BY SALENA IBRAHIM | March 12, 2021
“We’re here for you.”
One by one, the students unmuted themselves to offer words of encouragement and support to their peers. The love emanating from the very core of their collective being could be felt, even through the computer screen. These students, the Titan Dreamers, had managed to create a sacred community built on trust, compassion, and their deepest hopes for the future. Together, they held one another’s stories of resiliency and offered them up—arms outstretched, palms open, and hearts rooted in the work of justice.
Titan Dreamers is a community of five students from the University of Detroit Mercy who have all been impacted by DACA or are part of mixed-status families. They include co-presidents Marina Mahmud and Adriana Guillen, Eber Romo, Ana Lopez, and Jorge Acevado. These students began envisioning the creation of more on-campus immigration-related education and advocacy opportunities in September 2020. Each of them felt an undeniable urge to advocate for just immigration policies, and their inner spark only burned brighter throughout the 2020 election season.
With the guidance of Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) staff and Detroit Mercy’s university minister for service and justice, the students gave themselves the name of Titan Dreamers and began meeting regularly. They developed crucial skills in writing agendas, keeping meeting minutes, networking with other community organizers, and planning a campus-wide event. In collaboration with university ministry, the English department, and Detroit Mercy libraries, the Titan Dreamers planned and held the campus’ first Undocu-Student Week between March 8 and 12, 2021, all in the midst of a global pandemic and virtual learning. Students, faculty, and staff from Jesuit campuses across the country joined in solidarity and support of the event.
Detroit Mercy’s Undocu-Student Week began with guest speaker and alumna Maria Ibarra-Frayre ‘12 sharing her story and advocacy work with We the People in Michigan. The university community was joined later that week by José Arnulfo Cabrera (ISN’s director of education and advocacy for migration) and Alex Vernon (Detroit Mercy School of Law), who addressed current DACA policies and immigration legislation. In addition to providing opportunities for education and reflection, the Titan Dreamers invited other students into sacred communion with one another by holding a virtual open mic night. The shared poems, songs, and stories of bravery in the face of hostility became intricately interwoven into a fabric of belonging. To conclude the week, students met with a representative from Michigan State Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office as part of Ignatian Family Advocacy Month. They advocated for more humane policies surrounding detention and enforcement as well as a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. Throughout the collaboration process, each of the students continually sought ways to challenge themselves and grow as advocates.
For many of the Titan Dreamers, Undocu-Student Week was the first time they had ever shared their stories aloud or initiated opportunities for wide-scale conversation. These students have demonstrated a spirit of hospitality by welcoming the stranger, and they continue to embody a “faith that does justice” in their everyday lives. As they looked at one another through the computer screen with eyes full of hope, the Titan Dreamers, together, stood on Holy ground. Their individual dreams for the future, once held deep within, swirled in open space before converging into one collective promise that the work of justice belongs to us all. Advocacy work is never easy, yet the Titan Dreamers jumped in with smiles and not a moment’s hesitation. May their example serve as a reminder that even the smallest dream, if watered and nourished, can grow into a unifying reality greater than oneself.
Salena Ibrahim is an associate university minister and Jesuit Volunteer at the University of Detroit Mercy. She helps facilitate service and justice opportunities for university students.