Inspired by iLeap

Aurora Martin, CLS Executive Director

Early this morning, I had a chance to listen and learn again from a few visiting community leaders from other countries, who were participating in a leadership program iLeap.  A few weeks ago, some of you may remember that CLS had a brief opportunity to host three women who were iLeap Leadership Fellows: Mary Magdalene Yuin Tal of South Africa, Dorotea Gomez of Guatemala, and Georginia Hernandez of El Salvador.  Since that time, I have had a chance to get to know each of them more, and to listen to their desire to tell their stories.  Mary Magdalene in particular, shared her experience of collecting and publishing poetry of a cohort of 25 women whom she provided services to in Capetown. Her work focuses on serving migrant and refugee women who have resettled in Capetown South Africa, having fled their African countries of origin due to war, famine, and/or natural disaster.  The issues of immigration, violence, marginalization and related issues and services Mary directs through her program Whole Women World Association, all sounded too familiar to me (they work with Lawyers Beyond Borders), and yet many times more extreme so that it is very much other-worldly and puts our work, the rule of law, and resources we have here in the states in perspective.

Below is Mary’s own poetry about her experience.  In listening to the stories of Mary, Dorotea, and Georginia, I was struck by the common struggle for social justice we share in our work and the power of their stories; and imagined what we could do in applying more diligently their mindset of storytelling.  I am heartened and humbled by the desire of Mary, Dorotea and Georginia, in their desire to maintain a connection to explore where our writings may take us. When Mary gifted me her book of poetry this morning, it impressed upon me an imagined set of stories that our clients have for us to share.  Indeed, Mary’s words to me/us are: “As you read the Book of Poetry, remember all the sisters herein…pray and support them in all the wonderful work that you do. Lots of Love, Mary.”

This is Mary’s poem, taken from a collection called “Living on the Fence” and in response to the question “where are you from”:

I am from the foot of the hill
I am from the source of the stream
I am from Ibalachim

I am from a house with a fireplace in the centre
Where three-legged pots boil non-stop,
And the age of a pot adds taste to the food
I am from my mother’s house
I am from the coffee farm
Where the sugar cane and banana plants share the soil

I am from Ibalichim
A place plastered in my memory
A place that was full of life
Of courageous people with strong resolve

Ibalachim was life
But they came and Ibalachim died
They killed, burned, destroyed
Everything and some moved away, and on

But I never did
Part of me is buried there
My father’s headless body
My mother’s house and pride
My laughter and dreams
These I left behind, and now

I am on the run
Infected and affected by the sokugo,
A wandering disease
I am a messiah of Mia Sonsaye
A child born of the hero of Burning Grass