Roberto German 0:00
Welcome to Our Classroom. In this space, we talk about education, which is inclusive of, but not limited to what happens in schools. Education is taking place whenever and wherever we are willing to learn. I am your host, Roberto Germán And our classroom is officially in session. Grace and peace. Today, we're getting into part two of a three part series in which we are breaking down excerpts of because I knew a book that was published by author Ummi Modeste from Brooklyn, New York. Ummi is a retired teacher, key member of the brand low Teacher Network, and also the founder of the former East Brooklyn poets. Excited to have only back in our classroom today, I want to transition to your next piece dreaming a decolonized world.
Ummi Modeste 1:13
All right, here we go. Dreaming a decolonized world. I Dream A world where applying for legal migration into the US is simple and clear, especially for those seeking asylum and safety from violence. With a pathway to this country is open and inexpensive, not fraught with danger and exploitation. Where former Border Patrol agents are multilingual border crossing facilitation agents, who are trained to process immigration applications fairly and expeditiously. We're border patrol officers are there to keep weary travelers safe from predators and trim a world in which D H S stands for the Department of hospitality and safety and ice means international cultural exchange. Swaying yo mundo donde la neagra Sonas personas are modeling que se Are you that at Travis del sistema de immigrantion He asked Casanova. i Dream A world where immigration detention centers are repurposed as welcome centers to help new arrivals connect with relatives find jobs and secure homes where the cells are transformed into safe clean rooms in which families can stay together while their paperwork is processed. We're immigration lawyers stationed at the welcome centers with interpreters by their side to help people understand their rights, charge the travelers nothing because they are paid by the corporations that rake in millions of dollars in profits on the backs of immigrants, where there are classes for adults to start learning English and mental health services for those who are suffering. But in my dream world, the suffering will not be caused by the trip to war the very act of crossing the border. A dream a world where coyotes are only four legged animals who sing in the night and cartels are out of business. I dream a world where border town means a place where newly arrived people can easily find work and housing, where there are schools that enroll children all year round, where there are teachers who speak the children's languages, where there are agencies to help immigrants move on or plant roots. I dream a world where a person Gavle Espanol and walks into the United States that la frontera outsource or someone who balafon say, and drives across last frontier nor, or someone speaking English who flies into JFK Airport will be treated with the same dignity and respect. I dream a world with a current immigration industrial complex is dismantled, and a new one is created that employs 1000s of people to help 1000s of people become productive members of the United States to raise their families in peace and safety to purchase homes and businesses. So then help 1000s More after them. A dream a world without are only human beings, not aliens. And your very existence does not constitute a crime. Just because your body has crossed that imaginary line. I dream. Joe Swain, you, Jr. Have a photo.
Roberto German 5:18
Salute. Salute salute.
Ummi Modeste 5:19
Oh, that one gets me every time.
Roberto German 5:21
Yeah, profound, profound. Oh, well. While you're in that state, I'm going to take the opportunity to be a little antagonistic. Resistors would say this is a pie in the sky stuff. This is fluff. This is this is to ideal. What would you say back to them?
Ummi Modeste 5:46
I say we can't be what we can't see. We can't achieve what we can't imagine. If we can't imagine a world of justice and freedom and safety and peace. How are we ever going to get there? How? How are we ever going to get there? If all our young people know is strife and anger and violence? How are they going to lead us into a world of safety and peace and equity and inclusion? How if we have them thinking that this is all imaginal all imagination and not at all achievable? If we have taught our young people not to dream a world where they're safe, where their children are safe, where they can be whoever they want to be, that we have completely failed? We have completely failed. I strongly believe that if we can't imagine this world that I've written about if we can't imagine a decolonized world, that we can never make things better.
Roberto German 7:07
I'm gonna keep keep pushing back. Again, thinking about folks that would listen to this and read this, and put up some resistance because this is some of the stuff that we encounter in the work that we do and the content that we share. These folks are coming over the border, they're taking all our jobs.
Ummi Modeste 7:28
That is utterly ridiculous. That's utterly ridiculous. First of all, the whole concept, they
Roberto German 7:34
get an opportunity to take in our jobs, and they're taking ours or children's spots and colleges nonsense to reverse discrimination.
Ummi Modeste 7:45
Nonsense. First of all, we have to get out of this mentality that there isn't enough to go around. This is the wealthiest country in the world, that we have anybody hungry and homeless in this country is ridiculous. The thought that if more people come into this country, that they're going to be fewer jobs. That is utter nonsense. First of all, the vast majority of people who come into this country start off working at the lowest level jobs, the lowest level jobs that high school graduates in the United States don't even want to work. And when they when people first come to this country, depending on the way in which they come, they can't work at first. They can't work until they get a work permit. And then when they get a work permit. They're starting at the lowest level jobs by and large, unless they come in on a student visa. And they're going to be engineers or something like that. We have people in this country driving taxi cabs, who have PhDs in their home countries. Ain't that something big but because their, their level of literacy in their home language does is not the same as their level of literacy in English. They have to start as a taxi driver, because they can read enough English to pass that test until they develop their English well enough to pass the certification exams in this country. So how many United States high school graduates want to be taxi drivers want to be custodial service people want to work in hospitality in a hotel. And then we can have a whole other conversation about the pushback has to do with the color of your skin, what country you're coming from which border you're crossing, because if you're flying in from in an English speaking or a French speaking country, or Danish country in Europe, you're not getting the same pushback that you're getting if you're coming across the southern border from Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Dominican Republic. And then you have people who are first generation Americans, but are perceived as immigrants, and treated as outsiders and interlopers. What what is that? What is this entire country was founded by pushing the indigenous people off the land that they had cared for and preserved for generations? In the name of pioneering, do, please hear the air quotes in my intonation. In the name of homesteading, indigenous people pushed off their lands. Well, I wish they had had a Department of Homeland Security, none of us would be having this conversation right now. So this country was built on raping and pillaging the land, pushing the the native people off the land, forcing them into reservations, and then importing human cargo and forcing them to work, the land that had been stolen from the indigenous people of the land. So when I hear somebody who calls themselves an American, talking about these immigrants are coming in and taking our jobs and taking up our children's positions and college, et cetera, et cetera. I have to say to them, you don't know your history, you're ignorant, and you don't know your history, it makes me so angry. But in order to teach, I have to quell that anger, and present the facts.
Roberto German 12:00
That's That's some good self regulation. Take them a lot. A credit you modeling the example for our teachers and our learners. And I want to say
Ummi Modeste 12:13
something particularly, I want to speak to the college conversation, the idea that immigrant students are taking up the seats for American born college students. Utter nonsense. I am also a college advisor. And I can tell you, so many colleges and colleges in the United States are under enrolled for one thing, and they would love to have somebody fill those seats. Number two, which is a struggling, that's right, especially since COVID. Number two immigrant students, if they are not yet documented, have to pay full tuition and don't get scholarships, unless they that particular school has scholarships designed for undocumented students. So if a student is an immigrant student who doesn't have their papers, yet, they're paying full tuition. For the most part, that's one thing for another thing, they know they have to work harder than everybody else just to stay, because who's paying that money to flunk out. So our kids work just as hard nonsense. Any student who comes to this country and is struggling just to stay in this country knows how hard they have to work to keep their seat. And certainly any American born student middle class students, for example, who are not eligible for federal assistance, who are maybe just an average, you know, B minus student, not eligible for merit scholarships. They're going to have to pay full tuition to and they better work hard and stay, otherwise they're wasting their money and their parents money. What I'm saying is the concept that immigrant students, or even first generation students are taking seats away from American born students. That concept is just not borne out by the facts.
Roberto German 14:08
Yes, yes. You worked in three languages into this piece, English, Spanish, and French. Talk to me about the third one.
Ummi Modeste 14:20
Well, I needed a lot of help with that part because French is not in my repertoire at all my my languages are English, American Sign Language, and Spanish in that order of understanding, but just because my primary experience with students who are immigrants are students who come from English, Spanish and French speaking countries. I realize also that because of the media and because of the administration of President number 45, a lot of people in this country have a misconstrue ception that all immigrants come from the southern border, they're all Mexican. They're all sneaking across the border. So I wanted to make sure that I didn't only use English and Spanish, I wanted to make sure I include French. Because if you come from Canada, you're an immigrant. If you come from France, you're also an immigrant. So let's get this idea out of our head that all immigrants are Spanish speaking, brown skinned and cross at the southern border.
Roberto German 15:30
All right, what's the most promising line in this piece for you?
Ummi Modeste 15:35
One, can I choose a stanza instead of a line? Sure. The Stanza that says, I dream a world where a person que habla espanol and walks into the United States at La frontera, our sore, or someone who Polish I'll say, and drives across labral tear node, or someone speaking English, who flies into JFK Airport, will be treated with the same dignity and respect
Roberto German 16:08
why that stands.
Ummi Modeste 16:10
Because if we all just treated each other with dignity, and respect, it seems so simple. It's basic humanity. I don't know you, you haven't done anything to me. You're a human being I'm a human being. So I'm going to treat you with dignity and respect. You treat me the same way. And we'll get along just fine. And also, it's that stands out to me because I know that there have been instances where people are immigrants are treated differently based on how they arrived at reality. Yeah, like so if you walked across the southern border in California, as opposed to flying into JFK Airport and speaking very clear English, because you come from an English speaking European country, your experience at customs is going to be different. I am an American born person. With an American passport, I have flown back into this country, accompanied by friends who have passports from different countries, but who are United States residents and witness the different way we were treated. Once separated, I've seen it with my own eyes, I've experienced it myself, that stands out, to me could be its own piece,
Roberto German 17:34
Deeply frustrating. And reinforces the need for this lived out dream of a decolonized world. Thank you for sharing.
Ummi Modeste 17:47
Now, let me tell you about the unit. I'm so excited. So this was a unit that I worked on with the new the new museum in New York City. So we had a teaching artist. And what the students did was, we started off with just a conversation, if what are the social issues that are most pressing in your life? After much discussion, we came up with immigration issues. Many of my students are first gen or immigrants themselves. Okay. We talked about immigration. We had a social studies teacher come in and talk about what immigration reform means, depending on who says it how, what Obama meant by immigration reform, what Jimmy Carter meant by immigration reform, based on what 45 meant by immigration reform, how that was totally all of those things are different, and what immigration reform would look like to them. We talked about some of their family's personal experiences. And because it's New York City, and it's, you know, a salad of different cultures, we had students whose parents had infused them with that idea of immigrants are taking jobs and taking seats and stuff, but here they are in a classroom with people who with whom they had developed friendships, and they never even realized that the person that they were hanging out with at lunchtime was indeed an immigrant. So just that exposure alone helps us treat one another with dignity and respect. So that was the discussion and social studies piece. And then with a teaching artist, the students conceived of their world and with what did they use, they use poster board, markers, paint, glue, and clay to create 2d and 3d representations of what their world would look like. And we gave them the option depending on how they felt most confident in their artistic expression to either write first and then create the 2d or 3d world or do it in the reverse. So interestingly, most of them wrote first. So they wrote, the world they dreamed of. And then they created a 2d or 3d expression of that world. It was phenomenal. And then we took modal, yes. And then we put their artwork up in the new museum. And we had a whole opening night and reception with sparkling cider and little crackers, and everybody got dressed up, and parents were invited and their artwork stayed up in the new museum for a week.
Roberto German 20:46
What an amazing experience for those scholars. To go through that whole process, then to have the opportunity to have it displayed in the new museum and for their family and friends to see it. I love it. I love it. I love it. I want to see more schools do things like that. Thank you. Yes. As always, your engagement in our classroom is greatly appreciated. Be sure to subscribe, rate the show and write a review. Finally, we'll resources to help you understand the intersection of race bias, education and society. Go to multiculturalclassroom. Peace and love from your host, Roberto Germán.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai