Almost every day, I receive messages from the ‘brotherhoods’ - bands of migrants hiding out in the forests surrounding the two Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco’s northern mountain region. The brotherhoods come together along lines of shared nationality. The youngest boys are usually 11 or 12 years old, and the chief of each group is one of the elders - a young man in his early to mid twenties. Most of the ‘brothers’ have traveled thousands of miles on their own, fleeing war or poverty in their home countries and dreaming of a better life just past the Morocco-Spain border. When they’re fortunate enough to have a few old blankets or plastic tarps to share between them, they couple these supplies with tree limbs and ‘rope’ made by tearing apart old t-shirts to construct makeshift tents. Piling into each tent, 10 or 12 brothers will sleep side by side on the ground, protecting themselves from the cold winds and rains that settle over the mountains during this time of the year. These are the happiest messages that I receive - messages like this one from the Guinean chief, which included photos of his brothers proudly building a safe place that they could call home.
#TheBurning #Brotherhood #UntoldStories #MigrantCrisis #Africa
And these are the saddest messages that I receive - messages like this one from the same Guinean chief, which this time included photos of the makeshift tents that his brothers had so proudly built just days before now burned to the ground by last night’s police raid on their forest home.
#TheBurning #Brotherhood #UntoldStories #MigrantCrisis #Africa #PoliceBrutality #BLM
First and most importantly, to all of you adding your voices to the #MeToo movement, I hear you, I believe you, and I thank you for bravely sharing your story with the world. Your story is meaningful, not because it's one of thousands of that have been released today, but because it's yours. Our words are powerful not in their numbers, but in their singularity. One person who you know was sexually harassed or assaulted. And whether it was your daughter, your mother, your neighbor, your colleague, or a complete stranger, that is one person too many.
Secondly, I want to shine a light on the fact that calling forth records of harassment and assault - numbering them in our social media newsfeeds one by one - assumes a truth that is deeply troubling to me. It assumes that not EVERY woman you know has at some point in her life been sexually harassed. It assumes that not EVERY woman you know is harassed with such regularity that it defines how we move through our work lives, our social lives, and our public lives. It assumes that sexual harassment and assault against women are not ubiquitous around the world.
#MeToo. But I think that should be assumed.
Step one: Let's recognize the scope of this problem.
Step two: Let's ask ourselves, what are we going to do about it?
In the 65 million who are displaced, there is the story of one. In the thousands who have already lost their lives in attempted crossings this year, there is still the story of one.
One whose mother holds tight the shoes he wore when he was small and who all through the night wailed to any god who would listen. Begging for the months passed to be washed away, for the miles walked to be reversed, for her son to be standing beside her again. She wails still, feeling the weight of her mourning heavy on her - the full weight of mourning a death the world is silent to. Does no one know she lost her son last night? Does no one cry? Does no one remember the way he used to tuck his shoelaces into those little shoes because he was too stubborn, too fast, too eager to run into the world to learn how to tie? She remembers how he clung to her as a child, how he strayed from her as a boy, she remembers how he hugged her tight that last morning before he left - too stubborn, too fast, too hopeful about what the world was holding for him.
In the 65 million, there is still the story of one. One whose life is over before 15, whose feet carried him 3,000 miles towards the promise of a future, whose hands lifted him up and down again into a wall of wooden batons. In the masses, may we remember the one.
You are seen. Your story is heard. Your life is remembered, and my brother, you will be missed.
I'm honored to be speaking at the Center for Civil and Human Rights for #worldrefugeeday... If you're in Atlanta, please come out and show your support!
"Most foundational to our international human rights law is the belief that all citizens of the world should be guaranteed the right to seek refuge in other countries when driven out of their own by war or poverty."
For some of my friends, a donation of $30 might not seem significant. It might be hard to imagine how $30 could change a life. For some of you, a donation of $30 might not even seem worth the effort.
But for just a moment, imagine the total amount your family spends in a month - maybe it's hundreds, maybe it's thousands. Imagine your community was just destroyed by the worst natural disaster ever witnessed in your lifetime. Tens of thousands have been forced out onto the streets, hungry, many still searching for loved ones in the rubble. Now imagine, your son or brother or father or husband sends you all that you'll need to survive this month and start rebuilding the place you called home. He tells you this donation came from someone who he's never met. Someone who lives oceans away. Someone who cared enough to change your life forever.
Isn't this how we start to restore our faith in the human potential for good? One person at a time. Caring about one person at a time.
For one more week, every dollar donated to THE BURNING at this link will go directly to those affected by the devastating mudslide in Sierra Leone.
There are a lot of crises demanding our support right now, and I know Sierra Leone’s mudslide hasn’t been making front page news. But last week, the capital city was destroyed by a massive mudslide that left 500 dead and 600 still missing. More than 20,000 lost their homes and their food supplies for the year. While it's easy to feel powerless in the face of a crisis like this, I know some of you are seeking ways to channel emotion into action in these difficult times.
I want to offer you the chance to change a life this week.
There's a hidden forest camp in northern Morocco that's home to thousands of Sierra Leoneans and other West Africans - thousands of young men and boys who are prepared to risk it all in the hopes of helping those they left behind. But like many of us, they're feeling powerless. Ibrahima, 16, tells me, “It’s an even greater tragedy to have nothing to send home when our families need it the most. All I can do is look at this photograph of my mother standing over the place where our house was.” Jalloh, 14, breaks down as he tells me about his two sisters who are still missing and his father's tireless efforts to find them. "Even if they're dead, my family wants to give them a proper burial."
Next week, I’m going to help each of the boys from Freetown send a donation home to their families. Between now and then - for the next seven days - every dollar donated to THE BURNING at this link will go directly to these boys and their families.
The average monthly income for a family in Sierra Leone is $30. The average family lives on less than $1 a day. How much are you going to spend today? How much could you spare?
Your donation can change a life.
"Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development" - Kofi Annan
Heard about DACA in the news? Now hear about it from your community. Watch this weeks video posts here!
This week, I was thrilled to officially join the Speaker Series at Atlanta's most innovative high school - TNS - and speak to the newest generation of change-makers about how they can be the change they want to see in the world.
The topic? COMMUNITY.
"The community I feel most a part of is one you might not expect when first looking at me.
It's a hidden community - hidden in the forests that cover the mountains around a town called Zoutia.
It's a changing community. Depending on the time of the year, it's as small as 10,000 or as large as many tens of thousands.
It's a young community. In fact, it's made up of young people who are just your age. The youngest is usually 11 or 12 years old and the 'elders' are 24 or 25, but the majority of them are teenagers just like you.
It's a male community, with around 90% of the population being boys and young men.
It's a diverse community - comprised of individuals from across the African continent. Most are coming from countries in Western and Central Africa - countries like Sierra Leone, the Congo, and Cote D'Ivoire - and they live together in 'brotherhoods' that are divided along lines of nationality and common language.
This community is home to those who have lost their parents to war or poverty and who, as the eldest in their families, were expected to set out in search of a better life. It's their responsibility to provide for their younger siblings and their own communities offered them no way to do that, so they journeyed north, often traveling thousands of miles on their own until they reach their final border crossing.
Now, who can tell me where this community is?"
@newsincerity | The Other Side of the Border
"American professor and filmmaker Isabella Alexander was wrapping up her latest film shoot when the Algerian government stopped her – she was detained for almost two weeks.
When she was finally released and returned to the US, she immediately began planning her next trip back. Why? She needed to finish work on her film before the fall semester started at Emory University, and she wasn't about to to let anything stop her. These are stories that need to be told.
Her documentary “The Burning" (@smallworldfilms) follows three individuals who’ve fled poverty and wars raging across Africa. They find themselves trapped in Morocco – a Northern point of the African continent – before attempting to cross into Europe and find safety in a new life. The film shows us the immense suffering they must endure to reach their destination and the dreams they share.
Whether abroad or at home in Atlanta, Isabella is helping migrant and refugees tell their stories. She even created a course at Emory called "The New Americans Project" (@newamericansproject). It's centered around a student-led social media project that shares the stories of immigrant and refugee students on campus every week and gives youth a platform to share their voice on critical social issues.
“What's unique about NAP is that it targets youth audiences to become active in the global issues of our time, showing us that these issues are a lot closer to home than we might first imagine. You don't have to travel halfway around the world to meet someone whose life has been impacted by migration - we can start by asking our neighbors if they have a story to tell.”
Finding ways to forge personal connections with neighbors from different cultures is the essence of #NewSincerity so, stay tuned – we’ll be reconnecting with Isabella, The Burning, and The New Americans Project soon!"
The New Americans Project is a movement that gives young Americans a voice on critical social issues and works to change the face of the Migrant & Refugee 'Crisis' by sharing stories from our own community.
We've got an incredible new team of college students [see below!] running #NAP this semester, and they want you to know...
"#NAP is telling a new story about what it means to be American. Think you know your community? Think again."
Follow us on Facebook or Instagram to show your support for those who bravely share their stories every day!