In Philadelphia, the “Salute to America” Independence Day parade, with its cohort of Founding Fathers came to a halt. In his tallit and kippah, Goddard student, Mordecai Martin sat calmly alongside about 30 other protesters, their arms linked and their voices in song, preventing the parade from moving forward.
The movement Never Again Action, which has organized this action and others in New York, Boston, Providence, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, describes itself as
a mass mobilization calling for Jews to shut down ICE and hold the political establishment accountable for enabling both the deportation machine that has separated immigrant families across the US for decades and the current crisis at the border. […]
We know from our own history what happens when a government targets, dehumanizes and strips an entire group of people of all their civil and human rights. (www.neveragainaction.com)
Mo Martin is finishing his BA in the Individualized Studies Program, where he employs hypertext poetics to explore the intersections of diasporic and indigenous geography, excavating the complex relationships between people, place, and story, as well as his own identity as a Jew living in a settler-colonial nation. This action is connected to that work, visibly confronting the celebration of United States as a narrative of freedom in a moment when refugees are being held in inhumane conditions in concentration camps near the Southern border.
Returning from jail with his citation for “failure to disperse,” Mo is thoughtful about what it means to take “imaginative and responsible action in the world” as Goddard’s mission requires. He is aware of the role that privilege and ability play in people’s dealings with the police, acknowledging “I was incredibly lucky that I was in a position mentally, physically, and financially to risk arrest.” Regarding those who share this privilege, he says:
As soon as each of us is ready, I think it is good to get used to being arrested, to think ‘If I am going to do what is right, it is going to get me in trouble.’
Mo also identified the importance that Goddard has as a community and institution that will support him in taking these risks:
I couldn’t have done this without Goddard College for two reasons. Goddard has contributed to my convictions, my politicization, my criticality and all of that, but it also makes it possible for me to do this in a more material way: I know that Goddard is a school that will not punish me for doing what I think is right, and I appreciate that.
Slowing down a parade, spending an afternoon in jail, a civil citation, these are small gestures in the face of the large-scale violence and dehumanization that is being enacted and attempted at southern border. But images matter, the dynamics of space and story are important, and any demonstration that systems of the status quo can be disrupted are essential to creating change that saves lives. Organizations like Never Again Action and Movimiento Cosecha can help to mobilize these disruptions into strategic power.
When Goddard College was founded in 1938 on the principle that democratic education could prevent the rise of global fascism, it sought to create learners that were also actors in the world, placing their beliefs and bodies in the way of dangerous narratives and systems of power. Student protests have long been a part of Goddard’s history and continue to play a role in the exploration of the student’s work in the world. That work is still unfinished and needed today as much as ever.