Building Resilience

A word cloud created from audience responses at a convening of the UC Critical Refugee Studies Collective at UCLA in April of 2018.  Participants were asked to write down their commitments to climate and migrant justice.

Welcoming the Refugee Caravan

by Activate Labs

On Sunday, April 29th, 2018, 200+ migrants made the final step of a month long journey from southern border of Mexico, reaching Tijuana, Mexico to seek asylum in the United States.  Supported by organizations Al Otro Lado and Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the Migrant Caravan included refugees from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala fleeing violence and oppression.

Learn more here.

To mark this, Activate Labs joined Tijuana-based Realimente Comunidad, a collective of activists and gardeners working as caretakers of the Bi-National Garden at Friendship Park along the Mexican border with San Diego.  Activate Labs brought herbs and vegetables and together with migrant youth we gardened and laid down roots in Tijuana, the land of migration. Our message was a #beautifulresistance: our existence is resistance.

The migrants made their final stop at El Chaparral, a small piece of land at the base of the bridge to cross into the United States.  Activate Labs joined the migrants as they waited to hear if they would be admitted to gain asylum.  Together we received the horrible news that there was no room in the detention center and therefore would not be admitted or processed.  And so all decided to spend the night on the cold cement floor in front of the border.  Activate Labs pitched in to bring blankets to the migrants.  Migrants ended up sleeping for a week outside waiting for the United States to follow international law (signed by the United States) that requires nations to accept refugees fleeing violence and oppression.  We wanted to do more to support them and knew we would be back. On Wednesday, May 2nd, we returned.

Again partnering with Realimenta Comunidad and others, Activate Lab volunteers brought the #BeautifulResistance to the migrant children.  To continue the same project, we provided paint and 70 canvasses generously made available through donations from our supporters and Little Brushstrokes, a refugee kids art program. Our simple project was to give the children and adults a chance to be creative, build community resilience and paint pollenizers: bees, hummingbirds and butterflies, which we would then bring to the Bi-national Garden. 

A member of Activate Labs posts a welcoming message on the US-Mexico border wall.

Photo Credit: Tina Shull

Our message was: migration is natural and beautiful, and yet humans are not free to migrate.

Activate Labs has served and continues to organize and advocate for refugee communities in the Southern California region for the past 3 years with the Refugees Welcome Project

Contribute to the #RefugeesWelcome Guide

Volunteers Bring Art to Children in Caravan | San Diego Union Tribune

Enrique Chiu's Art of Resistance on the Border

by Tina Shull

reprinted from "Brotherhood Mural challenges a 'wall of incomprehension' on the US-Mexico border" in IMM Print, January 2018

The world’s longest mural is being painted on the US-Mexico border wall

Artist Enrique Chiu. Photo Credit: Tina Shull

Like a growing number of us, Enrique Chiu has lived a cross-border life. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, he first crossed the border into the United States with his mother when he was eight years old. After living in Los Angeles without status for a year, they then returned to Mexico. Later, Enrique returned to the U.S. on a student visa to attend Cal State Long Beach, and stayed for 12 years.

Ten years ago, he moved to Tijuana. “You can live the American dream here, too,” he says. “And you can do whatever you want.”

“El Arte es una oportunidad de decir cosas que trascienden / Art is an opportunity to say things that transcend” -Enrique Chiu

Shortly after Trump’s election, Enrique launched his vision to create the largest outdoor mural in the world, Mural de la Hermandad, or the Brotherhood Mural.

Photo Credit: Tina Shull

He has since enlisted help from over 2,600 volunteers to cover over a mile of the border wall on the Mexican side in Tijuana with art, as well as shorter stretches in Tecate, Mexicali, Ciudad Juarez, Naco, and Reynosa.

Chiu says, “This project suddenly became a movement. A spontaneous form of organization and protest.”

Chiu also says that the existing border wall and Trump’s plans to build further “Are a sign of rejection and exclusion. The Mexican people, the Hispanics and Latinos are the ones that hit that wall. A wall of incomprehension.”

“If we could, we’d paint it all, but that’s impossible. As impossible as bulletproofing the border strip as promised by President Donald Trump. I am a muralist. If you put another wall in front of me, I’ll paint it. If they do put up the wall it’s another canvas where people can paint, where people can express themselves along the border.”