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Poet On Helping Undocumented Students: Pass The Mic

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October 15, 2018 1:21 p.m.

Poet On Helping Undocumented Students: Pass The Mic


Yosimar Reyes, poet

Related Story: Poet On Helping Undocumented Students: Pass The Mic


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

community colleges across the state have organized a week of action starting today to support undocumented students. To kick off the effort Grossmont College invited poet Yossi Mahrez to speak. Raya's sat down with education reporter Megan Burk's to talk about how the conversation around immigration has changed since his grandparents brought him to the country illegally in 1991.

After docking he said it was like he knew they wanted to document and it was like Pocomoke.

Like everybody everybody here been documenting that right.

Traveling the country giving these talks and the way out of here he says. You talk about getting bamboozled when you're asked to speak about being undocumented. What do you mean by that.

I just feel like sometimes the questions come with this assumption that the answer is going to be a certain way. I'm very conscious about like shifting the narrative and opening up other conversations that I feel like we're still not having so my answer might be silly and you'd be like oh you know why are you making me laugh.

But if people ask me what it is like how do you cross the border. And I will tell you that you're going to pay for that. For me the process is not good. But not me. So just make up you know that going back one day into my grandmothers ears and she said we have to migrate here. Some of them die.

That's what I want to do. I want to be able to create narratives that are not just so serious. I think we've made immigration and be undocumented something really serious and politically and I think that's not the case.

What do you mean by that. That's not the case. I think maybe it sends a little bit from your child's head that this label it exists in your child.

Yeah. When I was a kid there was no language to talk about being undocumented. You were out here saying I'm undocumented it was just you continued building and growing and you know going to your jobs and doing whatever. So for me like there's nothing undocumented about my body nothing in my physics class nothing in all that is undocumented it's just a condition. And I think that's where we forget a lot of times that it's just like poverty is a condition that you're growing up in. It's not really an identity.

Daki Joia is kind of your answer to that. Can you talk about what you see to do with that.

So you're with a campaign that we started with the organization that I used to work for Define American and we basically just had this conversation about like go when I was growing up undocumented people that I know were power for like to build to live with to get a job to learn the language to continue to mobilize. I think there's a certain power in that. And how come when we are showcasing narratives that are haven't documented subjects.

There isn't any of that. I love my undocumented people. Because the way our parents are told when you need them them strength. Because we have costs we have to prove our humanity and constantly running beautifully.

Because we stay human in these conditions you have to have an understanding of beauty.

And in a way that's kind of like idea that somehow if we showcase repetitive images of how horrifying it is for us then somehow this country will have like a moral crisis and choose to act. And I understand that we see that in the civil rights movement. You know when we saw like African-Americans being you know chased down by dogs or like the water hoses and all that like these really violent images. But at the same time I don't know. I started thinking like why do we have to go back to doing that. Has our country not reached a level in which human empathy is just something that we should all have right.

And I just got tired and I was like yo I want to showcase how powerful my friends are because being undocumented is just physical.

It is a condition created to keep us from my.

You talked about how when you're a kid you have to translate for your parents your grandparents and develop as you can see and that that speaks to the strength that you and your friends have. And so now as more people are trying to march on your behalf and rally on their behalf to fight it doesn't quite jive with what you know about your community.

It's interesting when people invite me to a panel and I have two people who happen to be citizens sitting next to me and their label is so-and-so. Immigration expert and then you have me you'll see Mara. Yes. And you put Dockery's Suppiah you know like I'm the immigration exclave anything they make your next right here because I this is my life. There's this idea that people don't think I can speak for myself or that I can articulate my own predicament and because of that they need to step forward and I appreciate. I think I appreciate that. But I think we've reached the point where the platform needs to be loud and the messaging needs to be Latiff of people that are directly impacted by that conditioning.

There's a lot of people in San Diego who are interested in supporting immigrants and hearing this they might feel a loss as to where to go next. What what would be your advice.

One of the biggest things is mentorship. I was mentored by Jose Antonio a lot of guys which was my former boss. But I think that's important. Like if you have a skill that you are well aware of and you happen to know an undocumented student that might need. I think that's a step in the right direction and also not taking it personally. I think you should not take it any personal way is it the fact that we really are kind of trying to figure this out. And in order to figure this out we need to bring the people that are directly impacted by it at the forefront of a conversation with these children.

We're like these little translators. I remember making a right when I was like typing on my iPad like putting myself as a reference you know they call you out of your hand you see the worker work for maybe five years.

That was poet Yosimar Reyes as talking with KPBS education reporter Megan Burks.