At Tahirih’s 2nd Annual San Francisco Bay Area Benefit, Executive Director, Morgan Weibel, commended Bay Area staff – that she dubs the #DreamTeam – on their spirit, their grit, and their success serving women and girls fleeing violence.
You all are truly extraordinary due to your incredible talent, your unwavering commitment, and your resilient innovation! Every day I find myself in awe of your compassion and inspired by your perseverance.
Perseverance. The theme of Morgan’s remarks and the life force behind Tahirih’s work as of late. Wanting to take the audience on a journey, Morgan somberly recounted her own experience at the southern border.
In November 2018, Morgan met with families in Tijuana, Mexico, who had traveled over 2,000 miles for more than a month on foot to escape the perils of their homelands. But instead of safety, they were met – thanks to the new “zero-tolerance” policy – with the U.S. military, and immigration officers who had been instructed to abduct children and hold their parents in detention, with no promise of release or reunification.
Stuck in a dangerous border town, sleeping on the streets and in open air stadiums while the rains flooded their dwellings with raw sewage, everyone was hungry, and there certainly was not enough food, water, warm clothing, blankets, or supplies. One mother waited a whole week for a clean diaper to change her infant.
On my last day in Tijuana, I went to Costco with the donations we’d collected before the trip to purchase as many permanent markers as I could afford. The markers were for parents to write their names and dates of birth on the bare skin arms of their babies and young children who would be taken from them when they entered the U.S. The courage those parents demonstrated in face of such an unconscionably cruel policy is extraordinary.
In spite of the inhumane and painful realities of seeking asylum during a time in history where more and more policies continue restricting the path to justice and safety, Morgan emphasized that perseverance and community is the answer.
We are all in this together. Today and every day going forward, each of us has the choice to stand on the right side of history. To make a difference; to stand with courage alongside one another.
At this moment, Morgan took the opportunity to introduce the Bay Area’s 2019 Award Honorees.
Jason Lin, a 16-year old high school sophomore and 2019’s Innovator of the Year, was recognized for leveraging his own unique musical skills, as well as the talents of his peers, to host a charity concert that raised nearly $30,000 for Tahirih last fall.
Cassandra Yvette Lopez, 2019’s Volunteer of the Year, was honored for acting as a co-facilitator of the Bay Area’s newly established client support groups, which gather every Saturday.
Maria Segarra, 2019’s Pro Bono of the Year, was acknowledged for taking on several challenging cases representing teenagers.
And finally, Fenwick & West, 2019’s Firm of the Year, was commended for its unbridled commitment to representing immigrant women and girls seeking justice – holding green card clinics and providing full scale representation, even stepping in to alleviate the transportation expenses for one family who otherwise would never have been able to attend a clinic.
While the challenges we face are daunting, I know that if we keep on inspiring one another, we will discover just how contagious courage can be.