This is a guest post by Christina Fialho, co-founder and executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC). CIVIC is a non-profit that uses visitation programs, monitoring, and advocacy to end the isolation and mistreatment of immigrants held in detention. The story originally ran in Arts and Culture section of The Huffington Post as “Words Beyond Walls: Dreams of Freedom.”
The Through Courageous Eyes blog series features migrant and refugee artists and is curated by Cecilia Pessoa, LIRS Communications Associate.
“Wake me up when I’m in heaven.” These are the opening words of M.E.’s poem, which speaks to the challenges of prolonged immigration detention. M.E. is the second writer and artist in CIVIC‘s series of blog posts called “Words Beyond Walls.” M.E. has been in immigration detention since June 23, 2013, and he is currently detained at the Worcester County Jail in Snow Hill, Maryland.
Men and women in U.S. immigration detention have limited access to therapeutic activities, such as writing and drawing. In fact, art supplies are difficult to obtain. Some commissaries offer colored pencils, but most artists use small pencils without erasers. With nothing more than a graphite pencil, M.E. draws emotionally-charged religious images, such as the one pictured above of Jesus Christ. Despite his imprisonment with little due process, M.E. remains full of hope that soon he will be freed and allowed to remain in the United States with his girlfriend, family, and friends.
Until the U.S. government releases him, M.E. finds joy in visits from family members and the DC Visitation Network, a volunteer-run visitation program that provides friendship and support through monthly visits to people detained at Worcester. M.E.’s artwork is what keeps him motivated between these visits, and his artwork is often accompanied by poetry and dreams of reuniting with loved ones on the outside. These are M.E.’s words beyond walls:
Wake me up when I’m free in Heaven. I cannot deal with this life of prison: when I’m told I’m not allowed because of my race and color; where people think they can rule over others.
They rule with ignorance.
But my inner eye can see a race of people who live in poverty, working, sweating hard in fields to provide food for their family. Seeking a better life. Seeking for a better future.
Wake me up when I’m free in heaven. Where every man speaks beautifully. Where all races are equal. Where war is gone because it is peaceful.
But I awake from this dream. I see life as a prisoner. I see hate, jealously, foolishness, envy, harassment, hypocrisy, judgment, and poverty.
Wake me up when I’m free in Heaven, for I’d rather have wisdom and be poor than be rich and be a fool.
Wake me up when I’m free in Heaven.
-M.E., June 25, 2013, 2014, 2015, ICE
CIVIC will be sending M.E. all the reader comments posted to the original article, “Words Beyond Walls: Dreams of Freedom.” Please leave comments or encouragement for him to receive.
Find all the previous posts in the Through Courageous Eyes series.
Through Courageous Eyes features the artistic work of refugees and migrants. If you would like to showcase your artwork as part of the Through Courageous Eyes series, please contact Cecilia Pessoa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Banner photo credit: Johanan Ottensooser