Friday, September 10, 2010

No Bread in the Kingdom- A Night and Day in New Orleans

So my first day on the job at Southside Day Labor involved an unplanned flight to New Orleans for a National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) conference. I was told to pack a bag, because one of the day laborers (jornaleros) that was supposed to attend had been MIA for a week. He didn't show. So I grabbed my daypack and took the flight from Tucson to New Orleans with my new boss Alison Harrington, pastor of Southside Presbyterian, and jornalero and new friend David. Six hours and three time zones later (AZ doesn't do Daylight Savings), we arrived in New Orleans to get a jet-lagged night's sleep before a full day of conference meetings, panels, and presentations. I love spontaneity, travel, and passionate groups gathered around a central cause, but I felt a little overwhelmed. I came with the expectation that members of NDLON would be meeting to discuss "how-to"s, best industry practices, and stories of success that exemplified the efforts of the network. However, day labor organizations are only the platforms in this group of activists; they are the short term fixes that provide immigrants with the means to support themselves while more long term plans are formulated. These long term, big picture plans seek to turn the tide away from a U.S. majority mentality of ignorance, to the creation of a national awareness of immigrant realities and attrocities. Conversations today centered on peaceful activism, civil disobedience, and stances that refused to let immigrants experience helplessness.

So when I say that I was overwhelmed, I mean that my narrow-minded, noble desire to help my new jornalero friends by finding out the best day labor marketing strategies was violently placed into a new perspective. I need not work solely to help supply the jornaleros with "bread alone". The true goal, the solution, is so much bigger. The individuals that surrounded me today were leaders attempting to catalyze a movement. They cited Martin Luther King Jr. and other influential leaders like pastors citing the Gospels: "Truth crushed to the ground will rise again."

I'm honored to be present and I vow to be a part. When I return to Tucson, I'm going to get back to contacting local construction and business alliances to attract employers, but I will now have the larger, burning picture of a movement in mind, one that spans the frontline states and is growing through the grassroots of others continually. When these issues of immigration finally do boil to the surface, and marches, civil acts of disobedience, and exposed hatred become commonplace, the faces I have seen today will be the ones pleading, chanting, and protesting through televisions screens across the nation. I don't know yet if this course of action is my part, but I do know that I am a part and that you can be too. Support the movement at or support a YAV here in Tucson (Call me 828-231-5386). The kingdom is everywhere. The kingdom is here.

"But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." -Matthew 4:4

"And he said to them, 'I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.'" -Mark 9:1

Time for some gumbo and with luck a little jazz,

Jacob Owens
New Orleans, Louisiana
September 9th, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Liberation Bound

"If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time…But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
--Lila Watson

"It is for freedom, that Christ has set us free..."
--Paul (Galations 5:1)

There are two things that I see each and every time I look at the face of any human being:

1) Life: Eyes blink. Facial muscles contort, contract, and relax. Grins widen or tears fall. In the face of any human being, animation shows us life.

2) Imprisonment: Wrinkles show signs of aging. Dark rings under the eyes show signs of fatigue. When a young vibrant child falls off their bike, their eyes wring out tears that seem to convey the message that something is awry and that we were not made for this world in its current state.

Our faces link us together. They are the universal human commonality. In them we see the dichotomy into which we were born: life imprisoned. We attempt to protect ourselves from this reality with every conceivable measure of comfort, security, and use of resources. However, the question that I offer is can it be escaped? Can we ignore the suffering of others, individually grab our bootstraps, yank them to the heavens and expect to fly and save ourselves? I think not. Since we are all in this together, we must face what afflicts us together, understanding that it cannot be eradicated from all if it remains in even one.

I signed up to be a Young Adult Volunteer in Tucson, Arizona because I have made the choice to live in the spirit of freedom. I will not entertain the idea that we as citizens of the United States are entitled by God to the resources we have. Nor will I live as if handouts and charity are the road to human harmony. Instead, I will expend my energy on enabling others to live freely outside of the system and ideological stronghold that coerces us into focusing on monetary wealth, capital gains, and heirarchies of power.

On the 8th I begin work at a day labor organization at Southside Presbyterian Church (known for John Fife and the Sanctuary Movement). My objectives pertain to enabling workers (documented or undocumented) to provide for themselves and their families. However, my dream is to hone the strengths of able men, reunite families, and help forge a fraternity of freedom. As I periodically write on this page, I invite those that feel a link to the human condition to experience what is happening on this border with me. I hereby promise to write in the spirit of truth, always making an attempt to preface my personal thoughts and feelings, so that we may observe and learn together objectively. Please, join me. Respond, disagree, and commiserate. Support me with what resources you can, especially your thoughts and prayers.

May we know freedom,

Jacob Owens
Tucson, Arizona
September 4th, 2010