Freedom to think and travel

Freedom of thought and freedom to migrate are rights hard won. A childhood confined by military dictatorship, a present obstructed by populist world leadership has made me treasure them even more.  The former destroys minds and bodies with religious dogma, the latter with racist anti-immigrant policies.

Green Card Sponsorship

Will you be able to sponsor me for a green card?  A student asked me one semester. I thought you might be able to help me that way, she added.

Not help with her writing, not with commas, sentence structure, or a thesis statement, but sponsorship for a green card!

How does one respond to such a request? I live with my betrayal.  The policies did not give me the freedom to help my student in the way she needed it most.  She left her children with their father and returned to Mexico.  Some years later when she returned, I welcomed her back in my class.   

Border Crossing

Border crossing, whether over Tijuana, the Rio Grande, the Straits of Gibraltar is accompanied by elevated feelings: anxiety, hope, separation, meeting.

As Selma and I cross the Straits of Gibraltar on the afternoon Ferry from Spain to Morocco, I return to Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami. We are on vacation and this is our reading assignment for the trip. The ferry will take me to the West of the East, Tangier.  Lalami tells of Moroccan immigrants who swim in the opposite direction toward the Spanish shore, only to be caught and returned to the home that cannot give them comfort.  Some are freed by drowning. 

Lalami follows the legacy of Morrocan writer, Ibn Batuta of the Fourteenth Century. A Tangier native, he traveled to China, and returned to Morocco to be buried there. Ibn Batuta was a lifelong immigrant.  Wherever he traveled, he made his home. He married. He had children.

On returning to Morocco, he presented readers of his time with the “Gift of the Beholders on the Peculiarities of the Regions and the Marvels of Journeys”, a memoir.  Every country he visited, he made his home, Alexandria, Mali, Spain, India, the Maldives.  And then he returned to Tangier to write the travelogue, Rihlah, (Travels).  He preceded Christopher Columbus, Vasco de Gama, and Magellan by over a century.  

Ibn Batuta told of his stories of the world to Moroccans, and five centuries later, Fatema Mernissi, introduced Moroccan and Muslim culture to the world.  A Muslim feminist with a sense of humor, she argued, would be heard louder than others. 

Women’s History Month

As we begin this month of women’s history, we can read books by author’s like Laila Lalami, another daughter of Morocco, who writes about The Other Americans.

We can also support groups like, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies as it defends the rights of refugees looking for asylum in the United States.

And lastly, we can write stories and poetry to celebrate all that women have done to take humanity to a promising future.

A Muslim feminist with a sense of humor, Mernissi argued, would be heard louder than others. 

Create Cultural Memories through Literature and Art

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