On Thursday of last week, in the bitter cold, I walked in silent circles around 26 Federal Plaza. If you are a U.S. citizen, particularly one whose citizenship isn’t contested, that address may not hold much meaning. For our undocumented neighbors and loved ones, it is a place of deep trauma.
For in our so-called sanctuary city, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has offices where the arbitrary violence of our immigration laws are inflicted on our community on a daily basis. The Jacob Javits Federal Building at 26 Federal Plaza, located only a stone’s throw from the African Burial Ground, and built upon the land of the Lenape and other Indigenous stewards, is an epicenter of that cruelty.
The New Sanctuary Coalition, working with Judson Memorial Church and other faith organizations, organizes a weekly Jericho Walk around 26 Federal Plaza. In silence, we circle the building. At end of each circle, we raise our hands toward the building in silent prayer. On the seventh circle, we read a prayer aloud and then scream in unison. Every week, this act of sanctuary is performed, sometimes by one hundred people, sometimes by ten.
It was here, in January of 2018, that I watched ICE take my friend Ravi Ragbir away. I was among hundreds of protestors who feared he’d be deported. A year later, almost to the day, I walked again and Ravi walked with us. In 2019, I’m committing to walking every Thursday that I can. Please join me.
I am not a religious person, but I believe certain things are sacred. When I participate in this Ethical Spectacle (in the words of Judson’s Micah Bucey), I feel the presence of the sacred. I feel the Beloved Community called into being at the very doorstep of its opposite. And in its performative power, I believe this walk is also an act of pure theatre.
I’ll be sharing my thoughts from these Jericho Walks over these coming weeks. I hope they inspire you to practice sanctuary wherever you are and however you can.