Have you noticed that during times of overwhelm, the smallest things manage to stand out? Today was overwhelming in its excitement, confusion, and exhaustion. New witnesses came with their rad signs, high energy, and innate sense of effective protesting; members of the press toured the facility and spent time talking with us before and after, contradicting each other, offering competing narratives, and giving us different interpretations of their tour; one staff member pretended to run me down with his car, swerving away at the last minute; I accidently made off with someone’s car keys, stranding her at the Homestead site; lines of plain clothed employees walked to and from trainings; and another witness brought balloons which rose and dived in the wind. With all of this, though, I cannot stop thinking about hats.
Over the last few days, we have noticed that all of the staff members have baseball caps. Especially when they are on the field, this is crucial as there is no shade. The Florida sun is no joke (I have been wearing a combination of 70 and 100 spf and my chest, neck, and fingers are thoroughly burned). For the staffs’ own safety, they are all issued baseball caps.
And yet, none of the children wear hats. They are in the same Florida sun on the same shadeless field. The children’s clothes are given to them by the detention center. So why no hats?
I asked one of the reporters if he would include this in the questions he asked during the tour (along with other questions about safety, education, and sexual assaults). He did inquire and sure enough, the children are not issued hats. Why? Because the kids would get the hats “too sweaty.”
So, no hats for the kids. Because, you know, kids sweat. And they might do so in a hat.
They are given shirts. When the new group of witnesses went over to the fence with their beautiful banners, they began shouting, “Los Vemos, Los Queremos”, “We see you! We love you!” The kids got so excited that some of them pulled off their shirts and began waving them in the air. I can see why! This group of witnesses had great energy, loud voices, and knew just what to say.
For the most part, the reporters were incredibly friendly. They shared what they saw and learned. One in particular let me pepper him with questions about his experience and did his best to answer each one. I am not naming the reporters here because I did not ask their permission to blog about them. I will repost their reports as they come out.
Their experience on the tour did hearten me. It turns out we were wrong about where the kids’ bunks are. The tents we saw them filing into actually house the education center. While the reporter with whom I spoke said he did not see any books himself, the staff told him there are books available. He also said that the teacher to student ration is 1 to 36. This is better than I had heard.
Another reporter was eager to tell us that she saw children laughing and smiling. Yes, this is good news. It is not definitive news, though. Children in the midst of trauma still laugh, hang out with friends, and smile. It is the nature of children to do so. Seeing children laugh is not proof that they are happy. I hope these children are happy. I hope they are well cared for by the staff. The point is, though, that we do not know. There is no oversight.
I am still processing the information the reporters shared with us. I am also eager to read and watch their reports.
Mostly, I just want to gift thousands of hats to children standing in the sun.
3 thoughts on “Hats”
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Andi- i just came across these blogs and they’re absolutely fabulous! They just leave me feeling like I’m still there with the kiddos at Homestead.
I just returned from spending debate week at the children’s prison. I’m from NH so a group of us had birddogged all the presidential candidates (over & over) to raise their voices against separating families and against putting children in prisons – at all, much less not for months at a time). We specifically pressed them to commit to visiting the detention center when they go to Miami for the debates. Many candidates were sympathetic but few would commit to scheduling a time to visit. I understand that, but I flew down there not knowing whether anyone other than Eric Swalwell and Marianne Williamson would even show up.
Fortunately Swalwell’s appearance brought some media attention, and about 10 of us drove up to Miami Tuesday to Wlizabeth Warrens town hall, where we birddogged her again. This time she said “I’m going to Homestead tomorrow” and she invited everyone in the room to go with her. (She hired two large buses to bring supporters with her the next morning.)
Of course, this catalyzed tons of media, and from Wednesday through Friday we had 9 candidates arrive to witness and show support for the incarcerated children.
After the madness ended, I went back to the stepladders and watched the kids and again made sure they knew that “estoy con ustedes.” Their smiles and waves and hearts once again melted me. I carried them back to the airport and to NH (I wish I could have physically carried them back), where they remain in mi corazon.
So thank you for bringing those vivid and precious images to me once again. I hope you publish more of your beautiful writing and photos. I can’t get enough of them.