When we arrived at George W. Bush airport in the sweltering 35 degree heat, we were starting a journey that would not only be joyful in the fun we had but also be a wonderful learning experience. Texans have a saying, ‘everything’s bigger in Texas.’ This didn’t only apply to Houston’s abnormally large meals or its humungous roads and cars. The United we Dream (UWD) Annual Congress consisted over 1000 young people from array of different affiliate organisations.
On our first day at Houston, we were invited along by the congress organisers to help with the set up, from carrying posters and placards into trucks to ordering nametags. It was there where we were first exposed to the Dreamers and the sheer size of the movement. Speaking to the organisers (who were in awe of our London accents), we were made aware of the struggles young undocumented people faced in North America.
Our first day at the congress was pretty daunting to say the least. We walked into the huge George Brown Convention Centre in downtown Houston, astounded by the amount of people that were in attendance, hundreds swarmed into registration. The agenda on the first day consisted of hearing stories from some of the lead organisers in the movement as well hearing the journey of the Dreamers since its inception. Hearing the harrowing tale of David Chung was definitely the highlight of the day. David had shared a story that was full of struggle and despair, despite that, what was most invigorating about his tale was how he managed to incorporate his personal battle into taking action and convincing others to do the same. The day ended with a panel discussion on the intersectionality, where each speaker taught us a specific mantra, my favourite being ‘Bicara Zindabad!’ which translates to LONG LIVE JUSTICE.
Our second day at the Congress was the day of the big action. In the morning we were treated to a talk on the 10 key elements to building movements, my favourite lesson I learnt was that ‘Social Change begins with personal linked to collective liberation.’ Shortly after lunch we assembled and prepared for the action, it was there we met the UNDOCUBLACK group who was a young group of black individuals from New York fighting for migrant rights. The plan was to assemble over 1000 people to stand outside of the Houston Sheriff’s police Department, whom were well known for their abuse and discrimination of migrant communities, to protest a bill that would lead to more unlawful deportations. We assembled in rows like soldiers on the frontline of a war, ready to take the streets chanting mantras with the loudest and largest of voices. What I loved most about the action was the absolute courage and bravery shown by the Dreamers, despite the very real danger of being arrested and moreover the prospect of being deports, they screamed from the top of their lungs ‘UNDOCUMENTED, UNAFRAID!’
Our Final day was a sombre mood, it was the morning after the shooting at the Orlando Pulse a favourite destination for many of the LGBQT Latin American, you could see that it had deeply affected the crowd; moreover it would be the last day we spent with the Dreamers which was saddening in itself. The crowd were reassured by both a LGBQT and Muslim community leader, I think it was fair to say that they were even more motivated to continue in pursuing justice despite the terrible news. The rest of the day was spent attending workshops and celebrating our achievements at the congress. Everyone was sharing stories about how their time at the congress had helped to inspire their own movements and organisations. One quote I remember quite vividly was ‘UWD Congress inspired me to be myself.’
We spent the remainder of our days exploring the massive city of Houston, going to the Galleria shopping mall and the Houston City Aquarium. It can’t go without mention that the food out in Houston was exquisite, supreme sized meals really meant super sized! We really got a taste of Texas, from its traditional Latin American foods to its classic fast food restaurants.
If my time at Houston with the Dreamers had taught me one thing, it would be that building a movement and organising requires love and compassion for the people you work for and work with. The congress had not only enlightened me on the technicalities of organising movements, from being inclusive to using stories to demand action, But it also showed me the necessity emotional conviction in achieving real justice. The Dreamers had ingrained into my head that belief in yourself and the people around you through love is the most important in taking action and achieving social change. As the Texans say ‘Everything is Bigger in Texas,’ that was definitely true of the UWD Congress.
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