No matter where we come from, we all crave safety, shelter and love. It's a commonality that binds us in experience and connects us to one another. Writer Demetria Martinez—a featured reader at the upcoming Celebrate Solidarity! fundraiser—explored this when she covered the Sanctuary Movement as a journalist in the 1980s. The Sanctuary Movement was a religious and political campaign in the US that sought to provide asylum for immigrants fleeing political upheaval in Central America. Nowadays, immigrants still face separation due to deportation, and religious and political organizations are still attempting to find a place for them.
“I was a reporter covering the Sanctuary Movement, and I accompanied two churchmen to the border who were bringing in two Salvadoran refugees,” Martinez says. “The following year I was charged with conspiracy against the US government in connection with aiding so-called illegal aliens to enter the country. Following a trial in 1988, a jury acquitted me on First Amendment grounds, freedom of the press. I was facing a potential 25 years in prison.”
Celebrate Solidarity! highlights risks and struggles like these, as Martinez and other noted poets/activists share poems about immigrant issues. Like her reportage, Martinez' poetry viscerally inhabits hardships facing the people trying to cross manmade borders in search of a better life. Her poem “Nativity: For Two Salvadoran Women, 1968-87” touches on this, as she writes “I might/ press a stethoscope to your wounds,/ hear the symphony of the unborn,/ finger forth infants to light,/ wipe afterbirth, cut cords./ It is impossible to raise a child/ in that country.”
“[I]mmigrants are not resentful or hateful. The event is an opportunity to get some taste of that. The poetry is going to be amazing and will offer a chance to get a view into what it's like, what these people have had to go through to try to get here. It's exceptional.”
Presented by the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice, the function features noted poets, musicians and activists taking to the stage to recite original works. Happening at the Factory on 5th Artspace (1715 Fifth Street NW) on Saturday, March 7, at 6pm, it serves as a way to celebrate immigrants and to bring attention to the fact that, regardless of our origins, we are all connected. Tiska Blankenship, a dedicated volunteer for the coalition, stresses that the reading won’t be political, but rather a festive evening of poetry and community.
“It's more about a way to get our hearts connected and opened,” Blankenship says. “It's to show that immigrants are not resentful or hateful. The event is an opportunity to get some taste of that. The poetry is going to be amazing and will offer a chance to get a view into what it's like, what these people have had to go through to try to get here. It's exceptional.”
In addition to Demetria Martinez, featured readers include poet, essayist and activist Margaret Randall; Northern Illinois University professor Renny Golden; and Damien Flores, a local poet and graduate from UNM who was named “Poet of the Year” in 2007 and 2008 by the New Mexico Hispano Entertainer's Association. Each poet will share pieces that not only shed light on the immigrant experience, but show the deep connections we all carry within ourselves.
“It's going to be very interesting and fun, maybe joyous,” Blankenship says. “It is a celebration, but it's also somber because the poetry is about real people and real suffering ... We don't want to leave people depressed, but to let people see some real truth that we in this country don't get to know. It's an opportunity to meet real immigrant people. It's a really lovely event, very special.”