For many of us, 2016 was a tough year. We witnessed widespread human rights violations across the globe, terrorism, mass shootings, hate crimes, racism, political turmoil, and said goodbye to many influential people. All this in addition to our own personal struggles. At times we cried, we were enraged, we were heartbroken and we were empty. Some of us protested, some volunteered and some donated resources to do our small part to bring peace, love and acceptance to all. We are looking for a way to be the hope/peace/love/joy we want to see in the world, and a way to right the injustices we see all around us.
I understand that my privilege allows me to volunteer my time and my resources to social justice initiatives even though my lived experience prohibits me from truly understanding. I will be starting 2017 in Brooks County at Sacred Heart Cemetery continuing the exhumations we started in 2013 and 2014. We worked with Baylor University to remove over 100 unidentified migrants from the ground so they could begin their journey towards identification and repatriation. Volunteering to bring awareness to this humanitarian crisis, to bring closure to family members and to give a voice to a marginalized population feels like the most appropriate way to start the new year and put the trials of 2016 in the past.
This trip will be different than previous seasons in several ways. This year we will be joined by faculty and students from Texas State University. We have worked with them the last two years in the lab and are eager to work with them in the field as well. Our previous trips have occurred in May or June, so a January trip should be more comfortable for the manual labor we will be conducting at the cemetery. In addition to the UIndy forensics team, we will also be joined by a group of cultural anthropologists from UIndy. Supervised by Dr. Alyson O’Daniel, they will be conducting participant observation at the cemetery and community outreach at the South Texas Human Rights Center. My family will also be joining me to better understand what I do during these trips to Falfurrias.
I look forward to working with an amazing group of people from UIndy, TX State, the Brooks County Sheriff Office and the local community. I am eager to catch up with our friends in Falfurrias and continue to contribute our small part to these identification efforts. Happy New Year to you all!