Last week the ASAP team traveled to Alabama for a wonderful staff retreat. During the retreat, we spent quality time visiting cultural sites in Montgomery and Selma, doing team-building activities, cooking together, and learning more about each other’s work at the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP). We also welcomed two new additions to our team, Zachary Manfredi and Dennise Moreno, making our retreat the largest gathering of ASAP’s staff to-date!
We spent our first day in Montgomery at the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The Legacy Museum immersed us in audio and visual installations that highlighted histories of racial slavery and mass incarceration. At the National Memorial, these histories manifested as visceral feelings. As the nation’s first memorial dedicated to victims of lynching, the site pushed us to think about the role of mourning in a true and honest account of racial injustice in America.
The next day, we headed to Selma to visit the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute. Created by community organizers, the museum documented the famous marches from Selma to Montgomery and passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The museum focused on profiles and direct accounts of civil rights activists and local residents, including many who contributed outside the media’s eye. We then visited the iconic Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the marches began.
These experiences enabled our staff to make powerful connections between civil rights activism and our own work as immigrants’ rights advocates. After the retreat, Staff Attorney Zachary Manfredi reflected: “The retreat was an excellent way to start working at ASAP. Not only did I get to spend time face-to-face with our incredible remote team, but visiting the EJI museum and other historic sites of the civil rights struggle motivated me to dive into our work! It was an inspiration to see how past activists fought against insurmountable odds, and it was also a great opportunity to think about how our own work connects to longer legacies of advocacy for justice.”
Litigation Paralegal Marilyn Alvarado also shared: “Spending a few days with folks in Selma and Montgomery at both the EJI Museum and the Voting Rights Museum was an intense and at times challenging experience, but it was incredible to witness how much of our work intersects with the civil rights movement and its history. I felt inspired learning about the struggles and triumphs of the activists before me and freshly motivated knowing that our team will continue to center the resilience of asylum seekers in the face of adversity.”