Kalamazoo College students and faculty marched down to Bronson Park on Monday morning–banners, megaphones, and cooking supplies in hand. Choruses of “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!” and “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” rang out as individuals gathered together to protest the racist rhetoric and policies around immigration.
The Kalamazoo event, one of seven across the state, was organized by Michigan United and the national Cosecha Movement as a part of International Worker’s Day–a celebration which has fallen on May Day since the Haymarket Affair in the late 19th century. Organizers on Monday referenced the event, explaining the impact that it had–specifically on immigrants–in creating what is considered today to be a standard eight-hour workday.
Dr. Adriana Garriga-López, Associate Professor of Anthropology/Sociology at K, was the first to take the stage. “The idea behind A Day Without Immigrants is to make an economic impact by protesting and striking,” Garriga-López explained. She also encouraged encouraged everyone to get involved in the series of follow-up events taking place over the coming week.
Event speakers included WMU Art Professor Patricia Villalobos Echeverría, who discussed the danger that Central Americans, among many others, face when attempting to cross over into the United States. “The right to exist, the right to live, the right to be often forces Central Americans into migrating north” to ensure their safety and the safety of their families” Villalobos Echeverría said. “The new anti-immigration executive order would force immigrants to return to Mexico. This violates fundamental rights of not deporting people to countries in which [they may not be safe].”
Recent KVCC graduate and organizer Jacqueline followed, sharing her experience with the crowd. “Too long my heritage was kept quiet and I didn’t see the problems that affected people that looked like me… We need to find strength in each other but we also need to have strength to start conversations with people on the other side… It is hard, it is difficult, but it is our responsibility,” Jacqueline said.
K College seniors Yaneli Soriano and José López also represented K College on the stage. “We have not been defeated, we are not colonized, this is an ongoing project. We have the power, we have the passion… I hope that we can work from a mutual perspective with love and light,” Soriano said.
“It’s an honor to continue the work for the intercultural and immigration movement on this campus and community.” protester and chanter leader Neelam Lal ‘20 commented. “As a person of color, we have to unite and fight back against those who oppress us and our needs. I want to represent those who weren’t able to be present today and help everybody receive equality and freedom.”