March 31st at 8pm was when our bus was scheduled to leave New York City and make its way to Atlanta, Georgia. As many of you know, the past weekend was the National Immigrant Youth Alliance‘s first convening and I, along with two other ladies, would be representing the New York State Youth Leadership Council.
At 7:40pm we’re standing in line along with other African American and Asian immigrants while we board the vehicle that later would be dubbed, The Shady Bus (we weren’t IDed or dropped off at a terminal). Driving through 8 states over night could have been fun if the driver would’ve been more considerate when it came to bathroom stops. We made about 2 stops on our way to Georgia despite the fact that there were children and elderly people on the bus. One lady forced her son to pee into an empty poland spring bottle because he couldn’t hold it in anymore. The driver had the audacity of stopping the bus for a smoke but when I tried to get off he yelled at me to go back inside because according to him that wasn’t a rest stop.
Finally we reach Georgia after an exhausting 15 hour drive. We were part of an amazing conference where hope was revived. Many workshops and stories that were shared reminded us why most of us became organizers or activists in the first place. Many times we lose sight of the right path or we seem to forget about our original goals when egos get in the way. It’s always good to go back to the past and remind ourselves that undocumented immigrant youth is the reason for this movement. Remember that, a movement, not to speak out for others or receive a paycheck.
As much as we wanted to stay the time came to take the shady bus back home. This time i was aware of the lack of bathroom stops so i tried to go as much as possible before leaving. It surprised me to see that the bus driver was an immigrant too, accent and all, but he didn’t seem to care about the rest of the bus even though we are all the same. By now we only had about 2 stops and it had been almost 20 hours driving; we were behind schedule because the bus broke down for about 3 hours. At some point during the trip an elderly woman starts yelling that she needs to go to the bathroom and refuses to use the one on the bus because it’s filthy. Part of me wants her to shut up because we are almost home at this point but the activist side of me thinks she’s right in complaining and deserves to fight for her right to pee.
Soon enough the lady had created an alliance of about 5 other women and had set up talking points too. Together they yelled and complained that they had patiently waited for 3 hours while the bus was fixed and that they deserved to stop for a few mins (true). The driver had none of it and drove past an exit anyway. The bus alliance had seen enough and were already on the phone with his boss; however, they didn’t seem to care either. I’m sure situations like these happen all the time. While the driver kept repeating that he did not speak English the ladies knew of some people who did. The police.
While on the New Jersey Turnpike one woman called the police and explained what was going on. She stated we were near an exit, the bus driver wasn’t cooperating and it seemed as if the police were planning on catching up to us. At this point I’m tweeting away. Then another lady says out loud, “we are calling the police, they are coming for you!” Almost immediately the bus slowed down and took the nearest exit where we found a gas station and mini restaurant for anyone who was hungry. Bus Alliance 1 Bus Driver 0. I thought he didn’t understand English? I guess “police” is an international word.
About 7 women started the little riot; however, when the bus stopped it was interesting to see that almost the whole bus got off. People that didn’t fight still benefited from the mini shady bus revolution. Same thing happens when we fight for our civil rights. One group of people never give up, even when those in power don’t support them, and always find new ways to fight. Another group is aware of the issue, doesn’t fight for it but still benefits if something changes legislatively. Then there’s the group that doesn’t do much and takes the credit. There are politicians who, like the bus driver, know what is going on but chose to ignore. Politicians who are also descendants of immigrants and seem to forget where they come from. Along with politicians there are also the other organizations who say they support you and your beliefs but don’t seem to help or want to get involved. On the contrary, they go against immigrant youth groups and indirectly do anything possible to bring them down (they might as well be anti-immigrant groups). Organizations made up of immigrants just like me and you but don’t support the obvious relief for their immigrant constituents. They don’t understand that united we can move the politician driven bus in the direction we want.
The revolutionary ladies on the shady bus got me thinking… how can we expect to have an immigrant civil rights movement when immigrants themselves aren’t working together?
There are ways to help our youth. The Georgia 7 participated in an act of civil disobedience against the ban that will take place this fall on undocumented students. They won’t be allowed to attend college in Gerogia even if they’ve lived there their whole lives. If you believe in equal access to education and will stand in solidarity with us then please sign the petition against this ban. Because of this act, the youth need your help to get out of jail. Please donate to their bail fund.