Serena Prammanasudh, Executive Director of Dream Action Oklahoma, was one of the speakers for the 2019 award ceremony. These are her remarks as prepared.
Thank you to the UN Association Oklahoma City Chapter for inviting me and giving DAOK this space to raise our voices.
Dream Action Oklahoma turned 10 this year – 10 years of volunteer-based, youth-led grassroots community organizing against deportations, against criminalization. Ten years of fighting for access to higher education, pushing for DACA renewals, fighting racist legislation, and advocating for Oklahoman immigrant communities. We have done this work unpaid, but not for free. In this work there’s no line between personal and professional. We relive the trauma of migration and separation when we fight with families whose loved ones are detained. We do this work because we are directly affected, and we do this work because our own lives depend on it. We feel like quitting every single day, but we don’t.
I almost backed out of giving remarks today because I’m on the verge of getting sick, but when I thought about who would be that voice for the immigrant community in this space, I got all my healing home remedies to get me through the day. Let’s be clear. This is not an exceptional social & political moment in history. Weaponization and manipulation of immigration policy IS U.S. policy. Criminalization of immigrants and black and brown bodies IS US custom. But guess what? Fighting for civil and human rights IS the people’s tradition.
This is not an exceptional social & political moment in history, but we have an exceptional opportunity to disrupt and dismantle the very systems of oppression that not only perpetuate separation of families, but also poverty, mass incarceration, and brutality against black, brown, indigenous, and queer bodies. We start small. We start local. We let the directly affected lead, and we work in coalitions. It is not easy, and it never stops. I literally am leaving right after this to go to our weekly coalition meetings.
Let’s be real. To immigrate is to be human. A wall is a betrayal of all that is human. We cannot forget to ground ourselves in that we are on stolen land. Land taken from indigenous peoples by genocide and forced removal. Land where borders crossed them, not the other way around.
I am NOT undocumented, and I hope I’m one of the last non undocumented people to lead this organization. I married into a mixed status family, and I was born into an immigrant family.
Recently, I was able to uncover more about my maternal grandmother’s journey to this country. I confirmed that my great grandmother took her own life instead of being tortured by the communist party and that my grandma at 12 years old, was smuggled into Hong Kong and into Vancouver, Canada to escape the communist party take over. She then found herself is California, Texas, and finally Enid, Oklahoma.
I also learned that your grandma’s trauma leaves marks on your genes and lays the map for your own nervous system, which explains a lot about myself and my family. While trauma is inherited, I know I also inherited the resilience and strength from my Huhu. I know that I am here to stay, the undocumented and unafraid are here to stay, the undocuqueer are here to stay.
We envision and will build a world in which immigration is not done out of desperation but is rather a joyful, exciting, and welcoming experience. We are building a world in which everyone has the freedom to move, the freedom to stay, the freedom to thrive, and the freedom to transform. Now is the time to be bold.