Now in our fourth decade, we hope you’ll consider a gift of $40 or more toward the $25,000 we need to raise this spring to keep building our movement of solidarity with marginalized and vulnerable communities in Latin America, at our border, in immigration detention facilities, and on the streets of Cleveland. To make a tax-deductible contribution, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/donate or send your check to: IRTF, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113
Dear Friend of IRTF,
My name is Emily Terry and I have recently joined the Board of Trustees for IRTF after serving as an intern for the organization almost a decade ago. I came to IRTF with a grateful heart after searching for a local working group that explicitly named and challenged the violent structures of Western imperialism. I was raised in a working class family that made many sacrifices to ensure that I was educated in the Catholic faith tradition. Growing up, I was taught that each individual has the power to affect change in their environment and felt that I was being inspired to uplift others by engaging in mutual aid and radical solidarity. I never forgot the lessons I learned about the Corporal Works of Mercy, nor the example my parents set in treating everyone they encountered with compassion. My family and educators taught me to see the beautiful worthiness of every human being and to carefully scrutinize any narrative that threatens the sacred dignity of every person in my community, especially those who are made vulnerable by systems of oppression.
I come from a family with a history of fighting this oppression here in the United States. My grandfather enrolled himself at Memphis State University during a time when our country was aggressively enforcing racial segregation at every level of education. While my grandfather became the first Black man to integrate Memphis State, his brother, my great uncle John, later became the first Black man to take a case to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to combat racial profiling by police and to protect poor and Black people from warrantless search and seizure by law enforcement. He did not win his 1968 case, but the arguments he brought forward forced the Court to articulate a response to mounting evidence that police officers routinely violated the constitutional rights of Black citizens. The ruling made by the Court in my uncle’s case, Terry v. Ohio, set a precedent for the widely criticized “stop and frisk” practices employed by police today.
I learned about my family’s history right before entering college. I enrolled at John Carroll University with the knowledge that my relatives risked their safety to disrupt white supremacy and move every person in this country closer to real freedom. During my time at John Carroll, I was taught about peacebuilding and human rights advocacy. I ventured on an immersion trip with fellow students to Guatemala, where native guides shared stories about their relationship to the land surrounding el Lago de Atitlán. Those guides brought us to fields where coffee beans are cultivated, and we worked long hours with them to harvest beans for processing. We later visited the city of Antigua, where we witnessed the effects of policy-based poverty and listened to stories from some of Guatemala’s survivors of gender-based violence. I came back to the U.S. from Central America with a great respect for the richness of a culture and the strength of a people who have endured through decades of theft by capitalists.
Soon after my trip to Guatemala, the InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Colombia presented me with an opportunity to take a stand against international labor and land exploitation. IRTF invited students from the university to join in the work of dismantling racial capitalism and co-creating a world where it is possible for our neighbors at home and in the Global South to live in peace. Right from the start of my internship, I was impressed by the daily efforts made by IRTF staff to spotlight the human rights abuses inflicted by corporate intruders and the military forces that are often trained in the U.S and deployed to Latin America to defend corruption. For years, IRTF has diligently reported attacks made on journalists, activists, and other social leaders throughout this region. Beginning in 1987 with Guatemala and expanding to Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Colombia, IRTF staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to report the persecution of people who are fighting to end capitalist violence. Through an established letter-writing system, IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) makes it possible for organizers to directly call on leaders in the aforementioned countries to stop the intimidation, criminalization, and murder of political dissenters. IRTF’s RRN letters are also sent to congresspersons, ambassadors, representatives of the United Nations and officers of the U.S. State Department. Any IRTF supporter can read these letters and sign up to support this network here: https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn .
As I learned about IRTF’s efforts to hold officials in Central America and Colombia accountable for their duty to investigate and prosecute human rights abuses, I saw that people in my hometown were in need of the same type of advocacy. I can remember the moment I learned about the killing of Tamir Rice by Cleveland police in 2014. I was deeply affected by the national conversation around young Tamir’s death. I found myself marching in the streets with other protesters calling for charges to be brought against the officers who took Tamir’s life. It was clear to me that the colonial power structure used to suppress people in the Global South was the same structure propagating racist violence here in the United States. Recognizing that the legacy of colonial power must be confronted in order to liberate people in North America and Latin America, IRTF has historically resisted white supremacy and imperialism through direct actions like letter-writing, public education (social justice “teach-in” workshops with students and Liberation Labs with community leaders), and critical news sharing through the organization’s monthly Migrant Justice Newsletter, available to readers at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/blog .
Nearly one decade after I first became involved with the InterReligious Task Force as an intern, many of the same colonial forces continue to threaten the dignity of our close neighbors here and our siblings abroad. Just like people in Central America and Colombia continue to experience assaults on their personhood, land, and culture, people in the United States are struggling to secure basic resources and safety. We are frequently met with news about mass shootings as well as rising food and utility prices, all while the threat of COVID-19 infection looms overhead. In 2022, we heard about groups of migrant refugees being sent from one side of the country to another, sometimes separated from their loved ones, by cruel politicians who sought to earn praise from their xenophobic supporters. These migrants crossed the border in dire need of our help, just like the Haitian immigrants who were charged and corralled by Border Patrol agents on horses under our current presidential administration. This same type of cruelty is aimed at U.S. citizens by law enforcement officers around this country. We witness families cry for justice after unarmed brothers and sons are shot by police before we turn to the next news network and see that our water and air have been poisoned due to deregulation and unfettered corporate greed.
“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” – The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 1967
I believe that now more than ever we need organizations like IRTF that are working to shift power away from militant capitalists and back into the hands of the working poor and the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. When we reach out with love to welcome the migrant at our border or open our hearts to receive the message of the water protector in El Salvador, we are one step closer to a more peaceful and just world. IRTF has helped me to be able to act on the love that I feel for my community. I am proud to serve on the Board of Trustees with organizers who recognize that radical solidarity must transcend geographical boundaries. I invite friends of the organization to join us in the fight for social, economic, and environmental justice. Please consider making a gift to IRTF so we can continue to work toward collective liberation.
IRTF Board of Trustees
P.S. Now in our fourth decade, we hope you’ll consider a gift of $40 or more toward the $25,000 we need to raise this spring to keep building our movement of solidarity with marginalized and vulnerable communities in Latin America, at our border, in immigration detention facilities, and on the streets of Cleveland. To donate to IRTF, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/donate or send your tax-deductible contribution to: IRTF, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113
To learn more, volunteer, and sign up for IRTF’s email list, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/get-involved
IRTF Board of Trustees: Rachel Rosen DeGolia, Victoria Hamilton, Yolanda King (chair), Melaak Rashid, Akshai Singh, Kimberley Spates (treasurer), Lisa Splawinski (secretary), Emily Terry
IRTF: InterReligious Task Force on Central America & Colombia, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113, (216) 961 0003