Writers for Migrant Justice Script (by Jenny Minniti)
Thank you, angel. Thank you, demons of the night.
Thank you, winter where the heart burns
arid tree-trunks of desire. Thank you,
bracing cold light, nocturnal water.
Thank you, midnight bile,
laurel of morning, hoopoe of dawn.
For what’s odd, unexpected, wild,
for evil and pain, thank you.
For the sum of what we are
and are not,
for all we avoid
and all we crave.
Thanks for the lush words,
love and silver,
for yourself and myself.
Thank you for yes and for no.
For the ability to give thanks
and for rendering them unnecessary.
Thanks for fear,
for bread and oil,
for the night time.
Thank you for lovemaking
at the break of day, for the coin
discovered on the ground,
for your hand on my cheek,
the gush of the fountain.
Thank you for your eyes and lips,
for crying out my name with joy.
Many thanks, death, for your existence,
for making all these things
more vivid inside me—so very yours,
so beautiful, brimming, and complete.
That was “Act of Gratitude,” by Francesc Parcerisas, translated from the Catalan by Cyrus Cassells. And I’m Jenny Minniti- Shippey, the Managing Editor of Poetry International and the host of this evening’s event, Writers for Migrant Justice. Thank you all for being here tonight!
We have a packed line up of San Diego All-Star poets prepared to just delight your ears and your hearts, but I’m going to hold onto the mic for a few minutes to share some important information and notes about tonight before I turn it over to them.
Writers for Migrant Justice is a national day of protest readings initiated by poets Javier Zamora, Jan-Henry Gray, Anni Liu, and Christopher Soto in response to the inhumane conditions in which migrants are being held at the southern border. Tonight’s event, the 50 others like it around the country, and the online fundraiser, which has currently raised almost $11,000, will benefit Immigrant Families Together. On your program, you can find more information about IFT; it’s a volunteer-run organization that provides bonds for parents in detention and works to reunite them with their children. Tonight’s proceeds will go 100% to rapid-response needs and support for asylum seekers, including legal costs and acute needs like medical, food, and transportation costs.
So, if you’re wondering whether to drop a $20 bill in the donation jar to cover your glass of mediocre wine, please do! PI Staff will also accept donations via credit cards, and you can use those super phones in your pockets or in your hands to donate via Venmo, CashApp, or Paypal—every dollar will go to IFT. Check out the handy links on the back of your program.
Speaking of that document: we have 30 readers tonight! These readers hail from all corners of San Diego’s literary community: we have SDSU ! UCSD! CSU San Bernadino! Mira Costa College and City College! Outside of the university, we have So Say We All, Broken Anchor Poetry Meetup, Poetry Bench poets, TAST poets, and From Stage to Page poets. And let’s not forget the presses: Poetry International, Calypso Editions, 1913 Press, SDSU Press, Cooper Dillon Books, Locked Horn Press, and San Diego Poetry Annual. And we have amazing folks from the working world as well! It has been beyond wonderful to see the response we had from the literary community to create this mega-reading.
We’ll take an intermission at the halfway point, and I’ll update you all on tonight’s proceeds then. Once we get going, you can see who’s reading and learn more about them by following along in the program. I’ll ask my performers to please welcome up the next reader by name once they’ve received their applause. We will be finished by 9:30—it’s a school night, after all, so I ask that you please stay with us to the end if you can.
One of my main jobs here is to offer thanks and special shout-outs throughout the evening. I acknowledge and honor the Kumeyaay people, who were here and are here and on whose land we gather. I acknowledge and honor the Latinx people who were here and are here and who help make San Diego the city that it is.
I’d also like to thank our hosts, Justine and the amazing staff at Verbatim Books! Not only did Justine go out and buy more chairs for us, not only is Verbatim making the space available for us, but Verbatim is also donating 50% of ALL SALES from now until they close tonight—so go buy some books during our intermission.
Ok. Are you ready? (repeat) We are here for a serious reason—and yet we praise! Yet we can find joy! I hope you will be rowdy, be moved, do that big thoughtful hum and follow it up with raucous applause.
Please help me welcome our first reader, LIZZ HUERTA.
Thank you to our amazing first set of readers! Ok, thanks-time: Big shout outs to some of our organizational donors: SDSU Press / Hyperbole Books / Amatl Comix—our first donors to this event! Cooper Dillon Books! 1913 Press! You all are amazing, and together, rocketed us to over $500 in donations! There have been some amazingly generous individual donors as well—including my lovely parents, lol—that sent us to $850 before any of us even walked through the doors. And tonight, you all have raised (INSERT AMOUNT) already! Let’s keep it going, folks! And meet back here in ten minutes ready for more poetry.
To wrap intermission:
Thank you all for being here and coming back again. During the break, you raised an additional (AMOUNT ) to support Immigrant Families Together in their work.
Although we celebrate each other and our community tonight, this work is a matter of life and death.
According to NBC News, 24 migrants have died in ICE custody this year, as of June 2019. That figure doesn’t include the deaths of at least four immigrants who died shortly after being released from ICE custody. It also doesn’t include the deaths of immigrants held by other federal agencies, including at least five migrant children who have died while in the custody of Customs and Border Protection or the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services charged with caring for unaccompanied migrant children who enter the U.S. As of June 2019, ICE detains more than 52,500 immigrants each day. It is very difficult for us to find the names of our deceased community members online because often the deaths of migrants are treated as a mere statistic and not the passing of somebody’s mother, father, sibling, cousin. As we have learned from the Black Lives Matter movement, it is important to say the names of our community members when they are taken by state violence. We want to acknowledge Black Lives Matter for their activism and for paving a way for migrant communities to also resist the detention and violence against us.
The names I’m about to speak were provided by a LA Times Article which reported on six migrant children: five from Guatemala and one from El Salvador — who died in federal custody since from September 2018 to May 2019.
Most of the children died after becoming ill in Border Patrol’s crowded temporary holding areas.
Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle, 10, El Salvador
Jakelin Maquín, 7, Guatemala
Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, Guatemala
Juan de León Gutiérrez, 16, Guatemala
Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez, 2½, Guatemala
Carlos Hernandez Vásquez, 16, Guatemala
Thank you for honoring them with your presence here tonight.
(Rile everyone up again) SANDRA ALCOSSER
At the end:
One more big round of applause for our wonderful performers! And a hand for Verbatim Books!
My final thought for this evening is this: good news—good actions—empower us in a system that prefers we despair. A system of cruelty and entrenched power, one that leaves me feeling helpless and hopeless on the daily. We can fight that feeling of powerlessness by working together—by allowing the work we DO in the world to be the work we do FOR the world. You have made me feel powerful tonight. I hope that we can carry this feeling, this power, into our day tomorrow and the next, in a communal fight for a more just and more equitable future. Thank you. And have a great night. -Jenny Minniti
Organizers: Poetry International and Calyso Editions (sponsors), Jenny Minniti-Shippey
Venue: Verbatim Books
Readers: Karla Cordero, Kazim Ali, Sandra Alcosser, Paul Lopez, Sandra Doller, Adam Deutsch, Leo Simonovis, Chad Sweeney, Amanda Fuller, Ben Doller, Lizz Huerta