A call to action SoCo piece by Sara Farrington. How Immigrant Families Together inspired her play, H
How did you get involved with Immigrant Families Together? What ignited your decision to get involved?
When I heard that recording from ProPublica of the young kids being taken from their parents (Mami! Papi!) I completely, existentially, crumpled. I said to myself, as an artist, as a mother, if you don’t do something here you are a hypocrite. Plain and simple. So within a few days I responded to call to do a supplies drive for the 300 kids taken to Cayuga in Harlem. I drove 2 SUVs full of new items to Astoria Queens where I met Julie Schweitert Collazo who literally casually said, “I can’t sponsor a kid, but what if she bailed out the moms and brought them at least to the city where their kids were taken to?”That was the beginning. She and I and another mom friend of ours Maria Smilios set up a GoFundMe for a mom Julie heard about on WNYC, Yeni Gonzalez, who was being held in Eloy Det. Center, Eloy AZ. We raised her $7500 bail in about 12 hours. I tasked my friend Meghan Finn to come up with a cross country relay--- one friend drives Yeni 5 hours, another friend drives her 6 hours, another 4 hours, etc…she slept at our friends’ houses across the US and made it to NYC in about 4 days, finally hugged her 3 kids. After a huge amount of awful BS at Cayuga (she couldn’t see her kids more than 9-5, sometimes not at all, she couldn’t see them on the weekends, she had to prove she was their real mom, etc…) She finally regained custody of her kids and got a legal team pro bono from Andrew Cuomo’s office. We then did this about 75 more times. That’s how IFT (immigrant families together) got started.
What does Immigrant Families Together do?
Everything we can. Bail, reunite, provide a lawyer, doctors, vaccines (thanks Tribeca pediatrics!), a new mattress (thanks Casper! Rabbi Illana Schachter knew an executive at Casper and I chased the lead. They have shipped over 100 free mattresses!), shrink, school enrollment, get the GPS ankle tracker removed, feed, house, clothe, hang out with, provide friends, morale, food pantry and church access, transportation to check ins and court dates, rent, everything we are able to. If they are grateful and need the help, they can keep us.
What is something you've learned from your work with this organization?
I was 100% woke this year to the horror and travesty that is the US immigration system, especially under Trump. There have been a handful of times in history where children were forcibly taken from their parents: slavery, holocaust, etc…and now, THIS. My “enlightened” country in 2018. Personally, I finally realized that I am privileged beyond most people’s wildest dreams in this world, so it is my obligation to help people who have less. 100% my obligation. I didn’t realize that before Trump. If I don’t take action (action is not marching with a sign IMO, action is raising money for a lawyer, sending shoes to a kid with none, finding an apt for someone, volunteering time to make someone else’s life better), I would consider myself a hypocrite if I didn’t take direct action. I also think, in 20 years, Americans will need this kind of help themselves. I hope I find the “me” in Canada or wherever.
How has your work with this organization impacted your art/perspective?
Artistically, I flip flop on this. I do not think that political theater “works” in 2018/2019. (It certainly used to work) Most people who think they are writing political theater on a grand scale are just staging a USA Today headline with flat characters and clichéd dialogue and performing it for people who already agree with them and wouldn’t hurt a fly. (How privileged is that?) Re: American Son, boring, flat, pointless, didn’t change a thing. I think by virtue of me making theater at all, is political theater. Many countries do not have this privilege, certainly not women. And the theater is my privilege to make, it is not my right. I am so so lucky. I get to express my story, my feelings, my life, the world as I see it, change the form of theater if I feel like it, but I don’t need it to change anyone’s mind or inform anyone of something they can’t find out any other way. That’s beyond boring. In the theater if it’s boring…well you get it.
Anything you want us to know about the building or inspiration of your SoCo piece?
I think it’s hard to believe but all of it is based in true stories – although I certainly dramatized it! Also this is a first stab at this story.
*To see Sara's solo show in development as a part of All For One's SoCo Series RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org for your free seat. Talk back and donation bar reception to follow.
Monday January 28, 2019 at 7pm
ART/NY South Oxford Space 138 S. Oxford Street Brooklyn, NY 11217
For more information on Immigrant Families Together go to their website here.