Generations Community Writing Project is a collaboration between the Downtown Las Cruces Partnership and the Las Cruces Arts and Cultural District with the intent to bring written and literary artists in the community a channel to create, share, and connect.
Eight writers in Dona Ana County, at least 10 years in age apart, were selected and paired. The writers were introduced and have shared their literary styles to collaborate on a piece. The theme was “hope,” with an option to expand with no strict adherence.
The collaborators competed for prizes and recognition in the following categories:
Best Submission by Senior of Paired Writers –Plaque
Best Submission by Junior of Paired Writers- Plaque
Winning writers have their work published below and had the opportunity to read their work on community radio.
Meet The Participants!
Generations CWP Outstanding Junior Writer
Cassie McClure is a writer who first stumbled into a journalism degree because she didn’t want to analyze other people’s writing as an English major. She picked up a German degree since she already spoke the language, but she really should have picked Spanish. As an older millennial, she waited out the not-so-Great Recession by getting a master’s in rhetoric, getting married to a Mexican and having two children. She worked in a university library for a good long while but also had a stint as an analyst in an open-source intelligence lab, which lends itself to fun stories at cocktail parties. She writes a nationally syndicated column called “My So-Called Millennial Life.”
The Privilege to Ignore Grows the Divide
I struggle mightily with writing about race. I’m a relatively run-of-the-mill white lady, and mine has been a very white upbringing, without much, if any, diversity. While attached to military life as a dependent, the kids are pulled together regardless of their race, especially in the Department of Defense American schools in foreign countries. To me, the pecking order was built more on something like a class struggle — had your parent enlisted, or was he or she an officer? But, of course, there were other pecking orders that I didn’t see.
I had one Black friend when I was about 6 years old. Her name was Summer. There’s a photo of us sitting on a low tree branch during a field trip together, grabbing each other for support and giggling. We moved later that year. I never had a close Black friend again.
Self-segregation invariably happened the older we got; in the cafeteria, we slowly started to sit with people who looked like us. I didn’t see racism and the suffering it causes, because it didn’t happen to me and I was isolated from it. The experiences that ran contrary to mine still continued around me.
James Baldwin’s quote comes to mind: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Without truly seeing it, without genuine empathy and letting it affect us, change will be either slow or impossible, especially when the institutions of power lean in our favor.
And then I married a Mexican. Not a Mexican American but an accented immigrant I met online, who didn’t have any aspirations to live in America, let alone be an American.
Racism was placed in front of me, focused on a person I loved. While dating, I watched him repeatedly get hassled by agents while we crossed the border. I never was. After one incident at a Border Patrol checkpoint outside our American town, we started a running joke. A checkpoint is a stopping point inside the U.S. border where you again explain or prove that you’re American and tell them where you’re going, if they feel like asking you that day. That time, the agent again started in on my husband, who was in the driver’s seat. As he came over to speak to me, I simply lowered my sunglasses and raised my blue eyes to him. He stopped midwalk, turned, walked back and waved us through.
That’s the very least of it, the least amount of the barbs I actually see. And in those situations, I bristle with the feeling that it’s a bureaucratic wheel I won’t be able to fight. It’s much harder to be that person who needs to say something — or do something — against those in your own race when they include you in their Us and you want to protect those whom they see as Them.
When I took my husband to meet my German family, they kept looking at him quizzically and assuring me that he looked very Italian. When it came to being Mexican, it seemed that he wasn’t what they expected. However, there was relentless joking during dinner, including this gem: How many donkeys was my family going to get for the marriage, anyway?
I still regret my inaction in that moment. What was said was said in German, in front of my confused and still smiling husband. I awkwardly translated it. He looked down briefly but never stopped smiling.
When you must make that stand against those in your comfort zone — your family, your friends, your employer — it can be a fight for someone whose outcome you may not have a stake in. But to point out those frictions, the ones that call out your privilege and those of your group — those actions are part of the larger webbing of solidarity that will bind us all together as Americans.
I asked my husband why he felt so strongly about Black Lives Matter; how did it matter so much to him? He told me simply, “Their fight is my fight. It’s all the same fight.”
Shining Sunlight to Find Hope in Yourself
After responding to a flurry of emails from early risers and adjusting my seat, I also needed to adjust my window curtains. The daily switch from bright morning light to the more productive midmorning sun was complemented by the sounds of heavy machinery reversing in the distance and a stream of cars humming on the main road nearby.
Sound and light travel differently as the day moves on. Sometimes that stream of cars is thunderous. My neighborhood is nestled between one of the city’s main arteries and a highway that cuts through the state. Around 7:30 in the morning, drivers rev their engines, likely with coffee mug in hand or in cup holder, to get to where they need to be, if not where they want to be.
I’ve grown an awareness of the light that filters into my outdoor office. The space used to be a shed that came with the property, and for a few good years, it continued to be. Spiderwebs interlaced through the items that trickle into a lower-middle-class life when you buy things — items that can’t find a regular-enough use to get the honor of a place in the house but hold on through you not having the heart to throw them away, just in case.
When I started working from home — before the pandemic made that incredibly hip — I had a desk in a spare room that we knew was on a timeline to become one of the kids’ rooms. When I started telling my husband stories about things like how I was getting good at working the mute button on my phone to create an artificial workspace around the enthusiastic shrieks of a toddler, he took a hard look at that shed.
When I worked in cubicles, I would joke to him that I would know I had arrived when I had an office with a window. I don’t think I realized how much effect my offhand mantras had on him, but he then steadily tried to convince me that the shed could be an office. It had windows. “The size of kitten lungs,” I’d reply.
Now I have one large window behind my computer screens that faces east into the yard, with the tower of our newly built swing set at eye level, so I watch the kids play. I have another window that faces south; it’s mostly blocked by the house, but I can see my mom outside her door, as she moves between sitting in the shade and standing in the sun.
I’ve been getting in tune with the light, too, and with that, I’ve begun to find the rhythm of myself and my routines, and to see a reflection of something else I didn’t have much of before: hope.
My husband’s hope in me, in my future, in my abilities, pulled a simple room together, but it meant so much more. It was a physical manifestation of hope I didn’t necessarily have in myself as steadily as he had in me. When I started to decay in my cubicle jobs, when grey began to filter into my expressions as I came home, when I began to lose hope in where I was and who I was, he kept hold of the hope for me. Because when we start to lose hope, we start to lose ourselves. He didn’t want to lose me, but really, he didn’t want me to lose myself. He tried to give hope back to me even before I might have been ready to take it, because he knew it was time.
Perhaps the sounds I hear in the office will be different in the future. Perhaps the bird tweets will overtake the engine revs as we move toward an electric car future. Perhaps I’ll learn to switch to classical music instead of lo-fi hip-hop. But I’ll always have the light from the windows and have an awareness of it shifting throughout my days as the seasons pass.
Generations CWP Outstanding Senior Writer
Kim Stewart has a Bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California. She served twenty years in southern California law enforcement before moving to the southwest to retire in 2002. Instead, Stewart went on to work as an investigator on contract to the U.S. government and for private corporations. In 2018, she decided to run for Sheriff of Doña Ana County and won her seat in January 2019. Her four year term ends in December 2022.
Writing has been an integral part of her professional career path, and for a period of 2 years while living overseas, she wrote professionally for various international publications and websites. Her favorite genre is creative non-fiction in the short story format.
The man lay in a puddle of blood in the darkness. Paramedics worked quickly to resuscitate him. After several minutes they detected a faint heartbeat and decided to transport him. I stood there holding his shoes, which I found some 20 feet away in the street. My Captain came up to me. He was almost giddy. He asked if I realized swing shift patrol had booked 16 people in jail and the night was still young. I said nothing. I did not share his enthusiasm. I never spoke to the Captain again after that night.
I drove to the hospital only to discover the man had died again while in route and could not be brought back. His girlfriend had arrived and she stood crying in the ER’s waiting room. She only spoke Spanish at a time when I had no Spanish words for her. I gave her his shoes and left, having said nothing I can recall now some 38 years later.
I worked the afternoon shift. I had only been in law enforcement about 2 years in what once was called a “ bedroom community.” It bordered Los Angeles County, but the line often mattered little to those committing crimes. While our town slept, crime did not. We were always busy. We had a one new strip mall with a large department store. It was early summer. The calls had been holding in dispatch when I started shift. They were unloaded on us fresh faces all at once. Late day shift calls became ours. No Saturday afternoon was complete without a call of a shoplifter in custody at the department store.
I was briefed by the arresting employee. The offender was a large man. He wore a short sleeve checkered shirt and soiled pants. His dress shoes were worn and had long ago lost their luster. He seemed old to my twenty something eyes. He spoke halting English. He had identification. He had taken the bus to the store from across the county line. He had no money. A toddler’s party dress lay on the desk between us. It was pink with yellow ribbon knitted through the hemline. The man told me it was his girlfriend’s daughter’s birthday and he wanted to give her a present.
I took his information and wrote him a citation. This was the practice for minor misdemeanor crimes. The phone at the office desk rang and it was for me. It was my Sergeant asking if I were going to book the man. I explained there was no need as he had valid identification and he was clear in our computer system. The Sergeant then told me to bring him to the station and book him. I asked why we would change our procedure for this incident. He told me the Captain wanted to set a record for booking the most people on swing shift. The Captain was ordering me to bring him in.
I cannot look back on this incident, now decades after, and say I should have refused the order. I do know if I had refused, the man would have been able to give a little girl a pink and yellow dress and make the two women in his life very happy. I know I would not have had to hand his girlfriend his shoes instead.
Around 9:00 p.m., I was dispatched to the street in front of the station for a car accident involving a pedestrian. Even before I arrived, I knew the man I had booked for no reason other than a fantasy competition, had been hit by a car. I hoped I was wrong, but upon seeing the little bits of checkered shirt through the emergency personnel surrounding him, my worse fear was confirmed.
The driver and his wife stood next to their car, which had stopped abruptly in the lane where it had struck the man as he crossed in the darkness. He had been running to try to catch the last bus back to Los Angeles. He probably didn’t realize the car would hit him before he made the last step onto the curb. The man rolled onto the hood and into the windshield. The force knocked him out of his shoes. The male driver was crying inconsolably. All I could think to do was to retrieve the man’s shoes.
I am still brought to tears by this story. Sometimes late at night, when the summer’s breeze picks up and I travel down some street far from that city of my youth, I can still see him laying shoeless and lifeless. The theft of a $9.00 dress and the death of a stranger informed how I chose to police for years to come. So many times, I have asked myself why I didn’t pay for the dress and send him and it to a little girl’s party. I have since tried to resolve problems in more creative and humane ways.
When I entered this profession, it was as if black or white were the only “go-to” options. It did not take long before I realized it was all just gray. Both the man and the Captain operated in somewhere in the middle of both extremes. Assessing right from wrong, good from bad, were all judgements I had to make on a case-by-case basis forever after. I hope I got it right more often than not.