by Angela Oh and Ming Tu, co-creators of Gift of Compassion
On August 1, 2018, a group calling themselves the Dream Riders embark on a bicycle riding campaign called “Journey to Justice: Citizenship4All.” The ride will start in Seattle and end more than 1,700 miles later in San Diego with 33 stops along the way.
The organizers include the Korean Resource Center (KRC), Los Angeles; the Hana Center; and NAKASEC (National Korean American Service and Education Consortium). The riders are Asian American young adults. Some are “Dreamers” (recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA). Others are undocumented young men and women—students, artists, and working people who have found ways to survive without legal protections and who have decided to come out of the shadows. Still others are supporters—friends, family, and people who want to highlight that there are Asian Americans among the Dreamers and undocumented. All are willing to put their bodies on the line to raise awareness about the need for comprehensive reform in the nation’s immigration policy so that the policy will allow for a pathway to citizenship.
The Gift of Compassion (GoC) is a Commonweal program based in Los Angeles that offers meditation as a healing, self-care practice. GoC is supporting the Dream Riders, in both material and non-material ways. We’ve helped find financing and supported networking to identify resources along the planned ride route. The first level of public education has been underway for months.
What we’ve learned so far: inter-generational partnerships are awesome! Elders can make huge contributions—our doing is in our being. We find that our years of activism and engagement in diverse communities (local, national, international) have opened ways for us to provide critically needed resources to the younger generation’s efforts. They are literally putting their bodies on the line. We find ourselves building the infrastructure of support for their success—reaching out to our friends, former co-workers, and colleagues who are engaged in continuing efforts to promote humanity, justice, dignity, compassion, and hope. It is inter-generational activism at work!
GoC shares weekly meditation with the lead rider, JungWoo Kim, based in Los Angeles, who says, “Yes, we are doing this as a campaign to educate about the need for citizenship for all; we are also young people who want to have some FUN in seeing this part of our country!” He continues, “We know there are risks, but life is a risk! We want to show other communities that we are here, we are committed, we contribute and make sacrifices, and we see America as home. Plus, for many of the riders, this is really important because they are finding strength and love by directly confronting their situation–they feel empowered and safe. This is allowing them to be unafraid, no matter what might happen with the politics of this country’s attitude toward immigrants.” While JungWoo takes on the responsibility of lead rider, Youngwoon Han (an organizer in Chicago), and Cori McMillan (a Korean American adoptee/organizer in Chicago) have been leading on managing the logistics to prepare for the ride. They have contacted faith organizations, community based organizations, immigrant rights groups, bike clubs, law schools, yoga studios, civil rights groups, and individuals who have offered support to sustain the riders along the route.
As the Dream Riders move across the physical terrain of the continent’s west coast, they will encounter the challenges of a lifetime in 37 days. For them, the barriers can be overcome by building conscience and consciousness in the attitude toward young immigrants who know only this country as home. For some of them, the physical challenges will be great but they are worth the effort. For all, the chance to change attitude and activate others is worth taking this journey—they are riding to reach home, and to teach about hope. Change in immigration policy is the goal—but the journey in getting to the goal is as important as reaching it.