|photo by Val Neiman|
Split This Rock and a number of hard-working individuals joined together to organize the vigil to coincide with the annual conference of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), which brought thousands of writers to the nation's capital. Thirty organizations cosponsored, spreading the word and helping writers gather at this time of intense threat to our basic human rights, of which freedom of expression is one of the most fundamental.
Split This Rock is publishing the statements of those who spoke, Kazim Ali, Gabrielle Bellot, Melissa Febos, Carolyn Forché, Sanaz Fotouhi, Ross Gay, Luis J. Rodriguez, and Eric Sasson.
Statement by Luis J. Rodriguez for the Candlelight Vigil at the White House, February 11, 2017
|photo by Kelly Thompson|
I’m here as a poet, also a journalist and a fiction writer. I do all genres. But I’m also here as a Native person. I say this because we are all standing with Standing Rock. We’ve all been standing together for the water, for the land, and for Native voices to be heard.
Yes, I’m a Mexican but I’m not an immigrant. My mother had roots with the Tarahumara tribe from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. A tribe aligned to the Hopi, Shoshone, the Paiute, all the way down to the Mexika, to the Pipil of El Salvador. We are all tied together.
I’m an anchor baby, by the way, and proud of it.
When my mother went from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico to have me born across the border in El Paso, Texas, we went from our land to our land.
Still Native peoples have never said other people don’t belong here. We’ve never said other people shouldn’t be here. This land is for everybody. No matter what you are, you belong here. You all belong. And when we're seeing that poison coming up from the White House, that poison from our history that includes white supremacy, misogyny, xenophobia, gay hatred, the hatred of people who are different, it's coming up against what?
We're the antidote! We're the medicine for that poison.
Native peoples see everything connected. We see how we are actually one. My peoples have a saying when they greet each other, Kwira Va. This means “we are one.” That’s who we are. One people.
When they say, "Well, I love my country," that's fine. I love my country. But I love the world more! It's more important that the world be safe. It's more important the world have clean air and no more poisons. It’s more important that there be no more war, no more poverty. It’s more important that the whole world be a place where everyone feels “we’re human beings.”
If the world is safe, peaceful, just, clean, that also include us!
Mother Earth accepts everything, all our footsteps, where everybody belongs. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been to prison. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a heroin addict. The Earth doesn’t care about that. The Earth holds you. That’s what we want, a world that holds all of us.
So let’s be for the world first—where everybody on earth matters.
One of the big antidotes is truth. The first thing that anti-democratic forces do, that fascists do, is change the idea of truth—that there is no truth and only their truth matters. Well truth now is revolutionary. Now to be about truth means you have to be about a subversive act. Isn't that great? Let’s do it. Truth is our cause, we should have truth processions. We should have poetics of truth. We should have acts of truth and acts of beauty everywhere! That is freedom of expression to me! That is what free speech is—where everybody becomes creative and imaginative.
And it’s not just Trump we have to deal with. It’s a whole political and economic system that is behind him, including people who have no imaginations. They’re caught in their own poisons.
But as the antidote and the medicine and the truth, we must be more creative and imaginative than ever. This is the time to reach out. Even with all our differences, and all our struggles, we all are united now. We are all one struggle, one cause, one battle—a world for the few or for everyone.
We must never be divided again.
I want to end with one thing. I come from a beautiful community, the second largest Mexican and Central American community in the US: the Northeast San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. We have a great cultural center there my wife Trini and I started 16 years ago called Tia Chucha’s Cultural Center & Bookstore. We also have a beautiful press, Tia Chucha Press, which I’ve been doing for 28 years.
But that community is under siege right now. For the past two days, ICE has been raiding this community and deporting people. Again the Native people are now the foreigners, the strangers, and the “illegals.” Everything has been turned on its head. We have to put things back right. We’re going to do everything we can for this community.
What’s beautiful is that this is not just my cause, it’s not just the cause of a few of us—this is our cause. Just like all these causes are ours. Rights for the LGBTQ community is our cause. Standing Rock is our cause. And whenever a working class person cannot get paid properly that’s our cause.
So every writer therefore has to now do acts of beauty and acts of truth. Write, write, write, tell the truth, write for the truth, and never let anyone tell you that lies are “the truth.” We know the truth. Nobody has to pull the wool over our eyes. We see it everyday and I see it in your eyes. You are the truth. Stand up for who you are. Because you’re the truth that’s going to be the medicine for all the poison rising out of the White House, throughout this country, and from the capitalist system. Thank you all, brothers and sisters.