Homestead Reflections

Witnesses at Homestead hold a banner made in Waterville, Maine for the children to see. It takes a village to close a child camp down.

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has!” -Margaret Mead

We learned early Saturday morning that Homestead is empty, the children are gone. This is a direct response to the unending work and dedication of many people working together to shut this place down. From the amazing and determined witnesses, to the congressional representatives who continually worked to get answers and bring attention to this place, to those working around the country in any way they could to shut Homestead. So why are we feeling so confused and sad?

You would think the witnesses around the country would be jumping for joy, yet we are not. While we celebrate the action of closing Homestead child prison down, which really is nothing short of a miracle, we feel, as Joshua Rubin put it, “empty”. Where are the children? Where did they go? Is anyone keeping track? Do their families know where they are? These are the questions that haunt us.

It’s been 5 months since I began helping remotely with shutting Homestead down. It’s been a week since I’ve stood on the ladders at Homestead and held signs there. A week since I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the most dedicated, brave women I know. And five months of working with some of the most determined, morally focused people I have ever had the privilege to work with. And yet, here I sit on a lovely Sunday morning with my dog at my feet feeling sad. Incredibly sad.

As I spent yesterday morning trying to process the news that the children were gone I found myself instinctively drawn to FaceBook, much as I have for the past five months. Many posts greeted me with messages about celebrating our victory in that the kids were gone from the hellhole the world came to know as Homestead, to much well deserved praise to those who have gone to witness especially those few souls who altered their lives and stood there day in and day out for months. I learned first hand how incredibly difficult a task that is. As I read the following words of the artist who’s art inspired a movement I found my self shaking my head in total agreement and concern for those who are still there bearing witness. Witnessing takes a toll on your soul and they have been there for months. Now, I wonder, how do we support them while they do what so many of us have already done, manage to work their way back into life?

“It is part of the witnessing. It damages you. It haunts you. It possesses you. Homestead is dark and evil. It seeps into your pores. It is intense. It takes a toll.” Alessandra Mondolfi

Our work is not over. Sadly, it’s not. There are still thousands of children, including those who were at Homestead, who are in shelters around the country, many of which we don’t even know where they are. I feel this work will be harder to name as there are so many of them and they are spread all over the country. All part of the plan. Those making money off of this do not want another Homestead, where witnesses and representatives call them out on their evil and bring it into the public’s vision. But we will rest. We will regroup. We will strategize how best to mobilize a country to end family separations, shut every last one of these places down, and reunite the children with their families.

Some stood up once, and sat down.

Some walked a mile, and walked away.

Some stood up twice, then sat down.

“It’s too much,” they cried.

Some walked two miles, then walked away.

“I’ve had it,” they cried,

Some stood and stood and stood.

They were taken for fools,

they were taken for being taken in.

Some walked and walked and walked –

they walked the earth,

they walked the waters,

they walked the air.

“Why do you stand?” they were asked, and

“Why do you walk?”

“Because of the children,” they said, and

“Because of the heart, and

“Because of the bread,”

“Because the cause is

the heart’s beat, and

the children born, and

the risen bread.”

Daniel Berrigan, SJ

Rest my dear friends who braved the south Florida weather and the daily emotional toll of communing with the children of Homestead. We will rise again together, arm in arm, hand in hand, and with heads and banners held high.

Love and utter respect to those who shut Homestead down,

Marye(ellen)

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