Freedom University Series: Undocumented in Dixie
by Jacqueline Delgadillo and Sergio Ivan Delgadillo
Photo Credit Laura Emiko Soltis
Undocumented in Dixie by Jacqueline Delgadillo
What is it that my heart feels?
What are these things I can’t heal?
I am a mess of confusion that yearns to travel
And see the faces I’ve missed
Even the ones who are now gone
Because I’ve been gone for so long
Where am I from?
Where do I belong?
Is it normal to feel homesick for a place you barely know?
Or to sometimes feel homeless in the place you call your home?
Undocumented, unafraid! Education, not segregation!
As I shout these phrases during a direct action, I feel the fire of liberation
I have stayed quiet and in the shadows for far too long
My motivation was shrinking by the minute, what was wrong?
Whatever it was, it is now gone
I no longer feed my fears,
Only my dreams.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Dr.King’s words ring in my head
I am inspired by his acts of courage and the legacy he led
Freedom U has nourished me from educational starvation
Flames of passion within me have been ignited
Together, undocumented and documented students united
We will not rest until we end modern day segregation in education.
I Still Have a Dream by Sergio Delgadillo
Photo Credit Laura Emiko Soltis
Time. Opportunities. Many people take these things for granted. I was never raised believing that being in this country was a given right. It was always a privilege born through sacrifice. Sacrifice of everything I knew; my family, our way of life, and leaving them behind forever – all to come to a distant place, with a foreign language, to start a new life.
My name is Sergio Ivan Delgadillo, and my life is unlike the quintessential American teenager living in the 21st century. I was brought to the United States from Mexico when I was four years old. My parents wanted a better future for me than any my native country could offer. My family and everyone we knew would often go days at a time with nothing to eat but bread and water.
It is difficult for me to recall the journey in its entirety. It’s more like shards of a broken memory, or shades of a faded photograph. So, let me fast forward to my life going to public schools in Georgia. Imagine years full of misunderstandings, not being able to fit in with your peers, being bullied for how you look and how you sound speaking your second language. Imagine living on a lonely island in your mind, surrounded by nothing but an endless sea of uncertainty, where there is nobody in sight who can fully sympathize with your personal fears, struggles, and helplessness. Your friends get their driving licenses, and for two years, you have to keep on making up lies about how you failed your driving exam again. It kills you when people ask where you're from because you have to lie in order to prevent having to tell them the pain of your life story. Imagine the feeling of sitting in your car and having to go to the store, and wondering if today will be the day you get pulled over by the police, detained, and deported. Imagine the daily fear that everything you've worked for could come crashing down, that you could be torn away from your family and everything you know.
Imagine working hard in school and graduating from high school, but then facing the harsh reality that there’s nothing for you as an undocumented student graduating in the state of Georgia. With Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), you can now legally drive and you can work in a low-wage job, but you’re banned from public higher education and the right to vote – the two things that could change your lot in life.
But one day, you discover a group of people who are just like you, who find themselves in the same situation. For me, this happened when I found Freedom University.
Freedom University is an underground school for undocumented students that are banned from pursuing a higher education in Georgia. However, I see it as more than just a school, it’s more like a haven of hope because it has steadily restored my faith in the future. I entered in 2012 feeling lost, without the slightest idea as to where I was going in my life. The only thing that kept me going at that point was music. As an aspiring lyricist/songwriter, I was used to turning tragedies into melodies. The only way I felt weightless was when I was strumming six strings, knitting notes together like a melodic blanket of hope. Never did I see myself being an activist, fighting for human rights with a group of people that I would come to call a family. All I was searching for was a sense of direction, but I ended up with something more. I found a purpose. As of right now, I spend my days working in construction from sun up to sun down, writing lyrics and pieces of music whenever I get a chance. All I know musically, I taught myself, so it would be amazing to be able to study music in a school. It’s not an easy task, but I feel that having regained hope, I have the capacity to dream big once again. As Martin Luther King Jr. stated in his famous ‘I Have A Dream Speech’, "I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream."