t want it to scare me away from my chose career path; I want it to inspire me to be better.

I guess you could say that it was my definitive, defining moment.

More to come,

Natalie

The Grey Shirt

The Endless Desert PC: CUbackpack
The Endless Desert
PC: CUbackpack

I started writing this blog when our group took a desert walk with the infamous Lil’ John. I was about halfway through it when I found myself holding down the delete button. All 237 perfectly crafted words were erased in a matter of seconds. That was the problem. They were perfectly crafted. They were artificial. It wasn’t me.

I wasn’t prepared for how the desert walk would affect me. Even today, I feel an ache in my stomach when I think about it.

Let me start by saying that I am not much of a hiker, so my first thoughts as I walked through the “moderate to easy “ trail were negative. Our usually silly group seemed more serious as we slipped and stumbled on the path. We were wearing athletic gear, sunscreen, had water and were well rested. But we were all struggling. My selfish, negative thoughts subsided when we stopped to hear Lil’ John talk about the migrants.

For the first time, it was easy to understand the migrant reality. I could imagine why people twist their ankles, run out of water, get lost or lose their life in the desert. It was hard for me to believe that anyone ever made it out.

Even though I was on the border, talking and serving the migrants every day, I couldn’t really comprehend that this was real. For some reason, I didn’t understand what I was seeing until I walked the path in the desert.

The moment that will stick with me for the rest of my life was when I first spotted a shirt. It was long sleeved, grey and looked like something one of my brothers would wear. It was proof. It was a reminder that this was real. That it belonged to someone.

It hurt when that reality hit me. It hurt that I would never know his name or his fate. I wanted to save him and knowing that I couldn’t and knowing that there were thousands out there was crushing. I think about that shirt and the man who left it all the time.

I want people who are against migration to understand that no one would want to walk that desert trail unless they had to. I want those people to think of their families and what they would do to save them. I don’t want them to step into his shoes, I want them to wear the grey shirt.

More to come,

Natalie

The Best

I cannot believe this is my final post. It’s weird that this officially means it’s all over and it’s really weird to reflect on the experience and consider what it all means to me now and what it will all mean to me in the future.

There was so much I learned and I think I covered a lot of that but one thing I haven’t really talked about it how grateful I am to have been a part of such a wonderful project with such a wonderful group. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the deeper aspects of the project, but we had a lot of fun too.

Living in a small house with 16 people can either be really fun or just the worst and it was really fun. We danced while making dinner, we danced while doing dishes, we played ridiculously specific rounds of mafia.

We also met so many incredible and interesting people. One night we went for dinner and margaritas in Mexico with a lawyer who was prosecuting for a family whose 15 year old son was shot on Mexican soil by an American guard on the border. His son and his son’s friend were there as well, both had family in both the Nogales, Arizona and the Nogales, Sonora side. The level that these two cities and their cultures are intertwined is truly astounding, especially when you see this massive iron structure sneaking between the two.

We also met a priest named Father Peter Neely who had been living in Nogales for some time and was extremely intelligent and well versed on the issues. Some of my most profound understandings came from talking with him. He introduced to some ranchers who own a massive ranch right on the border and have hours of footage of cartel members carrying huge packs of drugs through their land.

There were just so many layers and so much to take in, but having people there going through the same experiences who you could laugh with and cry with was something truly special.

One of my favorite times spent with everyone was when we went to a lake in Arizona, near Nogales. We spent the day swimming and A.J. (aka the group’s “dad”) cooked us all burgers and hotdogs (burgers and water–my two favorite things).

Later that night, some of stayed to fly the drone and play soccer. John called us over, saying he was going to teach us to meditate. So, approximately 10 of us sat down on the ground in a classic meditative position (legs crossed, hands palm-up on your knees) facing the water. At this point, the beach was still pretty crowded; people were boating and swimming, and it was probably a pretty funny (or super creepy) sight to see 10 people sitting in that position, dead still and dead silent, eyes closed, for 10 minutes straight.

That didn’t really occur to us until we heard a little kid in the water yell, “Mom, what are those people doing? They look so creepy!”

So, yeah, there were a lot of those funny moments throughout the trip which just made it so enjoyable and I feel like, right now, that’s what I’m holding onto. The profound experiences I had and the things we learned are things that will take more time for me to process, but I have no trouble saying I had the best time with the best group at the best school.

Getting tacos together for John's birthday.
Getting tacos together for John’s birthday.

A22

I know his name, but I won’t say it.

They know their names, but won’t say them.

When I interviewed Fr. Neeley, who used to work in detention centers, he told me that the guards would call migrants by letters and numbers. According to Fr. Neeley, dehumanizing migrants made it easier to mistreat them. For me, this was one of the most disturbing moments of the interview. I couldn’t imagine categorizing another human to avoid my own reality.

For this blog, I will do just that. I will tell the story of a migrant that I met and only call him by A22. I want to prove to myself and to the readers, how uncomfortable and disgusting this practice really is.

I had just finished cleaning up the evening meal at the comedor. Almost all of the men and women whom I encountered during dinner spoke Spanish. I communicated with a smile, service and a lot of Spanglish. I was surprised when A22 approached me and even more surprised when he spoke perfect English. A22 wanted the proper translation of an English word for his friend and asked for my help. Somehow A22 and I went from speaking about synonyms to telling his story. Right away, I could tell that A22 just wanted to be heard, and so I listened.

A22 came to the country when he was just 13 years old on a temporary visa. He stayed when it expired and started to make a life for himself in Arizona. He fell in love and had a son with his American girlfriend. After his son was born, his girlfriend became a drug addict. A22 told me that the plan had always been to marry her to become a real family and to also earn his citizenship.

“People always ask me why I didn’t just marry her. I know I wouldn’t have been deported if I did, but I couldn’t. The drugs took over her life. It ruined our relationship and it ruined her role as a mother. I wasn’t going to do that to my son. I wasn’t going to be that stereotype,” said A22.

At this point in A22’s story, I was almost in tears. The far right likes to believe that Mexicans are all criminals who will cheat the system to enter the country. A22 was a perfect example of how this idea is untrue. There are people with citizenship who do not have the moral compass that A22 holds; his girlfriend is a great example.

A22 won full custody of his son and split from his girlfriend. After some time, A22 made, what he called, a human mistake. He got back together with his girlfriend. His girlfriend became pregnant again and, according to A22, she continued to do drugs during the pregnancy. A22 told me that she was receiving the drugs from her brother.

“I made a mistake. I was so angry with her and her brother. This is my kid that she was hurting. She wouldn’t stop. He kept giving her drugs. I tried to warn him. She was killing my child. I had to do something,” said A22.

A22 assaulted his girlfriend’s brother, was charged with a felony and was deported in April.

“I just want a second chance. Why don’t I get a second chance? Is it because I’m brown? Is it because I’m different? I tried to tell the judge I was protecting my family, but he didn’t listen. Why does she get to keep our kids and I have to leave? I don’t get it,” said A22.

A22’s first son is now in the mother’s custody. His second son was born with Down syndrome and a missing limb because of his mother’s drug abuse. A22 has never met him.

A22 has been in Nogales for about a month. A22 shares an apartment with other migrants and has a job that only pays him about $10 a week. A22 is developing a case with a social worker to return to the country and raise his sons. It could take six to twelve months to process.

 

A22 is important.

A22 is real.

A22 is human.

 

Our Chat in the comedor
Our chat in the comedor