Freedom University Goes to Washington!
This week, five of us from Freedom University drove from Atlanta to Washington, DC to meet new friends and visit welcoming colleges in the nation's capital. Our representatives included Cecilia, Irene, and Mamadou, three Freedom University student leaders; Raymond Partolan, a Freedom University board member and DACA recipient; and Laura Emiko Soltis, Freedom University's Executive Director, van driver, and photographer.
On Monday, we were greeted with open arms by fearless undocumented students and activists from Georgetown and the University of Maryland, and immediately engaged in lively discussions on the revolutionary potential of collaborating across racial identities and state lines in the fight for equal access to higher education. We were able to share a meal together and deepen our friendships, and parted with warm hugs and commitments to work together in the coming years.
On Tuesday, we visited the offices of our friends at United We Dream, a national immigrant rights organization working to advance the rights of undocumented youth and their families. Within minutes, we were sharing our stories and finding common ground, strategizing on how we could work together to strengthen the undocumented student movement in Georgia, and discussing what national organizations can learn from students on the ground in the most restrictive states. We were then welcomed by incredible professors and admissions staff at Howard University, where we discussed the experience of undocumented black youth and opportunities for HBCUs to welcome and support undocumented students.
On Wednesday, we toured the campus of Trinity Washington University, where one of our students will be attending college this fall! Students took good notes and asked hundreds of questions to come back to Georgia and share their knowledge with fellow students at Freedom University. We put on our walking shoes and visited the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, the United States Botanic Garden, the Museum of the American Indian, and the National Gallery of Art! We shared in too many laughs to count, but also took several moments of silence at the steps of the Supreme Court, reflecting on the words "Equal Justice Under Law" above its majestic columns. One day, they will inherit the robes of justice and halls of congress, and their experience learning and shaping U.S. history and advocating for equal justice now - even in the shadow of uncertainty and fear - is determining the kind of leaders they will be.
On Thursday, we made the long drive back to Atlanta. Our bodies were exhausted, but our hearts were soaring. Cecilia shared how she feels like she is part of a much larger family of undocumented youth and supporters, and Irene feels more confident in the resources and support she will have when she starts college in Washington DC this fall. Mamadou shared that he feels a new fire within him to fight for the rights of undocumented immigrants everywhere, and serve as a vital bridge between Atlanta's Black community and its immigrant rights community.
We are grateful beyond words for the warmth we felt in the welcoming arms of so many friends in Washington, DC. We are bringing back the strength and knowledge they shared with us to continue to nourish and empower undocumented youth in Georgia.