Dear WIN Community:
On Good Friday, March 30, 2018, we were blessed to connect for a Good Friday Vigil for Immigrant Justice in Cheyenne. There were more than 50 of us, connected in compassion, to express the need for a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, as well as to voice opposition to the proposed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center proposed in Evanston, Wyoming. With the leadership of Reverend Rodger McDaniel of Highlands Presbyterian Church, and the work of many contributing individuals, churches, and organizations, this was a successful and meaningful event, filled with peace, activism for justice, and compassion.
We connected to share our stories, our knowledge, our hope and our prayers with and on behalf of immigrants. Perhaps, most importantly, we listened and stood with young DACA recipients as they told their stories. Storytelling is such a powerful tool for fostering connectedness and action. Sometimes, we can place the burden for change on storytellers, but at the Good Friday Vigil, this was not the case. We listened with love and respect, and with a focus on being as one in our mission for compassionate and kind, socially just solutions.
The Wyoming Tribune Eagle covered the story. Read about and see photos of the event here.
Since becoming the Executive Director of the Wyoming Interfaith Network just four months ago, in January of 2018, I have been filled with gratitude and a sense of hope each and every day, and it grows exponentially as I learn from others at events such as the Good Friday Vigil. I believe I have been blessed with this new position at such an important time in our world, in which the issues requiring collective action for social justice are all around us, seemingly more intensively than I can ever recall in my lifetime. I hope to contribute to our network's ability to share our hope, our faith, our knowledge, and our individual and collective stories and experiences to help create compassionate outcomes to these challenging issues.
I believe in the power of storytelling and the power of authentic and genuine connectedness of individuals in order to foster social change - at relationship, organizational, community, policy, and global levels. In my experience, change and justice can happen, beginning with developing meaningful relationships based in humility.
My hope is to come to know you all, members of WIN, in order that we may build bridges of unity to move forward together. I will be reaching out in the days, weeks, and months ahead, to connect with you and request your visions and hopes for our work together. Meanwhile, issues such as our quest for immigrant justice bring forth the importance of not only looking ahead, but reaching back into our collective history to hear one another's stories and to learn from our history, and work together to do things differently.
Inevitably, when we talk about an immigration detention center being proposed in Wyoming, we are forced to look at Wyoming's history and our state's willingness to take part, in WWII, in the imprisonment of Japanese American people at Heart Mountain Internment Camp in Park County. And when this topic arises, I am compelled to share my own voice.
So, with my wish to be connected with you at the relationship level, and the possibilities to learn and move forward with the lessons available to us from history and individual stories as our collective power, I am humbly sharing the story I shared at the Good Friday Vigil:
"I'm Susie Markus. My Grandpa Kishiyama came to the U.S. from the shores of Miho Beach at the base of Mt. Fuji, when he was 12 years old.
I rarely call myself Dr. Markus, due to my commitment to equitable relationships. But today, I am Dr. Markus, and I want to tell you about my six cousins, Dr. Alison O'Hashi, clinical psychologist; Dr. Mark Kishiyama, neuro psychologist; Lonnie Kishiyama, Juris Doctorate, Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, and Director of International Activities in the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C.; Leslie O'Hashi, Director of Bodylines Dance Studio and a winner of Governor Mead's 2017 Art Awards; Matt Hammer, Account Executive at Venture Technologies in Steamboat Springs; and Travis Hough, artist, professor of art, and builder of beautiful homes in Bozeman, Montana.
I share their stories and accomplishments with you not to boast, but, rather, to share with you the things people can do with the gift of a dream handed to them by their grandparents and their parents. We fulfill their dreams for us. We learn, work hard, contribute, and commit.
We are only able to do this because of family. Had Grandpa Kishiyama been deported at any time during 24 years of working hard toward U.S. citizenship, the heart of our family would have been broken. Grandma would have been left to raise four children on her own, with no income. Our parents that grew up proud and strong, accomplished their own dreams, and supported us to accomplish ours, would have lived in poverty, and, worse yet, a life affected by the grief and trauma of having lost a parent.
This brings me to the proposed immigration prison in Wyoming. The first time I visited the remains of Heart Mountain, the Japanese WWII Internment Camp in Park County, Wyoming, it was before the beautiful interpretive center had been built. It was outside, in the cold Wyoming wind, a path of signs and photos of the prison and its prisoners.
In the photos, I saw people who could have been my dear Mom and her siblings. People who could have been my grandparents. I cried for their loss of freedom, their confusion and pain. For the immense injustice of a shameful part of Wyoming and U.S. history.
Entering the prison, with the limit of 100 pounds of their belongings, prisoners said, "Shakata ga nai" - "It can't be helped." I cried.
But as I walked on, I saw a story of resilience. The prisoners developed a summer swimming hole that, in winter, was a skating rink. They gardened, helped develop improved irrigation systems for the farmers in Park County, and developed neighborhood leadership teams with representatives coming together for social change.
I read about Norman Mineta, a child prisoner of Heart Mountain, who went on to become a mayor, a Democratic U.S. Congressman, and a Cabinet Secretary to two U.S. Presidents. I cried tears of pride and hope.
However, something rose to the top for me during that first visit to Heart Mountain, and it is this: Families, despite horrific circumstances, were, in general, together at Heart Mountain. Families remained together. And I believe, from the bottom of my heart, that this is how they survived.
In Wyoming, the Equality State, we talk a lot about our shared family values. The breaking up of families as immigrants are deported and imprisoned, is one of the most destructive things any of us here today can comprehend.
Thank you all for standing up for the hope of families, for love, for compassion, for dreams.
At the end of the trail at Heart Mountain, there's a sign with a quote from Norman Mineta: "Commit yourself to public service. Be accountable and accessible, and what happened here will never happen again."
NO MORE. To this, I say, NO MORE shakata ga nai. Rather, in the words of Grandpa Kishiyama, we must "Put on the Guts!"
Thank you, every one of you, for Putting on the Guts and for putting your audacious hope into action today and always. Peace and gratitude to you all. Your commitment is making a difference. "
With Gratitude and Peace,
Susie Markus, Ph.D.