Poetry enthusiasts and immigration activists will converge on the American Poetry Museum next week in support of the arts and migrant families during a public poetry reading touted as Writers for Migrant Justice.
Organizers of the Sept. 4 event said it will shed light on the untold number of immigrant families that have struggled to remain intact at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Writers for Migrant Justice will align with more than 40 similar gatherings across the United States. Funds raised at these public readings will aid activists in their legal support of those affected by the Trump administration’s immigration policy that has separated migrant families and confined thousands of children to border detention camps.
“I believe when you come for one of us, you come for all of us,” said Daria-Ann Martineau, a poet from Trinidad and Tobago and organizer of the local Writers for Migrant Justice poetry reading. On Sept. 4, she’ll introduce her audience to the stylings of Derrick Weston Brown, Doritt Caroll and other locally acclaimed poets.
Martineau, a D.C. resident for 12 years, said that poetry has allowed her to reflect on her heritage and exchange perspectives with others. Writers for Migrant Justice will follow a 2018 writing workshop she hosted, in conjunction with Split This Rock, for immigrant and first-generation American poets. Martineau has also worked with DC SCORES, where her students, many of whom came from Spanish-speaking families, often broached the subject of immigration.
“[Trump’s immigration policy] is an attack on anyone who’s not a white European,” Martineau said. “We can all care because it affects us. The specific detention of migrant families at the border is horrifying. What else is there to say? It shouldn’t have ever happened, especially for the children who died from the lack of care in the facilities.”
Last week, the Trump administration announced its replacement of policy that limited the amount of time immigrant children could spend in detention facilities and established minimum standards for detaining families. President Donald Trump (R) told reporters that the changes, along with the impending border wall would further deter families fleeing violence in Central America from attempting to enter the United States.
The plan, pending federal court approval, has drawn criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups. The latest move falls in line with what has been described as Trump’s white nationalist-centered policy, focused heavily on curbing nonwhite immigration.
Upon his entry into the Oval Office in 2017, Trump banned people from eight majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States, increased the arrest of unauthorized immigrants on U.S. soil, canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and ended the designation of Temporary Protected Status for Haitian, Nicaraguan and Sudanese nationals.
During that time, nationalist sentiments have grown among U.S. voters, including a contingent of African Americans who designate themselves as American descendants of slavery, or ADOS. This group’s organizing strategy for reparations and other policy solutions prioritizes the needs of descendants of enslaved Africans over that of other marginalized groups.
However, Derrick Weston Brown, a prolific poet and educator and one of nine readers at Writers for Migrant Justice, contends that Black Americans and immigrants can find common ground in their constant search for a better life.
He noted that after the end of chattel slavery, many people of African descent, including members of Brown’s family, left the South in search of economic opportunity in the northern and western parts of the U.S. Brown said his family, like other African Americans, also suffered from Jim Crow laws and other legislation that limited their movements in their new urban enclaves.
For him, touching on these sensitive subjects through poetry helps bridge what he described as a well-orchestrated divide between groups of oppressed people.
“The best way to keep someone in an abusive relationship and make them do what you want is to keep them separated from other people. said Brown, a native of Charlotte, N.C. who lives in Mt. Rainier, Maryland. “You get played into this one set of understanding.
“With slavery and such, it’s been an abusive relationship with Black people and the United States,” he said. “Black people have a line to draw in order to protect themselves and can’t find that intersection. [But] understanding happens when people get a different picture. In poetry and creative writing, I find those stories across the board where people cross borders.”