Courtney Bailey – Staff Writer
Welcoming refugees, reforming foreign policy, and extending a helping hand to those in need are only the beginning of award-winning author and journalist Sonia Nazario’s ideas for solving the hardships and horrors of immigration to the United States. On the evening of Oct. 27, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Enrique’s Journey spoke to an audience of nearly 500 students about the migration struggles of a young boy from Honduras and thousands like him. From violent beatings to gang rape, Nazario made the audience explicitly aware of the overwhelming difficulties immigrants face trying to cross the border.
Wingate University’s Austin Auditorium was alive with excitement and anticipation, hushing to an attentive silence as Nazario took the stage. Though she was of average height, the stature of Nazario’s character, and passion for the topics on which she spoke commanded the room, instantly drawing the attention of both students and other locals in the community.
“It’s an important issue,” Nazario began as she introduced the topic of her speech. “And a local issue. It’s a story of migrating to North Carolina.”
Nazario recounted the highlights of Enrique’s Journey to the audience, sharing how this 11 year-old boy traveled all the way from Honduras to Cary, North Carolina, to find his mother while riding freight trains, enduring beatings, and battling a drug addiction. Enrique is but one example of thousands like him who face such horrific circumstances in their home country that they are willing to make the dangerous journey to the United States, only to be inflicted with yet another trauma: the U.S. judicial system.
Nazario told how living in Argentina during the “Dirty War” in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s shaped her into the advocate she is today. After she saw two journalists killed in the streets of Buenos Aires for trying to tell the truth about the war, Nazario decided she, too, wanted to be a journalist and make the world aware of the tragedies happening in Central America.
“I saw the power of words that day—the power of storytelling,” Nazario said. “I wanted to be a truth-teller. I want to grab my readers by the throat and take them for a ride through worlds they might not have otherwise known.”
Nazario continues to place herself in the shoes of these immigrants to better tell their stories, urged the audience to do “the right thing” and look at America’s immigration issue not as a political issue, but rather as a humanity issue.
“I hope everyone will join me in being a voice for refugee children,” Nazario said as she came to a close. “Increase foreign aid. Lobby to increase the number of refugees we take in. I know that if we push with the determination I saw on top of that train, we can slowly, surely change things in Central America.This is a true test for our great country. Are we going to rise to the level of humanity that is required of us?”
Several audience members gave Nazario a standing ovation at the end of her speech as loud applause filled the auditorium, showcasing the poignant impact and inspiration Nazario had evoked in the crowd.
“Overall, the Lyceum was amazing,” freshman student Aji Njie said. “We were all amazed by the things she had to endure, and everyone was touched, honestly. My biggest take-away is not to take things for granted.”
Edited by Brooke Griffin