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.
Yesterday we made our way up to Tucson. We interviewed a lady named Isabel who had quite a lot to say. She was a public attorney for 37 years. After her interview she took us to shrine in a neighborhood and it was a really unique experience. Then we went to IN-N-OUT burger. I’m not going to lie, I think that IN-N-OUT is pretty overrated. Some of us came to the conclusion that it’s over hyped because it’s only in the south.
Later that day Carol, Nichole, and I went to Phoenix to pick up a lady that we are interviewing down in Nogales. There and back it was 7 hours in a car on top of the 3 hours earlier in the day. It was a fun car ride though and it was great getting to know everyone better.
Today, after my 5 hours of sleep, we set off to meet a man who took us along a migrant trail. We hiked for about 4 hours and the experience was unreal. He is a part of No More Deaths and they set out water and beans along the migrant trails. The focal point of the journey was a small shrine where migrants who are crossing the border put rosaries and pictures to commemorate and pray. I couldn’t help myself to just walk in silence the whole time back. I couldn’t imagine walking those “trails” in 100 plus degree heat while being afraid of someone chasing you. These migrants are true warriors. Their strength is incredible and the hearts are filled with faith. This experience is one of my most memorable so far and it’s hard to put into words.
Later this afternoon we met up with Luis Parra, an attorney in Nogales, Arizona. He is currently working on a high profile case that will likely make it to the Supreme Court. The case involves a US border agent fatally shooting a Mexican kid on the Mexico side through the wall. The victims name is Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez. Luis took us to the site and explained everything. It was quite a sight to be able to hear from the family’s attorney what happened. I really enjoyed Luis’ company. We talked while we were walking around Nogales, Sonora and we also sat next to each other at dinner.
I just got back from picking Nico up at a Burger King in downtown Nogales. He went back to Omaha for a wedding and his shuttle from Tucson just arrived in Nogales. No better way to end the night than picking up my brother man!