May 202010

By Michael Dean Benton

In the spirit of the civil rights champion Cesar Chavez a group of students and staff at Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) organized a Hunger Strike to bring attention to the bipartisan Dream Act 2010 that is currently before Congress.

In April 2010, during a United We Dream meeting in North Carolina at which 80 people from 20 different states participated, Erin Howard, Roy Roman and Alexis Meza, who were representing Kentucky’s Dream Coalition, overheard participants from another state discussing their past accomplishments. Their discussion mentioned a hunger strike and how it influenced their state representatives to sit down with them to talk about the Dream Act.

At 7:00 PM on Friday, May 14, 2010, 25 Kentucky residents from all across the state began a 65 hour fast in an effort to gain support from Kentucky Congressional Representatives Ben Chandler and Brett Guthrie and Senators Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (S. 729 / HB. 1751) is a bipartisan proposal which would create a pathway to earned legalization for thousands of young students who were brought to the United States years ago as children. The Dream Act is a practical, fair yet tough solution that upholds the best of our shared American values of equal opportunity, accountability and strong work ethics.

The fast at BCTC was preceded by a community meal in honor of the participants and included song, poetry and prayer. Community members who did not participate showed up to show their support for the student fasters. Throughout the weekend, the bulk of the participants remained on Bluegrass Community and Technical College’s Cooper Campus in an effort to show their dedication to higher education. They were joined by fasters in other parts of KY, including at Berea and Asbury Colleges, and at Kentucky State University.

“I am fasting. I am speaking out for those who have no voice, those whom for so long have been hiding; those who only want a better future, our students,” proclaimed Luis Martinez, a DREAM student waiting for an opportunity to go to college to be trained in the medical field. “We don’t want amnesty; we aren’t asking for welfare checks. We just want a chance to be someone, a chance to make our dreams of higher education come true. We want to serve this country, this society. We want to be doctors, lawyers, teachers; we want to serve in the military forces, we want an opportunity to turn those dreams into reality,” he continued.

Iraq War Veteran Alexander Roman added that “everyone participating in the Fast knows family or friends who are unable to pursue their dream of college because they are undocumented. Most people in America, whether they recognize it or not, depend on these undocumented workers whose children have matriculated in the American K-12 educational system and when they graduate they are told they cannot go to college.”

BCTC student Roy Roman added: “For the people out there who don’t believe what we are doing is correct, not supporting our youth, our children and destroying their future is essentially destroying the promising future of this country.”

The event was being observed and commented on through social media and cell phones by members of the United We Dream, Dream Activists and other supporters across the nation. Throughout the hunger strike the students received words of encouragement from members from California to New York and all points between. Included in the messages were comments of other groups planning to hold future fasts in other parts of the country to support the Dream Act legislation.

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