Open Your Eyes

By: Amy Spaulding Zimbelman
August 15, 2013

“Shut your eyes to nothing that seems to them the reality”—Olive Schreiner

We walked the streets of Atlanta united on a three-mile pilgrimage. We were a collage of people: black, white, brown, Mennonites, Unitarian Universalists, Baptists, conservatives, liberals—all question seekers. We were not just sweating it out on the streets. We were seeking justice.

We walked to the ICE building, where immigrants are being processed. It is here, a few feet away, our leader Anton told us, that up to 85% of people in the system do not receive representation. Herded like animals, often coerced into signing their rights away.

We sang: Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?

We walked to a detention center, the largest in the nation. It struck me as strange that the building looked similar to others on the street—it could almost pass for a large office complex. But it is here that human beings are incarcerated, usually without a trial, usually for the crime of attempting to feed their families.

We sang: Were you there when they jailed him for money?

We walked to the Board of Regents, where it was decided that children brought to the U.S. without documents could not attend the top five schools in the state and receive in-state tuition. “I want to be a social worker helping children,” a 21-year-old undocumented woman told us, “I’m not asking for a free ride…I’m just asking for a chance.”

We sang: Were you there when they crucified her dreams?

On our pilgrimage, we saw a police car driven up onto the sidewalk, cornering a man who has no home. The officer was blaring his siren at the man. We offered him what we had: water. Then we offered our voices.

We sang: Were you there when they drove him off the streets?

We walked to Grady Hospital. Our leader, Anton, knows a woman who struggles to get the dialysis she needs. Since the hospital became privatized, it no longer provides services for people without documents. This saves money.

We sang: Were you there when they stole her dignity?

“Shut your eyes to nothing that seems to them the reality,” the South African poet Olive Schreiner wrote. The reality is that the immigration system is unjust. Profit is valued over people. Fear trumps freedom. But the reality is also that there are change-makers among us. The reality is that we are all one: the immigrant, the politician, the person with no home, the seminary student. The reality is there is hope.

And so finally, we walked to the crypt of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his family.

We sang: Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

Oh…sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

When you encounter the pain of this world, shut your eyes to nothing that seems to them the reality. And I would add: Never stop singing.

Amy Spaulding Zimbelman is an FTE VEV Fellow who spent the last four years advocating for refugees and immigrants and connecting them with the broader community in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She and her husband recently moved to North Carolina where she is enrolled at Duke Divinity School. She blogs with her pastor at www.openeverydoor.wordpress.com.

Tags: Shaping the Future


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