Week of the Peacemaker features discussions of immigration in America

Heather Valenzano Staff Writer

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The Office of Mission and Ministry sponsored Iona’s annual Week of the Peacemaker from Nov. 4 to Nov. 9.

This year’s theme was “Home (In)Security: Immigrants and America.” The week’s events included presentations and performances that focused on issues regarding immigration. The Office of Mission and Ministry worked in collaboration with other Iona departments to organize the events, and the presentations were given by Iona students, professors and guests.

Dr. Nilofer Naqvi, a psychology professor, gave a presentation on child-family separation at the United States-Mexico border in the Romita Auditorium on Nov. 5. The presentation featured several PowerPoint slides and a few videos.

Naqvi discussed recent and older policies regarding undocumented or illegal immigration, including the “zero-tolerance” policy and the Flores agreement, which the Trump administration blamed for the family separation problem that happened at the border. She also discussed the history of U.S. child-family separation and how other countries deal with undocumented immigrants.

Naqvi explained that many of the families trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border are seeking asylum from the violence in their homelands, and she discussed the psychological effects family separation may have on children, including toxic stress. Naqvi proposed solutions to the problems. The audience was then able to ask questions after the presentation was over.

“I just think this is a very important topic,” Naqvi said. “It crosses multiple disciplines. I’m a psychologist, but you can see from the talk, I talked about historical events, I talked about politics.”

Dr. Carl Procario-Foley, the director of Mission and Ministry, was present at the event.

“This issue…from June to July, was probably the biggest issue on the American scene, so we knew we wanted to have this issue addressed,” Procario-Foley said. “It’s important to know about…and it’s important for us to be involved in advocacy on this issue.”

Students in the Social Work Processes III class – taught by Meryl Nadel, a professor in the Social Work Department – gave presentations in the McGrath Room on Nov. 5.

Two separate groups presented. The students encouraged audience members to sign petitions after each presentation.

Social Work Processes III is a class that social work majors take during the fall semester of their senior year. Social Work Processes III was not always a part of Week of the Peacemaker, according to Nadel. She became involved in the Week of the Peacemaker when she first came to Iona. She loved how the week focused on advocacy and social issues and eventually decided to incorporate a Week of the Peacemaker assignment into the class syllabus.

“I think it’s a good experience for the students – and, hopefully, for the audiences – because they put a lot of effort into developing their presentations, developing their advocacy action and hopefully realizing that you can get your point across in a creative way,” Nadel said.

The Peace Poets – a group of writers and performers – performed their original poems and raps in the Murphy Auditorium on Nov. 8. The group’s poems are designed to address social issues and help others.

“We’ve had such a privilege and honor of getting to know who…people are,” Frank Antonio López – also known as “Frankie 4” – said. “From young, undocumented folks who are fighting for their rights for human dignity, to indigenous folks across Turtle Island who are fighting for rights to land and air and clean water, to folks here in New York who are fighting for justice for their loved ones who have been murdered by law enforcement.”

The five members of the Peace Poets – López, Abraham Velazquez Jr. (aka “A-B-E”), Frantz Jerome (aka “Ram3”), Enmanuel Candelario (aka “The Last Emcee”) and Luke Nephew (aka “Lu Aya”) – grew up together and were involved in an after school program called the Lyrical Circle. The program was part of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol organization in Harlem.

“Every Friday we would get together and share poems, and that’s where we found strength in vulnerability,” López said. “That’s where we found a space to express ourselves, but also a space to learn how to listen, which is so huge nowadays.”

López hopes that those who came to see the Peace Poets will continue discussing these social issues.

“I would encourage folks…to think about who they’re connected to and how they can show up for the people in their community that are going through some of the issues that we’re tackling as a nation and as a world,” López said.

For more about the Peace Poets and their performance at Iona, go here.

Betty Lyons, president and executive director of the American Indian Law Alliance, also gave a presentation in Murphy Auditorium on Nov. 8.

Lyons expressed how she sees the people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border as relatives or other indigenous people rather than immigrants.

“I think sometimes the U.S. government likes to put things in certain little boxes, put them in little packages and wrap them with nice little bows as if they don’t touch or they don’t connect,” Lyons said. “All things are connected; you can find a connection in everything. Those families walking toward the imposed colonial border right now are overwhelmingly indigenous, and these are their original lands. They’re not immigrants or refugees, and they certainly are not a threat.”