Tag Archives: Carol Zuegner

Giving a Face to Migration

Today is Monday, the 23rd of May. We met Joanna, director of education and advocacy at the Kino Border Initiative. She led us into our first experience of crossing the border into Mexico.

We parked our vans a couple of blocks outside of the border. After walking for about five minutes, we came upon what looked like a steel, caged walkway. Joanna informed us that this walkway will be used in the future as an entrance for migrants being deported back to Mexico. I was shocked at how much it resembled a cattle chute. The path we took into Mexico was a sidewalk that followed right along side of the caged walkway.

We walked beside the caged runway for about 200 yards (two football fields) and got into Mexico without anyone flinching or checking our passports.

I was already hot and irritated with the rocks that kept getting into my shoes.

But the migrants had to do this trek from within a cage. I can’t fathom what they could possibly be feeling during this very public walk of shame. These people had left their homes out of fear to search for safety. They have been in the desert for who knows how long without the proper basic resources such as food and water. When Border Patrol detains them, they are in terrible condition. The humiliation must be traumatizing to be shackled by the hands and feet. They get dropped off in the same dusty, sweat filled clothes that they started their pilgrimage in. Once they are uncuffed, they are told to walk through a cage into a city they have never been to.

I cannot begin to imagine the horror and vulnerability that these people face.

One of the Kino Border Initiative‘s missions is to work towards humane migration. This becomes a huge challenge when news outlets, politicians and government officials are constantly criminalizing migrants and refugees. I admit that I have fallen victim to this power of repetition that sees migrants as criminals rather than as individual lives seeking something better. After today, my eyes have been opened and my life has been changed. My hope is to help those who aren’t fortunate to have the experiences that we are having. I want to give a face to the migrant instead of seeing a group of criminals. No matter your political views, I hope that you can at least realize that all humans have inherent rights and dignity.

“When you devalue one human life, you devalue all human life.”

Blessed to learn and to love

It’s been five weeks, 35 days, 840 hours and 50,400 minutes. The whole trip, every single minute of it, was better than I had ever imagined it would be.

I’ve been thinking about how I was going to write this last blog post for the past 24 hours. How could I possibly sum up such a wonderful and impactful experience?  So to save you all from my rambling and incoherent thoughts, I want to share with you what I’ve learned from this trip:

1. Writing a movie script is different than any journalism story I’ve written. 

I’m used to telling stories using my words in my own style, letting others’ voices help me prove whatever statement I’m making. That’s what many journalists do, and that’s the privilege of being a journalist. You get to share stories, and it’s your job to tell the story to others. This experience has been different because instead of using our own voices, we help in another way.  We let our video and our interviewees tell the story. We rely heavily on them, while leaving ourselves out of it. Perhaps that’s what makes the best kind of story; when the subject is able to speak to a large group of others directly with only a little help from journalists.

2. I need practice shooting video, but hey, at least I know what all the buttons on the camera do. 

I can tell you how to set the ISO, aperture, shutter speed and white balance on a camera. I can tell you that when you don’t have time to set those features, shoot in Program mode. However, I’m not quite comfortable with a camera yet.  I hope to spend more time with a camera in the future (and maybe not with the thought of making an award-winning documentary in mind).

3.  Confidence is absolutely vital to a project like this. 

You need a lot of faith in yourself and in your team members to complete something like this. You need faith you’ll get the interview, faith you’ll get enough b-roll, faith you’ll find a good story, and faith it’ll all come together in the end. (I also learned I’m awful at hiding the times when I don’t have faith in myself; John had to remind me to be confident.)

4.  When you find a culture and a people as special as those in Bethel, you try to soak in everything you can.

I’m still trying to soak in all the lessons learned and the sights I saw. This culture is a welcoming culture, an open culture, a completely different culture than my own. Cecilia let us try on her parkas, pieces of clothing she hand-made and were a part of her culture and identity.  Nelson let a dozen people watch him cry as he told us how climate change is affecting the edge of the world and his life. If you’re blessed enough to be a witness to all of this, you keep a place for those people in your heart, knowing that truly good people, people who care, are out there.

5. Once you become aware of a moral evil or a social sin, you are held accountable for your actions. 

During our last lecture on Tuesday, we talked about social sins and modernity. We reflected on becoming aware of the social sin that has become climate change. Now that we are aware, we are held accountable to help make it right. As Nelson would say, we need to  find a way to say sorry to the land.

Carol asked us,”What is something you can do differently based on what you learned?”

I learned that climate change is not a hoax. I’ve seen the impact it’s had on people and on their culture. I’m now accountable for my actions. I can’t change the consumer society that is affecting climate change, but I can take little steps, like recycling and reusing items, and find out how to take bigger steps in the future.

6. It takes a lot to still love 19 people with whom you’ve spent five weeks, 35 days, 840 hours and 50,400 minutes. 

The Alaskan family. Photo courtesy of John O'Keefe.
The Alaskan family. Photo courtesy of John O’Keefe.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard sometimes. But, in all honesty, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend over 50,000 minutes with. This trip and my whole experience wouldn’t be the same without them.  I  walked out of the classroom today with a happy heart and a feeling of gratefulness.

So again, I’d like to thank Carol, Tim, John and the rest of my peers for a life-changing experience.