by Alexandra Toledo (2013 Byron Fellow)

The power of solidarity was made real for me last Monday night.

inspirersAbout two years ago, my partner in life, José, interrupted my studies to share an announcement: he wanted to make a documentary. And not any documentary: in the midst of the cold and prolonged debates about the Law of Immigration Reform, José wanted to tell the story of the Latino Immigrants in Bloomington, Indiana and connect it to the lives of their families in Mexico City. He wanted to make a tribute “to all those who are or are not of Latino-Hispanic heritage, who have dedicated their lives, personally or institutionally, to the support, promotion, and defense of the fundamental right of people in the condition of unrecognized ‘citizens’”.  Always a dreamer with multiple projects pending, José had never received any training in film. I looked up from my computer and responded with a nonchalant, OK. I wasn’t sure what would come of this inspiration.

He started taking his proposal to key figures around Indiana University and Bloomington, Indiana, where we live. He received a lot of rejections until he finally found a sponsor to film and produce the documentary. Between classes and work, he started fitting in interviews. I started to realize that this project was for real, and that it was incredibly important.

I got sucked into the project: attending interviews, reviewing film, translating the script, making connections, providing input and feedback, and developing ideas with him over dinner or walks. I learned to be in solidarity with this project, even though it wasn’t originally mine. I trusted his instinct and learned to support him in what might be the most important initiative he has undertaken so far. I definitely used some of that Byron training to stay patient and in tune with him when I didn’t see the whole vision the way he did.

On Monday, April 7th, Unfreedom: Latino Immigrants in a Midwest Town” premiered at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, Bloomington-Indiana.  unfreedom

It was José’s dream to see the film’s name on the marquee. It was his dream to show the film to a full house. It was his dream to tell the diverse stories of Latino immigrants in our town. It was his dream to have music composed especially for the film.

All of his dreams came true.

I had my own dreams: that the movie would be ready in time (finished the day of, with three hours to spare!), that people would come on a rainy night of the NCAA championships in a Big Ten town (nearly 250!), that our family would be there to share the moment (both of our parents!), that we could collect donations for this fully volunteer, self-funded project (we got a lot of collaboration!). And, beyond all that, I wanted to create a space of political action. So I wrote a petition and got over a hundred signatures to push the vote for Migration Reform forward in the House of Representatives.

Through solidarity, my dreams came true, too.

Photos by Robert Baxter