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Tijuana, "Los Estados Unidos, Where Skies are Blue"

My final day in Tijuana was a doozy. One of the most difficult things about being in the red tent area, where asylum-hopefuls gather daily to hear if their “lottery” number to the Ice Box gets called, was seeing the children. If your number gets called that day, you must be ready to leave immediately. So every day, entire families show up with all their belongings at 7am, day after day, after day. I learned some of the children’s names. They would smile when they recognized me and ask, “Como esta?” I saw the same babies in strollers being pushed by their parent or older sibling. I gave them nicknames to help me keep track. “One Zapato baby” (he only had one shoe). “Moana” (she was the spitting image of Baby Moana from the movie). My favorite, “Pink Bow.” I know her real name, but can’t say it publicly. Remember, she is a refugee, she and her family are running from someone who wants them dead.  There are also many pregnant women. They stand in line, for hours. We tell them about the me…
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"Tijuana, First-hand Facts of the Red-Tent Asylum Process"

My mind is so full of information that I want to share with you all from my week in Tijuana. This post will be just that, information. Factual and first hand. Witnessed and experienced by me. Thousands of migrants from all over the world, mainly from Central America, have traveled to Tijuana’s west U.S. port of entry seeking safety, better economic conditions, and/or to be with family already in the U.S. My motivation for taking this volunteer trip was to help the families in the extreme asylum-seeking cases - those who live in terror and fear both IN their home country and FROM their home country. Gangs and governments work hand in hand to target and terrorize families for their own personal interests. There is a list. The list has numbers on it. Asylum seekers want to get a number from this list and they want their number to be called. Like a deli. I was incapable of finding answers as to who creates this list, who decides how many numbers are on the list, and basically any other info…

Tijuana, Second Day Thoughts

I spent 7 days in Tijuana, Mexico helping asylum-seekers at the border. I volunteered with a group called Al Otro Lado. They offer free legal, and other services, to migrants hoping to be granted asylum in the U.S. I'll be writing my thoughts and first-hand accounts here.

Hello friends. This is the end of my second day working in Mexico, but I feel like it’s been a week of a continuous, vertical learning curve. As an educated, English-speaking adult, I am in constant confusion about the instructions that asylum-seekers are given. Instructions feel largely random, made-up, improvised, and often conflicting with previously given instructions as well as with other organizations. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for foreigners to navigate through this. To qualify for asylum, a person must not only say they have a fear for their life, but they must have very strong proof and documentation of this fear and threat. They must also show that their country’s local and national author…

"Traveling to Tijuana to Protect America's Way of Life - Helping and Accepting Immigrants"

I joined ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) in late fall of the year 2001. Having a fierce love for America since I could remember, and the desire to achieve a personal goal of mine, 9/11 was the push that I needed to make a long-term commitment to the service and defense of my country. It was the event that kicked me into action. It gave me an opportunity to put my money where my mouth was and protect and defend what I loved - America’s reputation throughout the world as a beacon of hope and light and freedom. And on 9/11, someone attacked and threatened that. They threaten our way of life. 
A decade and a half later, in November of 2018, I had a beautiful Thanksgiving meal with my family and with our close friends and next-door neighbors, a family of immigrants from China. We enjoy cooking together and trying different foods from the other’s and culture (they own a Chinese Restaurant). We speak zero Mandarin and they speak a minuscule amount of English. Somehow, we have got to kno…

Marta Artbound: The Unfinished Lyrics at Kensington

Kensington Station is located in Decatur, on the east side of Atlanta. I enjoy playing at this station for Marta's Artbound Program. It's not overly crowded, but there's a steady flow of diverse commuters and it's nice chatting with them as they pass through. I also like this station because I have a clean, spacious "corner" to play in. Not quite out in the open, but still central where the acoustics sound nice throughout. 

One afternoon, as I began to setup my equipment in my corner, I quickly picked up the few pieces of trash I saw on the ground and went to throw them away in the trash can. One crumpled piece of paper caught my eye and for some reason, I decided to uncrumple and take a look rather than just tossing in the can. It looked like the beginning of a song, or a poem, or maybe a journal entry. It read simply, in smudged ink, "going places, going strong."

Well, I couldn't throw it away. I smoothed it out and kept it on my keyboard for th…

Marta Artbound: The Sweet-Spirited Boy at Midtown

A few weeks ago, I played at Midtown Station in Atlanta for Marta's Artbound Program, an effort to bring live arts to the public. Midtown is a great location, as it's outdoors and in a fun, brightly painted setting. Of course, being Georgia in August, it's also very hot! I set up my keyboard and equipment as well as an electric fan and began my set.

Not far into my set, I noticed a young boy and his mother in the area. The boy seemed very curious about the music and eventually sat right in front of my little stage to watch and clapped after each song. I tried to give him the warmest smile possible so he would feel comfortable if he wanted to come talk to me. Eventually he did.

He told me that he and his cousins liked to write song lyrics together and he had a notebook at home of random thoughts that might make a good song one day. He told me he thought music was like a super power. He asked me all kinds of questions about the songs I played and told me when something reminde…

Marta Artbound: The Note at West End

For most of the last year, I have been a performing Artist with Marta for their Artbound Live Series. Marta is Metro-Atlanta's public transportation system, and the Artbound Live program is a new effort to bring all kinds of art to the public. (It's pretty awesome and you can read more about it here if you want.)

The experience is inspiring, educational, and has pushed me out of my comfort zone, both musically and personally. There have been so many great moments, I decided I should be documenting and sharing them!

Through this program, I've seen parts of Atlanta I might not otherwise see, had conversations with people I might not otherwise cross paths with, and I get to use my voice as an Artist to make a statement in my community. I receive smiles, nods, and I  get to see commuters unconsciously mouth a lyric and dance when they recognize a song, or nudge the person next to them and say, "Look, that's neat!" 

One of the first station's where I performed, w…