Moral Monday speaker also praises Guilford

“The future of our state and our nation deserves no less than for us not to give up,” said the youngest speaker at the Burlington Moral Monday protest, 12-year-old Madison Kimrey.

The Moral Monday movement has been passing from city to city throughout North Carolina, protesting legislation passed by the N.C. General Assembly. The movement came to Burlington on Oct. 28.

The protest featured a speech by Irving Zavaleta ‘08, who told his personal immigration story and also praised of Guilford College. After the protest, he met with The Guilfordian to discuss the event and his own experiences.

“I think that people need to hear these stories about the struggles people go through in order to come (to the U.S.),” said Zavaleta. “I am not here to take anyone else’s job. I am here to contribute to the Alamance (County) community, and I am here to outlive the struggles and the challenges of being Latino in this country.”

The protest encouraged immigration reform against policies that restrict educational opportunities for undocumented immigrants.

“Somehow, many of America’s powerful thinkers have locked minds,” said CCE senior Toni Etheridge in an email interview. “I think they have forgotten that the power of education develops minds.

“Why not invest in these children that will grow up to be leaders?”

Etheridge works for the American Friends Service Committee, a  Quaker organization that is associated with the Moral Monday protests.

Zavaleta told The Guilfordian his powerful story of crossing the border from Mexico and enumerated the dangers of the journey.

“Before coming to the States, I spent two nights and three days in the desert,” said Zavaleta. “It was a very life-changing experience for me. I haven’t seen death so closely than I did then. The rest of the people didn’t wait for you; they just cared about themselves.”

Zavaleta also thanked Guilford for giving him the opportunity to get an education and for its helpful policies towards immigrants.

“Back then, I had only been in this country for a few years, speaking English for two years, writing for a few months,” said Zavaleta. “Guilford gave me an opportunity to learn, to develop myself as a leader, as a professional. I would not be who I am without the Bonner (Scholars) Program.”

Many others share his story and perspective.

“I have personally seen the dilemmas faced when a family is forced to leave the country,” said first-year Cassidy Bennett. “During my high school years, I volunteered at my local Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, and I have seen many families deported and discussions of what to do with their children.”

The Moral Monday group will continue to fight for immigration reform and the rights of people like Zavaleta.

“We will stand like a tree for health care,” said N.C. NAACP coalition coordinator Rev. Curtis Gatewood to the Moral Monday crowd. “We will stand like a tree for education. We will stand like a tree against voter oppression. We will stand like a tree for justice.”