This story was originally published by Feet in 2 Worlds, an award-winning news site and journalism training project based at The New School in New York. For the past 13 years, Feet in 2 Worlds has worked with immigrant journalists from communities across the United States to magnify their voices and enhance their skills.
On a warm, sunny day in late March, dozens of college students gather for a rally on the northern end of the Queens College campus. Many of them carry small signs with messages of tolerance and inclusion. Solidarity is the overall theme of the event, although there is a particular emphasis on the struggles of the immigrant community.
Marcia S. is among them, loudspeaker in tow, dressed in all black. She is leading the rally, addressing her peers in the confident, impassioned tone of a seasoned grassroots activist.
As Marcia is one of the more than 750,000 DACA recipients in the United States, much of her activism is informed by her personal story. Her work as an interpreter, for example, utilizes her knowledge of Spanish to help asylum seekers during interviews with officers of the Department of Homeland Security.
The political, in her mind, was more of a byproduct of her background, which includes, among other things, her immigration status. It did not, however, lead her to adopt a specific political ideology or identify with a broader political movement. “It was just personal. I didn’t see politics as community,” she says.
That would change over the course of the semester as the personal and the political became more entwined in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory. “I think this election cost a lot of people different parts of their identity,” she says. Marcia, for example, identifies as queer and is an undocumented woman of color, to which she adds, “all these things I am are constantly at risk.”
“I wasn’t going to start any new projects,” Marcia tells me, weeks after the rally. Her intention before the start of the spring semester had been to focus more on her studies. By January, however, it was apparent that it would be difficult to ignore the changing political landscape.
It all began with the November election. Marcia recalls the initial reaction to Donald Trump’s victory among many of her close friends, “A lot of us cried, we felt powerless.” Yet after a brief period of mourning, grassroots resistance movements would begin to emerge around the country.
“Organize and mobilize” are the words that Marcia remembers being told by a close mentor within the immigrant activist community. It was a familiar mantra for the 23-year-old comparative literature student, whose past experiences included volunteer work with organizations including the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and Mixteca, a community-based group located in Sunset Park. “It made me feel good to help my community,” she says.