Migration & Displacement in Colombia (2016)

Program: Gural Scholars
Class of: 2017

In May 2016, the Class of 2017 embarked on a 10-day journey to Colombia, traveling to various cities and meeting with local organizations to discuss issues affecting the Afro-Colombian community. Topics included gentrification and racism, and parallels were drawn between issues present in the United States and Colombia. Building off of past projects piloted by the cohort, the trip connected Scholars to the lives of activists fighting daily to preserve their communities and ancestral land.

Partnered with the the Black Communities Process (Proceso de Comunidades Negras-PCN), the Scholars learned about the political history of the Afro-Colombian people, and the present struggles to save their land from outside influence and force. The trip highlighted the importance of being able to live off the land, and included trips to artisanal mines, where the Scholars were able to see the process of mining for gold, and even participated by helping to pull rocks into the correct position to be broken down. Gold mining was one of the ways community members earned income, and strengthened their bond as a collective group.

The trip to Colombia also provided the cohort with the opportunity to bring their yearly project to another country and audience. Before departure, the Scholars presented "Borders, What's Up With That?" to a group of their New School peers and faculty members. The purpose of their project was to reframe the discussion on migration in terms of recent political events/the presidential election, while sharing stories of immigration and the meaning behind them. Those involved in the conversation talked about the stereotypes and prejudice felt by themselves or their migrant relatives, as well as the reality of the "American Dream" for those who held the title of immigrant. The project also featured a "decolonized" map for people to visually depict their own path of migration - with New York City as the final destination. This project was discussed and recreated in Bogota and Buenaventura when the Scholars were in Colombia with members of the PCN. The cohort and those in the PCN shared stories and created a space where common struggles of forced migration could be analyzed, while discussing what methods of resistance were being utilized.

During their senior year, the Class of 2017 Scholars shared their experience in Colombia with the New School and beyond through Community Report-Back event. They hope to spread awareness of Afro-Colombian resistance, bravery, and power.