United We Dream Congress 2016 – Kimani’s blog

The following blog is from Let Us Learn campaigner, Kimani Cooper. Here Kimani describes his experience at the United We Dream (UWD) national congress in Houston, Texas. Between June 10th and June 12th 2016, Kimani attended with four other Let Us Learners, and over 1000 ‘undocumented’ young people (often referred to as DREAMers) living in America.

Let Us Learn gather in Houston, Texas before the first day of UWD Congress 2016

Our foray into the world of the DREAMers started with a taxi ride down to the George R. Brown Convention Centre, where the congress was being held. We spent the rest of the day and the beginning of the next listening to an intensive but enjoyable line up of United We Dream speakers. These included harrowing personal stories from speakers such as David Chung, to chants of “Undocumented! Unafraid!” from the audience.

In the early afternoon on day two, we joined the DREAMers in a public action, a march to the Houston Police Department and jail. The purpose of the march was to protest the police power to begin deportation proceedings on their own authority. We were told that there are cases of this power being abused by police to extort money from the families of undocumented migrants.

We were told that police officers stop and request papers from drivers, essentially racially profiling in the process. If the drivers can’t provide documentation, the police can then detain them on the grounds of driving without documentation. The police department then call the families of the victim, offering to allow the person to go should the family agree to pay a set figure. This figure is often thousands of dollars high.

 

Let Us Learn preparing for the public action in United We Dream t-shirts

 

The march began outside the George R Brown Convention Centre. We set off as a long line of bright orange shirts emblazoned with the UWD logo. It was a really invigorating action, a throwback to the Let Us Learn Supreme Court action. Though our action was smaller in scale, and with white shirts, it felt equal in passion. Everything went according to plan, except for a surprise blockade just in front of the police station. Multiple uniformed police officers formed a single phalanx with an array of mounted policeman directly behind. They stood in silence before the DREAMers march.

The DREAMers remained undaunted by the police presence, choosing to continue their chants while remaining a respectful distance away from the police blockade. Despite being a massive group of people, the UWD leaders retained control. There were a few incidents of marchers succumbing to the fearsome heat, but otherwise the picket outside of the police department went well and the march was a huge success.

A big theme of this year’s National Congress was the drive to increase the ‘intersectionality’ of the United We Dream network, and, as a part of that, Let Us Learn was invited to speak about the situation in Britain. Tosin, Ijeoma, and I participated in a workshop panel and were able to share our personal stories of immigration in this country.

 

On the final day we listened to more speeches on a multitude of subjects including the tragic Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting which had occurred overnight. We also watched the documentary Indivisible about UWD dream member Renata Teodoro. It was a very poignant film with particular scenes eliciting tears from the LUL members.

The UWD Congress 20116 was a fantastic event that has motivated me to work even harder to further the goals of Let Us Learn. It was a truly inspiring to see what could be achieved through the dedication and determination of people who had been told by the system that they weren’t good enough. People just like us.

By Kimani Cooper