by Steffi Puerto
Bright colors, dance, laughter, singing, and conversation filled up the entire day in Goudi’ni (known as Arcata, California). Community organizations and members walked together from Arcata Playhouse to Carson Park to participate in the second annual Migration Day event on Oct. 1. By following the rhythm of the foot, the community was able to create solidarity and connections with one another by walking together.
The Migration Day event is a procession that celebrates the communities and cultures that reside in Goudi’ni. There were conversations and performances including theater movement, poetry, puppets and visual arts.
Laura Muñoz, Round Story Coordinator and Enlace Communitaria for Arcata Playhouse was the main organizer of “Migrations.” She welcomed everyone to the event, speaking in English and Spanish. Muñoz explained the significance of celebrating migration.
“Migrations have happened since the beginning of the earth, and they will continue to happen,” Muñoz said. “It’s a dynamic that happens in the natural world, now we as humans know it holds this social, political and economical component, all of this celebrates migrations.”
There were seven procession locations and stops along the journey. At each location, walkers and community members engaged in different activities and performances that encompassed acts of migration in a localized fashion.
The first location was at 8th Street Mural, where the Playhouse Movement Choir performed in theatrics. They made various animal noises as they moved with cutouts of fish, some dressed as crows, and others wearing wings of butterflies. These are all migratory species of animals that travel long distances in their natural life cycle.
The next location was at El Jardin Santuario. Here, Centro del Pueblo organizers gave walkers cempasúchil, an Aztec marigold significant in an Indigenous culture that is traditionally used to honor the dead. In this case, it was used to honor migrants who have lost their lives while crossing borders.
At G Street under the Cal Poly Humboldt Bridge, mobile musicians Ponies of Harmony carried their instruments on their bikes, singing songs as walkers listened and rested in the shade.
At Cahill Park, members of Humboldt Asian, Pacific Islanders in Solidarity (HAPI) guided walkers through the history of the Eureka Chinese Exclusion Act of 1885. These stories also embraced the resistance, resilience, and return of Chinese migrants despite the racism they faced during their migration.
Jones Creek Affirmation Bridge is where Caroline Griffith from the Northcoast Environmental Center welcomed everyone to walk in a “V” formation, to migrate together and enjoy the ambiance and ecological system of our environment. Like many of the animals that inhabit that environment, they also migrate near and far.
Abelos Gaumot, a Tribal Forestry major at Cal Poly Humboldt and the president of the Indian Tribal & Educational Personnel Program, joined and participated in the march. He felt motivated to stay after he wandered into the event, and was welcomed by participants.
“Realizing that we’re all in this crazy life together, and that’s not a human perspective it’s also including the plants, animals, and the environment,” said Gaumot.
At Chevret-Vaissade Park, Julio Cesar-Tores Garcia sang to the audience as they gathered together in the grass. Marchers rested there before the long walk to the Potawot Health Village.
This is where Yurok community outreach specialist Laura Woods shared a personal story of loss, growth, and acceptance. She invited the community of participants to write down their stories and tear them up after they were done.
“I hope people take away something useful that they can use to release things that don’t serve them or their higher good, so they can travel lighter,” Woods said.
The parade concluded with someone in a 12 foot tall, flower-crowned Mother Earth costume leading walkers across Carlson Park at Mad River Parkway, where they cheered and waved flags celebrating the beauty of their own small migration.