When Innocent Children Wonder

Witnesses outside Homestead detention facility after the children were taken away, August 2019

“Are those tents that the children live in?” That was one question from a high school student learning about Homestead and our family separation policies for the first time.

In October we, Central Mainers to End Family Separations and Child Detentions, are hosting an art exhibit at Waterville Brewing Co. The artwork is from the Tornillo child detention camp in Texas. It is now closed. The children painted, drew, created works of art depicting their home countries and life in detention. We are so honored that Waterville was chosen to house this exhibit. As part of the opening reception, a performance by two high school girls will be given. It’s short and it’s powerful. Hannah, one of the actresses and the young high school student I was rehearsing with, authored that above quote.

As Hannah and I read through the script for the first time it became clear to me that she didn’t really understand what she was reading and thus what she had volunteered for. Hannah is an actress and a good one. She is in all the school plays and has been for several years. So after our first run through I asked her if she knew what the skit was about. She kind of knew about some of it (I don’t want to spill the theme!). So we talked about family separations and child detentions occurring along our southern border. She had no idea. She asked where they take the children, so I showed her the above picture. Hannah silently looked at that photo for so long, trying to put the pieces together of what it was representing. Her innocent and curious line of questions was something that every adult hearing of this for the first time should ask. Here’s what I remember from her questioning, “Who goes there? How old are they? How many kids live there? Do they stay there long? Are people nice to them? Do they want to be there? Oh of course not, they must miss their families. Do they? Do they miss their families? Are those tents that they live ?! (realization of what she was witnessing slowly settling in). This is horrible. I can’t believe we are doing this. Why? Why are we doing this? Why are so many people coming here? Where are their families? Where do they take them? When do they get out?” After her questions were done, a few moments of silence then, “Let’s practice some more.”

As we practiced again, with Hannah’s new and deeper understanding, it felt different. I could hear the urgency in Hannah’s voice. “You don’t have to do this,” I told her. She insists she does. When we were done, Hannah helped me set up our corner standing. Her mother showed up and the pride on her mum’s face was obvious. “This is so important,” she said to me. “Thank you for teaching Hannah.”

Mission accomplished. Come. Come see our exhibit and Hannah’s performance on Oct 12 from 4:30-6:30. There will be a silent auction as well. Money will go to 2 organizations doing amazing work along the TX/Mexico border.

Please don’t look away. Raise your voice. Come to our opening.

Mary(ellen)

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