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Inside the Needler’s Fresh Market on N. New Jersey St. downtown Indy shoppers picked and scanned their Thursday evening provisions. Outside an October cold front was descending upon the adjacent courtyard, sounding an early winter warning as a band of culture-minded individuals assembled their projector, screen, keyboards, as burgers grilled, and coffee brewed for a night of sharing in community, music and film.Said the white rabbit. Big Car Collaborative hosted Lockerbie Movie Night that featured Czech director Jan Švanmajer’s stop animation feature “Alice.” The 1988 film written and directed by Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer was featured and accompanied by a live score from local artists Landon Caldwell and Mark Tester.Caldwell and Tester’s live blend of spontaneous composition and experimentation fit seamlessly into Švankmajer’s darkly loose interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Big Car’s mission statement states: We bring art to people, and people to art, sparking creativity in lives to support communities. The 17-year-old non-profit led by Big Car Collaborative Director of Operations Carlie Foreman uses art and culture for creative community-building events.“We were hired by Citimark, who owns Needler’s, to activate this space and bring music during lunchtime, food trucks,” Foreman said.Volunteers from the Damien Center kept an information table and Boxburger food truck offered sandwiches and sides. Some moviegoers found additional eats at Needler’s that were welcomed without the scorn of typical movie houses in the open-air theater.Showtime temps dipped into the low 50s, but it did not discourage the more than 30 moviegoers of all ages, including Herron School of Art Coordinator of Visual Art Graduate Programs, Dawn Holder, who supports Big Car’s initiative.“I really believe in supporting community art and I like to get involved in making connections, and this is just a wonderfully fun event,” Holder said.“Alice” was a pleasant October surprise as the city continues to feel the effects of last year’s riots, and all things COVID. The part live-action, part stop-animation film lent a good Halloween spookiness for kids with its once alive, now taxidermized characters animating their way through the story while offering ample adult interest that paired well with the smattering of reds and whites that had made their way to the courtyard from Needler’s wine selection.Lockerbie Movie Night was not Big Car’s first event at Needler’s Market and is merely an addition to their ongoing mission.“We have done a few evening events. We did a night market this year which also had live music,” Foreman said.Big Car’s offices are located in Garfield Park where they keep an exhibit space called “The Tube Factory” that includes the coffee shop, Normal Coffee. Big Car also operates WQRT 99.1 FM a non-commercial radio station that focuses on contemporary art and music. Thursday’s movie night was the last outdoor event for the season. Big Car limits activities and events during the winter. Big Car Collaborative’s Lockerbie Movie Night was a peaceful finish to their community-building season in this year two of our pandemic. A pandemic that will, hopefully, be a fading memory when Foreman and company once again drop by for an evening of art and community. Said the white rabbit.
Pirate lore speaks of a swashbuckling feline that once roamed the high grasses of the notorious Marion and Hamilton County border. A hornswoggling thief of scratches, belly rubs, bed and drink as he slipped and stalked his way down Indy’s Monon Trail. A four-legged marauder who called home to whichever way the wind blew. Those who crossed his path and the thousands around the world knew him as Pirate Cat. Sunday he was given a buccaneer’s farewell with stories of plunder and a cat-sized memorial.Pirate Cat became the furry friend to the bikers, joggers and walkers along the stretch of the Monon Trail at 96th St. northward, but he was once the Christmas present for Matt Grufeda’s family. “We adopted him from FACE downtown, which is the low cost spay,” Grufeda said.Soon, Grufeda and Pirate Cat’s mom Amanda Cancilla discovered he wasn’t destined for indoor life. Over the next three years he would make his way across a busy 96th Street to roam the Monon and the nearby United States Tennis Association complex with only one known traffic incident.“He did get hit once but it was really mild. He just got scraped,” Canilla said.Pirate Cat’s incursions into Hamilton County soon became local legend as he would be lost and found, then lost and found again in area homes and businesses. One Pirate Cat retrieval came all the way from Noblesville. During this period, Canilla started a Facebook page for Pirate Cat that grew to over seven thousand followers from as far away as Iceland and Hong Kong. Pirate Cat exploits also earned him a GPS monitor after run-ins with law enforcement. At one time, the feral feline had to retain legal counsel.One day Pirate Cat was discovered in poor condition and on April 6, 2020, he was euthanized. Soon after the cat’s death, Canilla started a GoFundMe page to raise money for a memorial. Through crowdfunding, Canilla was able to raise over $11,000 of the total $12,000 needed for the piece.
In a state where basketball is lord and savior of sport, a group of IUPUI men and women have found a game where they can “ruck, maul and scrum” their teams to victory in a violently pleasant exercise of good sportsmanship. The game is Rugby.
Rugby’s origin can be traced back to Wawickshire, England in 1823. As Rugby lore goes, a football (soccer) match was taking place between Rugby School and Bigside when William Webb Ellis possibly grew tired of a game where players couldn’t touch the ball with their hands and young William did just that - picked up the ball with his hands and began running down the pitch.
The men’s Rugby game against Ohio University, Sept. 25, came across as a chaotic blend of soccer and American football where for 80 minutes limbs twist in unnatural ways and bodies collide, fall, and rise again. The objective is to carry the oval shaped Rugby ball down the 100 meter long pitch and across the opponent’s goal line. Bruises, cuts, and plenty of bandaged appendages bear proof that hard contact is met along the way by players who wear little protective gear. The only downtime is a 10-minute halftime and brief moments of rest after a score.
Yet, it is the intensity of this wrestling match on the run that lures prospective members to the team. “Every player is out here busting their butts. We don’t get anything (compensation) for this. We really want to be out here,” team captain Nate Hession said.
The men’s team is in its seventh season and is currently 3-2 in Mid-American Conference’s fall 15’s season. The team is aiming for a top four finish in the conference and will qualify for the playoffs. Their season goal is to finish first or second in the playoffs which will qualify the team for the national D1aa tournament.
Fall Rugby is played with 15 players on the field. Spring games are played with seven players, also known as the 7’s. This is the inaugural season for the women’s Rugby team, but due to a shortage of players the team is playing in the Ohio Valley Conference fall 7’s division. Despite their lack of history, the Lady Jags are 9-1 and looking to improve upon their season that lacks a championship.
“At the end of the season, which is in a couple of weekends, whoever has the most points has bragging rights,” women’s club president Karsen Rust said.
Funding for the Rugby clubs are almost entirely self-generated through sponsorships and fundraising. The women’s team posted a GoFundMe page with a goal of $3,000 dollars to pay for a coach, equipment, travel fees and insurance. The team raised $1420, but they are still accepting donations and sponsorships. The men’s team donated jerseys for the women at the beginning of the season. As with all club sports, neither team receives financial support from the NCAA.
Forty-four NCAA schools sponsor Rugby in all three athletic divisions. Men’s programs compete almost entirely at the club level, while Division I and II women’s teams are NCAA sanctioned and offer Rugby scholarships.
Both teams would prefer to play on campus, but they understand their place in the university’s sports venue hierarchy and play their home games behind VFW Post 155 in Carmel.
Those who think Rugby is only for the hulking athlete will find the IUPUI clubs accepting of any size or experience level of player. “We accept anybody on the team,” Men’s Rugby club president Spencer Strout said. Each team has an Instagram account where people interested in playing can contact the respective team president.
The IUPUI women's soccer team won their conference matchup against Purdue Fort Wayne 1-0 on Sunday (Sept. 19). Check out this photo gallery from all the fun at Carroll Stadium
This story is a recollection by two Indianapolis residents to who knew Jamal Khashoggi when he lived on the west side of Indianapolis in 1977. All quotes are from them and they have requested their names be changed out of concern for their privacy and safety.
Karen, 58, was busily managing her day as the sales support representative at a Bloomington AT&T store when the news arrived last October. A Facebook message from a high school classmate Lynn, 58, popped onto the screen with tragic news about a mutual friend from nearly a lifetime ago.
‘OMG. I get an Economist letter daily for work and there is a paragraph about Jamal Khashoggi. He’s been missing and for about a week and it’s suspected he was murdered at Saudi Arabia’s Turkish embassy!!! Google news reports.’
It was the most unsuspecting news that Karen could have imagined. Explaining to the co-workers and customers buzzing around her would be lengthy, plus it would be more than the tears she was trying to hold back could take.
“It was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever felt,” Karen said. “My heart felt like it sunk to my stomach. I couldn’t cry as I was at work.”
Sixth months ago journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian embassy in Istanbul, never to be seen again. The only tangible evidence of his disappearance and murder being the security camera footage showing the Washington Post correspondent entering the embassy and a gruesome audio recording of his death.
Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi officials continues to be the subject of conversation and controversy. Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is suspected of authorizing the killing. The Saudi government has denied his involvement.
But, before Jamal Khashoggi became Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, before he was brutally murdered by his own government, before he wrote about the injustices in his native Saudi Arabia, before he became voice for freedom in his homeland, before he was a Washington Post correspondent, before he was a father of four, before he was a husband, before he was a college graduate, that was when Jamal Khashoggi was an 18-year-old international student learning to speak and write English, as he sought his own life direction while discovering American culture in a most improbable middle class neighborhood on Indianapolis’ west side.
For Karen and Lynn, his death stirs emotions and memories of a past friendship during a time when the three shared the innocence of youth.
Karen was Khashoggi’s next-door neighbor at the Gateway West apartments. She learned of his death from Lynn, who dated Khashoggi that summer.
“I remember him (Khashoggi) being the kindest person,” Lynn recalled. “I remember him taking me to work, to Silverettes (band practice) and going to the movies. I felt like they treated Karen and I like sisters.”
“We were treated very nicely,” Karen added.
Throughout that summer Khashoggi was part of a larger group of Saudis who studied English at Marian College (now Marian University).
“The influx were mainly ELS (English Language) students from Iran and Saudi Arabia,” according to Sister Norma Rocklage OSF, Executive Director of Education Outreach at Marian University. “They would stay here long enough to be able to speak English well. Some would return home while others would go onto to college.”
Khashoggi would attend Indiana State University in the fall of 1977 and was conferred a degree in business administration May 7, 1983.
It is unclear exactly when Khashoggi arrived in Indianapolis, but if 1977 Indianapolis was Khashoggi’s first impression of America, it meant living in the same time and place when a used car salesman by the name of Tony Kiritsis kidnapped and held hostage his mortgage broker, Richard Hall.
Kiritsis would later give a profanity-laced rant on live television with a sawed off shotgun wired to Hall’s neck at the west side Crestwood Apartments.
That May Khashoggi was living 2.5 miles from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the same year A.J. Foyt won his fourth and final Indy 500. If Khashoggi had driven his green TR7 over to the speedway, he would have witnessed Janet Guthrie become the first woman to drive in the Indianapolis 500, while simultaneously being exposed to the pinnacle of free market innovation and the hedonism of the snake pit.
Khashoggi returned briefly to Saudi Arabia in June. But he would land back in Indy in time to learn of Elvis Presley’s death.
Presley performed his final concert at Market Square Arena on June 26, 1977, less than two months before he would be found dead of a heart attack at his Graceland mansion. Lynn recalls having to explain the huge significance of his death to Khashoggi.
Summers high temperatures in Khashoggi’s hometown of Medina average 110 degrees, but in the August of 1977 Khashoggi was introduced to a new kind of summer heat - the Indiana humidity.
All of this took place while an Islamic revolution was brewing a half a world away in Iran. A religious driven revolt against the Pahlavi dynasty that would reshape American’s perception of Islam and Middle East policy for the next three decades. Islamophobia was a term that did not yet exist in the United States.
“I didn’t know his politics, but I felt he was pretty moderate,” Lynn said.
Khashoggi’s Gateway apartment was surrounded by generational, working class families. Many fathers went to work in thriving factories named Allison, Link Belt and General Motors. The phrase “Rust Belt” had yet to be coined.
Others serviced the gas, water and electric utilities, delivered the mail and drove trucks carrying the products their neighbors produced.
Women’s economic and social role in American society was in transition, as moms moved out of the kitchen and into the workforce full time. With both parents working, a new generation of latchkey children were left at home to make adult decisions.
Khashoggi’s first look at U.S. television addressed America’s racial, religious, social and political turmoil through comedy with shows like All In the Family, Three’s Company, M.A.S.H. and The Love Boat.
It is impossible to know if Khashoggi’s Indy experience helped shape the social or political views he latter held. But it is certainly reasonable to ask how it could have possibly not. The seeds of western ideals had been planted.
However, this cultural exchange was not unilateral as Khashoggi and his roommates would share insight into their world through conversation, gifts and the most time tested tradition peace offering - food.
“They invited us over for dinner, including my mother, for their famous cupsa rice and chicken dinner,” Karen recalled in a text message. “We ate on the floor with our hands and put hot sauce on the food. It was one of the best chicken dishes I ever ate.”
Both Karen and Lynn lost touch with Khashoggi through the years, only to have him reappear in 2011.
“I’m in my house and I hear this name,” Karen recalls. “I run to the TV and who is it? Jamal. I ran up the hall and then I heard this voice. I always thought he had a strong accent. I don’t think I ever forgot him.”
“That was the first time I realized he was a writer because Karen told me,” Lynn said.
In the coming days pundits and politicians will reflect on Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist who advocated against the social injustices in his native Saudi Arabia. His alma mater Indiana State will memorialize him through an annual address. Others will sound alarm about his relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, while some will cry foul how our leaders have failed to hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable.
His children will certainly remember him as a loving father.
For Karen and Lynn, the anniversary of his death evokes memories of old times, when a world was just as divided by faith and politics as it is today, but when all three were at an age when just being friends was all that mattered.
Karen holds vigil through a photo of Khashoggi as her Facebook profile photo. She doesn’t plan on removing it until there is closure in his death.
Lynn understood their teen romance was one not destined for the long term, but remembers their friendship as one of happiness that is now complicated by regret.
“I feel really bad now because I have two letters he wrote me after he left and I didn’t write back,” Lynn said.
The Jagathon Dance Marathon 2019 raised $605,178 for Riley Hospital for Children this weekend. Here's a look at the 15-hour dance marathon that took place in the IUPUI Campus Center.
An early spring shower taps onto an 8x8 white canopy tent that stands at the top of a small hill, at the far south end of Martin Luther King Park in Indianapolis. The former intersection of 17th and Broadway streets.
Soon various politicians and dignitaries, including Indianapolis Mayor Hogsett, will huddle beneath the tent to dedicate a large steel plaque and banners - marking a brief, but significant moment in history.
A moment of leadership, on an awful night, that is very much relevant in our age of lesser leaders.
April 4, 1968: the night then presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy revealed to an unknowing African American crowd that Martin Luther King had been assassinated in Memphis, TN.
The TV crews have hurried up the hill, forming their video battle line. Tripods set, microphones on and cameras recording the usual speeches and remarks made by those who may know history, but have not necessarily lived it.
Behind the cameras, among the spectators, stands a tall, slender man of African descent. He listens intently, respectfully while deflecting the rain from a co-worker with a borrowed umbrella.
Abie Robinson listens as a senior program coordinator for Indy Parks. Fifty years early, on a blustery April night, a much younger Robinson, fresh out of the Navy, stood on the very same corner of 17th and Broadway.
An angry black man, searching for racial justice in a racially unjust nation.
Robinson belonged to a civic group that would gather to discuss issues important to the civil rights movement. There he learned Senator Kennedy would be speaking in Indianapolis.
“I wanted to hear what he had to say,” Robinson said. “I guess I compared him to his brother (President John Kennedy).”
Robinson never got to hear Robert Kennedy’s original speech.
While traveling from Muncie to Indianapolis, Kennedy learned that Martin Luther King had been shot and killed. Campaign workers, including civil rights activist Congressman John Lewis, advised against speaking. Indianapolis police would not guarantee his safety.
Senator Kennedy chose, despite the warnings, to address outdoor rally of approximately 2000 supporters.
The mostly impromptu speech was less than five minutes that borrowed from Aeschylus, was credited with preventing violence in the city.
“And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” ~ Aeschylus
As Kennedy announced King’s death, Robinson’s emotions transformed from shock to anger.
“I was angry, I was hurting,” Robinson said. “I was 24 years old…just coming home from the Navy, knowing how this country treated us…
I just wanted to do something, but during the course of that short speech it reminded me of the words of Martin Luther King – only love can destroy hate.”
Despite riots breaking out across the nation, including surrounding metropolitan areas of Chicago, Cincinnati and Louisville, Indianapolis residents did not resort to violence.
“I came to a moment of understanding, what we don’t need is violence. What we need is peace, understanding, love,” Robinson said. “Understanding that an individual makes a choice… are you going to be positive or negative?”
The dedication is over. The politicians and dignitaries have moved on to the next speech. The TV crews, off to the next headline.
Robinson still carries this understanding with him as he scurries about the campus with the agility of someone less than half his age, checking his cell phone for which of two aerobics classes he has coming today as he tears down the small white canopy tent that just a while ago was the center of many caring reflections.
At 73, Robinson sees his own youth becoming too distant from the youth of today.
The class of ’63 Arsenal Technical High School grad has lived a great deal of history and wants to share it in order to keep that history from being repeated.
“Fifty years later I see the things in my life that happened and allow me to be in the position to strive to life a life that is worthy of his (King’s) sacrifice,” Robinson concluded.
As a sailor aboard the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise, Robinson learned of President Kennedy’s death. In Vietnam he witnessed the human cost of fighting a war for the wrong reasons.
His first civil rights protest came as a child, when he marched against the old Riverside Amusement Park’s policy of only letting blacks in one day a year.
The 24-year old activist attended church, Black Panther, and civic meetings, all with the hope of bettering his own and his people’s lives through social justice.
Then, on a hopeful night in April he learned that hope of a movement had been murdered, but the dream didn’t need to die. It was then that Abie Robinson gained his own wisdom through the awful grace of God.
Photography by Daniel Arthur Jacobson
Winter is coming.
Not the endless season of 100-foot snows, white walkers and zombie hordes, so ominously forecasted by the brooding Jon Snow of Game of Thrones fame.
A political, nuclear winter that first swept into Washington D.C. a year ago, lead by another night king and his rabid followers, injecting division, distrust and a nationalist fanaticism unseen for a thousand years.
Okay. I admit, it’s a little over the top – maybe.
Yet, for slightly over an hour, 12,000 Hoosiers found shelter and comfort from the partisan storm at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, Tuesday. There former first lady Michelle Obama sat down to chat about life, race, business, politics and the critical role women play in each.
Presented by the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, Alecia DeCoudreux, a founding board member, hosted what was billed as “A Moderated Conversation with former first lady Michelle Obama.”
Mrs. Obama began by reminiscing about her own south side Chicago childhood, where families and extended families lived close by, forming the early support systems that were important in her success.
“A lot of young kids think that a role model has to be someone far away, it has to be the former first lady, or someone important, Obama said. “The truth is, the most important role models you have are right in front of you.”
The former first lady is a formidable presence in person. She is comfortable in her own skin and efficiently balances an honest, personable demeanor with the responsibility knowing every word she utters can and will be used against her in the court of public opinion.
The issue of race was addressed with the 300 Indianapolis Public Schools high school girls, who attended courtesy of the Women’s Fund, in mind.
“There are people out there that are afraid of you because of the color of your skin,” Obama said. “You grow up knowing that people don’t like you just because they’ve been told something about you because you are brown.”
Acknowledging that race is still very much a factor in opportunities for people of color she concluded that it is necessary to practice achieving through other people’s low expectations of people of color.
The audience, made up of an estimated 90% women, also found inspiration in Michelle Obama the businesswoman.
She emphasized that women in business and those women who will soon enter the workforce must make sure their voices are heard. Women must also believe they deserve to be at the table.
“I had to learn to not be afraid to disagree or assert my opinion,” Obama said.
Listening to the former First Lady it was impossible to not hit the rewind button on what once was at the White House not so long ago. The former first lady’s thoughtfulness and respect for everyone who may be in the audience was a longing reminder how high the decency bar had been set at the Obama White House.
What was most appreciated by this journalism major, that is also a high school teacher for at risk kids, was Mrs. Obama’s honesty. Her “realness” as my students would say, was noted when it came to offering advice to those young adults who don’t have the support systems she had as a child.
“There’s only so much you can say to those you know whose opportunities are at zero,” Obama said. “The better use of my time is trying to fix those problems that they’re facing.”
The subject of public service offered the opportunity to slight the current public servant in chief. It was a chance not passed upon to the audience's approval.
“First you have to have knowledge,” Obama encouraged. “Please have knowledge of something.”
Mrs. Obama also offered encouragement for women to jump in if they feel they have the desire to engage, in what she believes is the very tough world of public service - no matter their party affiliation.
“We need diversity. We need strong female voices. We need different perspectives to the problems were trying to solve,” Obama said.
The evening was intended to bring awareness to the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana and act as a fundraiser. One million dollars was raised to help invest in women and girls lives through the Women’s Fund.
But, you could sense that crowd was hoping for more.
A nod that would indicate Mrs. Obama was willing to return to public office at the highest level.
If she does, the cards were never revealed.
No one could blame her, either. Mrs. Obama and her family have already served two grueling tours in D.C.
And, if anything were revealed from the evening’s conversation, the lust for power would never be a motivating factor for Michelle Obama.
She’s too caring, too in control, too real.
Her vow to the night’s watch is not lifelong.
If order is to be restored to the realm, a new generation of women must be willing to engage, and serve, and make their voices heard.
Until then – winter is here.
The IUPUI men's and women's swimming teams were in action Saturday, Jan. 20. The men's team faced Wabash College while the women's team faced conference opponent Youngstown State. The men defeated Wabash College 194-100. The women fell to Youngstown State 147-153. Both teams are off until the Ohio State invitational on Saturday, Feb. 10. Photos by Ron Hanson.
by Ron Hanson
Flight or Fight
Saturday mornings in Indianapolis can still be the lazy kind of mornings that earned the city its “Naptown” nickname.
September 9, 2017 was sizing up to be one of those Saturdays.
The 20-somethings of Indy’s urban residential boom were hitting their morning jogging routes up, down and around downtown. New York – Meridian – Market – Capitol and back, and beyond. Young professionals had traded their business suits for sweats and hoodies as they tried to beat the light change while balancing frappes, cell phones and the day ahead. Indy’s newfound wealth was in full leisurely force as a rising group of teens and adults funneled toward the Statehouse.
One cluster of high schoolers carries handmade signs, their brown skin glistened beneath a pristine blue sky, jet black manes bounced up and down in sync with every brisk step they took. Animated conversations could be heard as they approached.
Some spoke in Spanish.
Most chose to be heard in English.
All were assembling for a common cause.
Four days earlier the Department of Justice declared an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, at the guidance of President Trump.
DACA’s sudden demise meant that an estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children would no longer receive DACA protections, if new legislation is not passed by March.
Their situation is the same situation that affects nearly 160 IUPUI students who have declared DACA status.
People continued to gather at the base of the Statehouse steps. They chatted, mingled and waited as a college aged Latina made her way up the steps – la bandera Mexicana – flowing from her shoulders.
Her steps fell with urgency.
Her body language determined.
Then she stopped – she turned – she waited.
She waited to share her story.
She wanted to never return to the shadows.
The moment had come for Sandy Rivera, the IUPUI education major, born in Matamoros Mexico, raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, to take a stand. It was time to fight for her future and the future of immigrant children like her, who came to the United States “without inspection” and remain in the only country she has ever known.
Living the Dream
“Sandy Rivera is feeling nervous,” so said the emoji on Rivera’s Facebook page, Aug. 24.
Rivera had enrolled in 15 credit hours, was serving as secretary for the Latino Student Association, teaching children Spanish, working as an intern at the Indiana Latino Institute and working part time at a thrift store. All while helping create and propose a bill to help undocumented people in Indy.
Sandy had damn good reason to feel nervous.
She also had great reason to be proud.
“What is admirable about Sandy is the passion she has for documented and undocumented students.” Karina Garduno, Asst. Dir. of Multicultural Programming said.
Despite being a country that sells itself as a “melting pot,” color still matters in the United States. Color, or the lack thereof, means status. The fairer the skin, the greater the privilege.
Rivera doesn’t fit the stereotypical Hispanic visual. Her light brown skin is complemented by long wavy light brown hair. She attributes these traits as reason for escaping judgement and questions about her status.
“Growing up it (undocumented) wasn’t really a factor,” Rivera recalls. “I went to school like everybody else. I really didn’t notice a difference. I never really encountered racism.”
If you were to bump into Sandy on campus, you would be hard pressed to see her ethnicity. Her English is better than her Spanish and her cheerful disposition offers no clue to the turmoil that surrounds her life. As far as anyone is concerned, Sandy Rivera is living the dream.
If she is, it comes with no help from the government.
When Sandy began considering college, the reality of her immigrant status suddenly got real.
Despite both parents and herself, working and paying into the U.S. tax system, Sandy is unable to receive any federal or state aid.
When it was time for Rivera’s middle school classmates to apply for 21st century scholarship aid, all she could do was sit and wait while they filled out the form. When it was time to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, all she could do all she could do was apply and see how much FASFA relief she would miss out.
If college was her dream, she needed to make her own bank because Sandy Rivera, born in Matamoros, Mexico, raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, had no birthright.
She was without papers.
An Uneventful Arrival
Matamoros borders Brownsville at the far southernmost tip of Texas. The only things that separate the two towns are a fence, the Rio Grande and an $18 trillion economy. If there was no fence, Matamoros would be the “other side of the tracks” to the Rio Grande.
Sandy’s arrival in the U.S. came rather unceremoniously in December 2002. Over a year had passed since 9/11 and immigration tensions had risen to a point where crossing the border was becoming too dangerous.
After walking a couple miles with her mother and brother through the outskirts of Matamoros, they boarded a city bus that took them to the border where they boarded a Greyhound and headed north into the land of opportunity.
Seven hours later 4-year old Sandy Rivera would spend her first night in the United States at an aunt’s house in Houston.
After spending time in Houston and Pensacola, Florida, they were reunited with her father in Indianapolis where he had found a means to provide by installing drywall in the new homes of the rapidly expanding housing bubble.
It would be Indianapolis, Naptown, where young Sandy, a girl with no memories of her birthplace, would grow up, learning about the great melting pot, being sold American dream, and being taught to believe that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was real.
Her Indiana home would also be the place where she would learn the civics lessons that would soon become relevant to her future.
Pitching the DREAM
Washington D.C. is exciting, mystifying and intimidating all in the same instant. Even to the most seasoned activist, D.C. is known as a place that doesn’t ask twice for you to speak up and be heard.
If you have something to say, you better be prepared to say it. Your 15 minutes of fame will more than likely be two. Two minutes to make your pitch, to the power brokers of the most powerful democracy created, about why you deserve to be heard.
This was the case in October when Rivera flew to Washington with other young immigrants from around the country make their case for new action on the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act.
“We gave our two-minute elevator speech about our story and how we contributed to society, how we helped improve the economy, how DACA has affected us and how the DREAM Act will help us,” Rivera said.
It was a hard sell going into meetings with some of the staunchest opponents on immigration, but Rivera remained undiscouraged after emerging from the busiest bazaar of political lobbying on earth.
“I feel like even though they put on a face that we didn’t get over to them, I feel like in way we did,” Rivera concluded.
Sandy Rivera, the happy warrior, the dreamer, street fighter for all immigrants.
DACA vs DREAM Act
Rivera’s political fight to finish college and pursue a career in U.S. as a grade school teacher hinges on two pieces of legislation, DACA and the DREAM Act.
DACA provides the ability, for any immigrant child who qualifies, to remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation. DACA allows them to plan their lives, get an education and work in the U.S. legally. Before DACA’s demise, participants were required to renew every two years.
This protection is critical for someone, like Sandy, who is paying her own way through college. Until this year Rivera was paying for college by working two to three jobs. This year she has managed to earn $3000 in private scholarship aid that will help pay for her plus $10,000 per year in-state tuition.
One misconception about DACA is that it is only for Hispanics.
“The face of DACA has typically been young Latinos, but there are students from every continent who are DACA students, particularly here at IUPUI,” Garduno explained.
The DREAM Act provides a path toward legal status and possible citizenship for young immigrants. It would become the key legislation that gives, those who qualify, the opportunity to realize the grade school promises made by their teachers in “a nation of immigrants.”
Current Political Climate Change
It’s late as Rivera fights back a case of the yawns.
But her gasps for air are not because she is buried in a mountain of books, notes and coffee with final exams looming.
It is the last day of November and for Rivera, who was unable to renew her DACA card, the clock is ticking.
She participates in a panel discussion for the Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance at Butler University with fellow immigrants who arrived in the U.S. “without inspection.”
Rivera stands at the podium and tells her story to the mostly white audience as they tap away on their laptops. They Listen and study, they listen and study some more. Their $160,000 undergraduate education paid through full rides, scholarships, student loans, and the intergenerational wealth of their U.S. birthright.
“A lot of people are giving up,” Patricia Alonso, co-founder of the Undocumented Youth Alliance said. “We see very few individuals like Sandy who actually want to continue the fight, even though it’s going to be hard.”
“She is always looking for ways to bring about awareness to individuals who may not be aware and she continues to fight for those students who are here,” Garduno adds.
If, life continues as planned, Rivera will begin student teaching next year.
If, Congress acts and passes a DACA II by March, she will graduate in the fall, 2019.
If, she wins her fight, Rivera will engage in an elementary education career, with the hopes of one day creating her own educational non-profit that provides resources to under sourced communities.
If, the current political climate shifts back to a kinder gentler United States, through the DREAM Act, Sandy Rivera of Matamoros, Mexico, raised and educated in Indianapolis, Indiana may one day become Sandy Rivera, citizen of the United States of America.