José “Pepe” Mártinez and Leonard Foglia’s Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, To Cross the Face of the Moon, weaves an emotional and profound story of a family divided by the US Mexican border. A wife, Renata, stays behind in Mexico while a husband, Laurentino, seeks work on the other side. He is confident that he will make money to improve their lives. She is wise enough to see the price of Laurentino’s absence: distance between him and their son. A border crossing goes terribly wrong and the result dissolves the family. Yet something remains, as mysterious as the flocks of migrating Monarch butterflies that seem to cross the face of the moon.
You may not remember the time you let me go first.
Or the time you dropped back to tell me it wasn’t that far to go.
Or the time you waited at the crossroads for me to catch up.
You may not remember any of those, but I do and this is what I have to say to you:
Today, no matter what it takes,
we ride home together.
― Brian Andreas, Traveling Light: Stories & Drawings for a Quiet Mind
In November 2007, Christoph Rehage set out to walk from Beijing, on the far eastern side of China, to Germany. One year and 4500 miles later, scruffy and tired, he stopped his journey in western China at the city of Ürümqi. Cristoph took some breaks to visit family, but, even so, the journey across China was grueling and the mountains and the desert took their toll on his mind and body. This is a stunning video which documents the change in his appearance and attitude during the journey. Why did he stop? He says he doesn’t know, but the experience changed his identity. Can you imagine the emotions he must have felt?
The year was 1965. Jimmie Lee Jackson, an ordained deacon of the St. James Baptist Church in Marion, Alabama, had been trying to register to vote for four years. As an African American, he was not allowed to vote in the state of Alabama, but he had been inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. to nonviolent protest and civil disobedience. On February 18th, he was part of a group of protesters who attempted to walk to the Perry County Courthouse to sing hymns. The streetlights went out and police began beating protesters. When Jimmie, unarmed, tried to protect his mother, Alabama State Trooper James Bonard Fowler fired two shots into his abdomen at close range. Jimmie died a week later. He was 26.
The senseless death of Jimmie Lee Jackson was not unlike other deaths that had come before (or deaths that have come since). At the time, it was simply one death too many, and would inspire three attempts to march from Selma, Alabama to the Capitol in Montgomery in an effort to ask Governor George Wallace if he had ordered the beatings and to and ask for protection of black registrants. These marches were the culmination of the the Civil Rights movement and would change the United States forever.
The first took place on March 7th and was met with more police violence. Six hundred protesters were set upon by police after crossing the Edmund Pettus bridge on their way out of Selma. There had been an order that morning that all white males over 21 were to be deputized at the Dallas County Courthouse. The resulting police mob beat and gassed the marchers, with mounted police charging them on horseback. This time however, they were unable to censor the press, who televised and printed horrifying pictures of people bloody and beaten. The day would be named “Bloody Sunday”. Seventeen marchers were hospitalized, some of them with critical injuries.
The second march happened two days later. Twenty five hundred people from all over the country marched as far as the Edmund Pettus bridge, where Dr. King prayed and spoke, then turned around in order to comply with a restraining order that prevented them from walking all the way to Montgomery.
After the restraining order had been struck down, almost 8,000 people began the long walk to Montgomery on March 21st. The Judge had required that the march be limited to 300 people whenever the road was only two lanes, so most of the marchers returned to Selma that evening, leaving 300 to camp and journey on for the next two days in the rain. Many people joined the march closer to Montgomery, where the highway was again four lanes.
On Thursday, March 25, twenty five thousand people marched to the steps of the State Capitol Building and Dr. King spoke. This is the famous How Long, Not Long speech which is featured in the clip below. The marchers then came forward with a petition for Governor Wallace and were told by State Troopers that the governor was not available. They then waited until a secretary appeared to take the petition. The world would never be the same.
How precious were each of those steps and how costly.
Video via Democracy Now on Youtube.
Most of my work consisted of crossing out. Crossing out was the secret of all good writing.
When pianist Alfredo Rodriguez was invited to play for jazz legend Quincy Jones, he was excited and perhaps a little nervous. The journey would not do much for his nerves. A Cuban National, he was arrested by Mexican officials before crossing the border at Laredo, Texas. He was detained for several hours, while officials demanded money and threatened to deport him. This piece, called Crossing the Border, is a testament to the racing feelings that possessed him during that ordeal. Alfredo’s playing is fiery, full of technical bravura and deep emotion.
And yes, everything worked out. Alfredo was able to come to the United States and fulfill his dream of collaborating with Quincy Jones. We are thankful that we get to hear him play.
Video via QuincyJonesProds on Youtube.
For more about jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, you can read and listen here at NPR.org.
Walking across the continent is not a new thing, but the extent of North American civilization has made it a different experience from what it was in the past. There was a time when there were no accurate maps and many areas were sparsely populated or populated by unknown cultures. The likelihood of reaching the destination was nearly impossible. Today, we have maps, roads, lodging and a high probability of meeting a friendly stranger. It has, however, become harder to wean ourselves from our digital culture and place ourselves in the vulnerable position of wandering. This article by Kate Murphy from the New York Times Opinion Page speaks of men and women who have done just that.
Yet entertainment–as I define it, pleasure and all–remains the only sure means we have of bridging, or at least of feeling as if we have bridged, the gulf of consciousness that separates each of us from everybody else. The best response to those who would cheapen and exploit it is not to disparage or repudiate but to reclaim entertainment as a job fit for artists and for audiences, a two-way exchange of attention, experience, and the universal hunger for connection.”
― Michael Chabon, Maps and Legends
To that Providence, my sons, I hereby commend you, and I counsel you by way of caution to forbear from crossing the moor in those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted.
—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
In late January, John Davis, a conservationist and explorer, began a 5,000 mile journey from Hermosillo, Mexico to Fernie, Canada. He is hiking, cycling and paddling this route to document the lives of wild animals and confirm the need for wildlife corridors in the west. Wildlife corridors are protected areas that link isolated habitats and allow animals to travel long distances, primarily for the purposes of feeding and breeding. He has already completed a similar project for the eastern side of the US.
Last week Davis arrived at the border between the US and Mexico, where he was met at a walled wildlife crossing near Naco, Arizona by wildlife supporters from both countries who carried an art project celebrating the endangered jaguar and other animals. A traditional Yaqui tribal blessing was held. Some supporters wore jaguar masks and some attempted to scale the border wall to show sympathy and solidarity with the desert creatures. As he continues his trek into the western United States, Davis hopes that people will take notice of the hardship the 16 foot high steel fence creates for animals who are trying to follow their traditional pathways to food and water. In some areas, animals are dying within sight of water while trying to find a place to cross to the river.
Want to read more about John Davis’s journey and the loss of animal and human life on the border?
TrekWest… an Epic Journey to Save Our Wild West is About to Begin (Wildlands Network)
Wildlife Supporters Gather at Border Crossing (The Sierra Vista Herald)
Border fence putting Arizona Pronghorns in peril (Arizona Central)
Fence in the Sky: Border Wall Cuts Through Native Land (The Native Press.com)
The Border Effect (The American Prospect)