Young boys such as Beni have daily struggles that we as American children could never even fathom. We grew up with a home… with a nationality… with an identity… while 13 and 14 year old boys from sub-saharan Africa have grown up without being able to have a true home. Attempting to cross the border into Europe, these “brotherhood” refugees fight for more than just their own personal survival and freedom, but for their entire family’s back home as well.
“Every time you cross, you learn something new. You test your will.” — Dikembe, Brotherhood Chief
Compared to a military mission, each boy’s crossing is highly trained and planned for, months in advance. Beni’s Chief, Dikembe, even says that he prepares ahead of time wile knowing that he will lose some of his brothers along the way. With the goal being only one brother to make it across the fence, this mission is almost impossible. Yet these are the people who are relied on by so many families. In the U.S., these kids wouldn’t be able to get their drivers’ permit, but in their world, they run with the honor of the entire family on their backs. The ones who are successful and make it across are identified as “heroes” for the brothers behind them, hoping to one day be fortunate enough to “live the dream” as a prep cook or a cement mixer.
I found this video that shows some of the “razor” wire fence that Dr. Alexander discusses. What I had imagined first reading “The Crossing” cannot even compare to the imagery in the video itself.
I am now 21 years old, and cannot imagine having to take care of my family now. Reading about these peoples’ lives breaks my heart… and I feel selfish to even be at Emory, a very expensive private school a couple of states away from home. When we were little and asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, everyone said “a doctor,” or “a lawyer,” or sometimes “a superhero.” No one ever grew up with the idea of a “good job” as being a construction worker. But boys like Beni grew up learning of nothing else, and had no choice but to cross this international border– for his siblings. “I could stay at home and watch my little brother and sister starve to death, or I could leave my home and try to find work,” he said. Before as one who had never left his village before, he now had to support his entire family.
After reading “The Crossing,” I looked up other articles about people who have been in the same situation as Beni, such as Constantin, who “dreamed of a new life in Europe,” and just made it to Morocco from Congo. However, he ended up in jail after utilizing a fake passport to attempt to sneak into Europe. He now works as a construction worker making barely over $300 per month. Yet he lives the dream that so many children such as Beni die for. With so many people in this situation, it amazes me how little distance they have actually been able to make it. It’s also terrible to know that even after they make it, they never get completely comfortable. The culture shock is unsettling for the migrants. And I still recall as a freshman at Emory, having it seem like a completely different world compared to San Antonio, Texas. But here I am reading about these lives, and it’s humbling to realize how little I should ever complain, while these kids may never be able to immerse themselves in new societies, or truly know what freedom feels like.