Sunday, March 27, 2011

From Memphis to the heart

I met Steve Pavey in one of the most awkward ways two people could possibly meet: past midnight in a Memphis, Tennessee hotel room.

My fellow travel companion and I quickly apologized for interrupting the obvious sleepy Pavey.  As soon as we entered the room, we dropped our bags and walked out the door to grab a late dinner after spending nearly 8 hours traveling from California to Tennessee.

But that's how things usually work out when people from across the country are put in different hotel rooms, try to remember each other's names and go past that awkward moment of, well, awkwardness.

Undocumented students and allies met in this city for the United We Dream Congress and talk about where the DREAM Act is heading. My Dreamers Adrift parter Jesus and myself were invited by UWD to be the artistic aspect of the congress. We set up a wall we titled The Wall of Dreams and created this video.

Throughout the event, I noticed that Pavey filmed and photographed the entire event. It wasn't until the last day of the event that we actually got to talking. I learned that he is quite the artist himself and works with other community artists. The following week, I saw his photographs all over Facebook.

As I was going through the images, I realized that I didn't actually draw any images of the event myself. So I was so inspired by Pavey's images that I asked him to borrow his images and convert them into illustrations. The following then is a collaboration of sorts between Pavey's amazing photographs and my version of them in illustration form. Through these images, I try to capture the emotions of my fellow DREAMERS and allies as we worked together to make the DREAM Act a reality. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth" explores what it means to be queer and undocumented.

Last week, I met up with queer undocumented activist Jorge Gutierrez in Santa Ana, Calif. to interview him for an article I'm writing for Briarpatch Magazine. Jorge was nice enough to bring along a DVD copy of the documentary "Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth."

Director Anne Galisky managed to capture a movement in the making. From the courageous mock DREAM graduation that took place at the United States Capitol in the summer of 2009 to the "Undocumented and Unafraid" rallies (in the DVD extras) in 2010.  All the while following the lives of Juan Carlos, Monica, Yo Sub, Simone and Jorge himself. All of them young people clinging to the hope of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act or the DREAM Act as it is now popularly known.

All of the young DREAMers in the documentary open up about what it really means to be undocumented while trying to figure out this thing we call life. But Jorge, a college graduate with a BA in English and a love for the works of Zora Neale Hurston, stands out in the documentary as he confesses what it's like to grow up as both queer and undocumented. Two communities that are constantly attacked by the the conservative right.

The film tries to tackle both issues, but ultimately focuses on the immigration aspect. More than anything, "Papers" tells the story of an America and its dysfunctional and unfair relationship with new immigrants. Every wave always bringing a new meaning of what it means to be a "real American."

"My mannerisms were different," Jorge recalls in the film. "I was a little more feminine. My voice was a little bit higher."

At a very young age, Jorge knew that he had to fight for his beliefs because he was different from the other boys he knew growing up. Anyone, documented or not, for whom high school was hell for being "the other" will relate to Jorge's struggle.

Sadly it was his father, a Mexican man with a macho complex, who introduced Jorge to the world of homophobia.

Jorge, who participated in a sit-in in D.C. as part of last-minute push to pass the DREAM Act during last year's lame duck session, currently participates in panels across California wherever the documentary is screened. Though we've come a long way as an undocumented community, Jorge sometimes feels alone when speaking out about issues concerning queer undocumented immigrants.

He is only one of the many queer undocumented leaders that have come out in recent months to remind both the LGBTQ and undocumented community that they inhabit both communities.

For more information on "Papers" or for a screening in your campus, go to