The Dream Resource Center and Black Unity Center hosted an event titled “UndocuJoy: Shifting Narratives from Pain to Joy with Denea Joseph” on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at the Three Towers Conference Center.

The event featured main speaker and national immigrant rights activist Denea Joseph. Joseph gave an hour and a half long speech and conversation with audience members regarding Black undocumented people and the narratives behind undocumented status.

Joseph migrated to the U.S. from Belize at age 7 and is a current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient.

As a Black undocumented immigrant, Joseph sought to highlight the Black undocumented experience and educate SF State students on the many narratives that surround the immigrant community in the U.S. and the importance of being able to shift those narratives into something positive.

According to AB 540 Dream Coordinator Norma Salcedo, the goal of the event was to demonstrate the intersectionality of immigration and the importance of innovation when speaking about these topics.

Contrary to popular perception, Joseph emphasized the fact that the Black undocumented community is small in representation, but not small in numbers. She encouraged Black undocumented students to be more outspoken and stated that marginalized people have the power to shift misconceptions.

“A lot of undocumented and Black people aren’t open about our experiences, aren’t open about our identities and aren’t open about the struggles that we face in this nation on a daily basis,” Joseph said. “Immigration is a Black issue.”

Joseph became very aware of how her citizenship status affected her when she began to apply to colleges and realized that she did not qualify to receive the same resources as her peers.

Joseph urges immigrants, specifically Black undocumented immigrants, to speak out and include themselves in spaces that people don’t expect for them to be.

“We are the most impacted [people], why shouldn’t we be in these spaces?” said Joseph.

Guests at the event appreciated the emphasis on the intersectionality of undocumented status. SF State student Erick Peraza thought that the event created a space for diversity that is often not represented within the larger immigrant community.

“I wanted to come to this event because it’s somewhere that I knew I would see other people that don’t look like myself,” said Peraza.

Joseph also highlighted the need for change in the narrative surrounding all undocumented immigrants.

Joseph cited the term ‘undocujoy,’ as defined by Define American as “combating the victimization of undocumented immigrants by flooding the media with authentic images of happiness.”

Joseph believes that undocumented immigrants should begin to refute the negative images that are associated with them and reclaim their truth by portraying themselves in a more positive light.

“How can we, as directly affected people, show up, show out and tell our own stories and experiences the way that we know it? Because we know it differently than the mainstream media does. Undocujoy is exactly that,” said Joseph.

She believes that through changing the narrative of undocumentation to be more positive, undocumented immigrants, of all races, should not be used as governmental pawns but to rightfully claim the space and voice that they deserve.

Joseph urges students to become educated about the world around them. She encourages students to educate themselves and be active community members, regardless of their inability to vote because of their status.

She predicts that the 2020 presidential elections will be a big triumph for the immigrant community because immigration is an issue where many have an opinion.

Joseph encourages all marginalized students to be outspoken and spread their undocujoy:

“When they deprive you from a seat at the table, you bring a folding chair,” said Joseph.

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