Every year hundreds of thousands of people walk across the desert borderlands south of Tucson. During the past several weeks MobileWest has been recording stories of migrants heading north in search of work, as well as aid workers, human rights activists, and priests who put out water and food for those making the dangerous journey.
People often ask us Facilitators if only grandparents with lives full of stories are allowed to record a StoryCorps conversation. Not at all! In Tucson, for example, we recorded interviews in cooperation with high schools and after school programs. Listening to these conversations was a reminder of how interesting it is to hear the thoughts of people of all ages.
Sabir was interviewed by his friend and teacher Josh. Sabir is a refugee from Kenya and he talked about his dreams of working for the United Nations as a conflict mediator in refugee camps and war zones. His own life experiences have given him the inspiration to work on behalf of people that have suffered through similar traumas.
Ace, Donna, Priscilla, and Zack discussed parenthood and the concept of being cool. Ace commented, “I am so scared my children are going to inherit my un-coolness, I’ll wake up one morning and they will have sinus problems and sweater vests.”
Two best friends, Amani and Balamani, came in to talk about their perfect date, “a romantic trip to the Olive Garden, then dancing. ”
So as a message to the young and the old, you are welcome at StoryCorps!
Bruce Cole and Caz Springer, colleagues at Wingspan, an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community center in Tucson, came to the StoryCorps MobileBooth to remember Richard J. Heakin, Jr., a 21-year-old gay man who was visiting Tucson from Nebraska when he was attacked and killed by four teenagers while leaving a local bar near the downtown area on June 6, 1976.
Since 1976 there have been many changes in the LGBT community in Tucson, and nearly thirty years after Richard’s death, the city of Tucson decided to remember him and the hate crime that led to his death with a bench and plaque outside the county courthouse.
The plaque reads, “This memorial is placed in gratitude to Richard and all those who have sacrificed in the struggle to make Tucson a place where all persons can enjoy the freedom to be themselves, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression. We hereby commemorate a tragedy that has transformed us and our history into a triumph of community spirit.”
In 2003, Tucson passed a gender neutral Domestic Partnership (DP) Ordinance, the first domestic partner registry law in the state of Arizona. Bruce talked about how the ordinance now enables him the legal right to visit his life partner in the hospital, a right he was previously not afforded. Bruce talked about how one of the greatest lessons he takes away from response to Richard’s death is that people stand up for what they believe in, and if they keep making their voices heard, eventually there will be change.