Stories for Liberation: Where You Go, We All Go

Dafny Irizarry

This week a new shipment of 1000 copies of Brave Journeys was marked for distribution through First Book, an organization serving 400,000 educators throughout the nation, dedicating to providing books for students from communities where owning a book is a luxury.   Simultaneously 10 teachers and school counselors from Central Islip, Hempstead, Hampton Bays, Westbury and Glen Cove High Schools began meeting with Herstory’s artistic director and program consultant to prepare a study guide, through a special grant from Long Island Unitarian Universalist Foundation, complete with lesson plans, field notes and suggestions for teachers who will be using this student written anthology as a text.   Each new story by a high school student that appears on the Long Island Wins website is inspired by the voices of those young people who contributed to this volume, as week by week it reaches new readers, young and old.

We invite you to read the introduction to the volume by Dafny Irizarry, the founder and director of Long Island Latino Teachers Association (LILTA), about a classroom moment that started it all. 

Where You Go, We All Go

By Dafny Irizarry

“Where you go, we all go,” were the words of my mother when she hugged me for the last time before my departure on August 8, 1991, from the Luis Muñoz Marín Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We both had surrendered to the idea that my future was in New York, in communion with a language and climate that would make me cry and miss the most imperfect corners of my island.

“Wherever you go, your family goes and your country goes, so make sure to do good my daughter,” added my mother, while I nodded with eyes inundated with tears of fear; a fear of uncertainty and agony. Thousands of questions haunted me as we walked to the gate where our hearts finally ripped apart.

These words remained with me as I embarked on the implementation of a Herstory Program with volunteer high school newcomer students who crossed the border and agreed to write their journeys into this land, the land of liberty. They delivered nameless stories with voices that must not be dismissed. Many of these students live among us without “papers.”

Must voices have a name? They should and they must. But, these powerful and needed voices are without a name for fear that walls are better than hearts, and that apart is better than together. Some people have fallen into the spell that keeping away immigrants, the builders of this country’s dreams, will guarantee our safety and prosperity.

As an active participant of this writers’ workshop group, I gave birth to my own story because I also crossed a border. I wrote the story that brought me from the warm shores of Puerto Rico to Long Island. For many weeks, I lived and breathed the Herstory pedagogy along with my students. We wrote, read and listened to each other’s stories, and in the process we built one heart full of love and compassion that we shared with the school community because where each of us go, we all go.

Without a doubt, this was my most meaningful project of the year, realizing that my mother’s words as I left Puerto Rico more than 25 years ago are still alive and more relevant than ever, “Wherever I go, we all go,” including my immigrant students whose voices and names will be declared someday out loud breaking any, and every, oppressive wall. It’s not us and them. We are united in one voice and one heart.

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