The artist proposed to write a series of songs based on interviews with people who have been deported from the United States. “I will begin by developing relationships with NGOs serving deported communities abroad,” he proposed. Very few organizations responded to his inquiries. It turns out that these organizations may have other priorities. It turns out that they may have their hands full. In the end, he met most of the people that he interviewed the old-fashioned way. On Facebook.
I read about you in the newspaper.
I am writing to ask if I can talk with you.
I am writing to ask if you will tell me about your experience.
Your experience of being removed.
Thank you for your consideration.
It turns out that many people didn’t want to talk about this experience.
“It’s honestly emotional labor for me to talk about it.”
“What is in it for us, the ones who give you our feelings/emotions?”
It turns out that they had some very good points. Most people didn’t tell him this though. Most people simply didn’t write him back.
When someone did write him back, he sat at his computer and asked them questions. They would speak for twenty minutes, or two hours. Once he interviewed someone at a coffee shop in his neighborhood. During these interviews, the subjects of the interview sometimes cried.
They were not crying about what had happened.
They were crying about what was still happening.
After the interview, the interviewer sometimes cried. He would put his head in his hands, exhausted by the story. The story of removal. Because the story of removal was also the story of separation. His subjects had, each one of them, left someone behind. In one place or the other. A story of separation is exhausting, because it’s a story without an ending.
And a story without an ending isn’t really a story.
It is just an ongoing record of events.
It is just a broken record.
It seemed like it would never stop.
It seemed like we had our hands full.
* * *
“A Record Of Deported Persons” is a collection of songs adapted from interviews with people who have been deported from the United States. These songs will be released and performed in November of 2019. The entire project – including the interview process, writing, recording and performance – is supported by the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance.