Exploring the Undocumented Narrative Through Art, organized by We the Dreamers, was a sold-out exploratory installation and panel, including conversation around art and design activism, immigrant stories, and how to build community in the current political climate. Event organizers hoped to spark support and awareness by speaking about the importance of supporting immigrant rights groups, the current administration's effects on immigrants, DACA recipients, and minority groups.
We spoke with Heldáy de la Cruz, co-leader of We the Dreamers, about the event, and what's coming up next for the group.
DWP: Please tell us about the work you do at We the Dreamers.
Heldáy: We the Dreamers is co-led by two undocumented individuals, one of which is myself. We are a very new group that formed after the DACA program was rescinded last September. In an effort to change the way immigrants are seen in this country, we host events that marry the undocumented narrative and art. Our events encourage the conversation on immigration, challenge stereotypes, and bring together folks from the undocumented community to tell their stories. We want to bring those voices to the forefront as they are often silenced. While educating folks on what it means to be undocumented, we are also hoping to connect with more undocumented youth who feel voiceless.
DWP: For those who were not able to attend, can you share what your presentation on Designing Change touched upon?
Heldáy: Designing Change chronicled a bit of my journey from illustrator to activist (how I balance the two), my time at Standing Rock, and ways in which any individual with a skillset can use it for good. I focused on different platforms designers and illustrators can contribute to. As well as a light critique on local and international efforts, that while the intention might be there, the work itself continues the cycle of silencing the undocumented community to tell our stories for us.
Photo credit: Nic Raingsey
DWP: What are ways people can help defend undocumented persons regionally? Nationally?
Heldáy: As we try to highlight our communities, we encourage people to see things differently. To change the way they see themselves within the system. Here are 6 things everyone can do to support the undocumented community.
- Change Your Language. Reject the use of dehumanizing terms like "illegal" or "alien", use "undocumented" instead. No human being is illegal. It further feeds the idea that undocumented people are criminals that do not deserve respect, it strips us of our power.
- Intention vs Impact. Show up for the movement but don't soak it up or make it about you if being undocumented is not your lived experience. You know those "WE ARE ALL DREAMERS" shirts? Think about how it falls in line with the "ALL LIVES MATTER" counter movement to Black Lives Matter. It both hijacks and waters down the lived experience of undocumented people. Let undocumented people lead. This is why we designed tee shirts that say "POWER TO THE DREAMERS" instead, so anyone can wear them.
- Understand the Full Story. Know the history of the United States and its relationship with immigrants, other countries, NAFTA, etc. Think about the stolen land you live on.
- Talk About It. Understand that there is learning and growing within discomfort. The more we talk about an issue, the more we normalize and humanize the affected group.
- Call Your Reps / Vote.
- Commit to Showing Up.
DWP: What's next for We the Dreamers?
Heldáy: We the Dreamers is continuing to put on events this summer. More zine release dates will be put out soon, but here's a list of other happenings below:
—June 2nd, 6-9 pm, Half Court Studios
ESTO ES PARA TI zine release (book 4/10)
—Brand New Congress podcast interview (episode 3 airing soon)
—Traveling ‘We the Dreamers’ gallery, currently in Illinois, moving to California (no further details as of yet)
—September 6th, U of O (Portland Location)
Affect Conf (speaking)
For updates from We the Dreamers, follow them online