Category Archives: Lights for Liberty

Benicia Lights for Liberty: “A Long Way From Home” – Poem by Mary Susan Gast


By Mary Susan Gast
(Italics sung to the traditional spiritual tune, “Motherless Child”)
Nikki Basch Davis, Welcome To This World Little One (used with permission)

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a fatherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a tossed-away child,
A long way from home,
A long way from home.

See, here’s the thing,
Mr. Candidate for the U.S. House of
Ms. Fox News Sage,
and other Assorted Apologists
for the detention of children,
The crying and the sobbing and the calling out
For Mami and Papi
That you write off
As nothing more than you’d hear
On a typical morning
At the neighborhood daycare dropoff,
Or that you equate to a summer camp experience,
Really is intrinsically, substantially, irreconcilably

At daycare—at least at the daycares I’ve known—
Nobody wrenches you away from your mother
While she’s nursing you,
Nobody wrestles your father away from you
While he screams your name and you scream in terror,
Nobody loads you on a plane and dumps you
In the middle of the night
In places with names like Grand Rapids or Topeka.
At summer camp nobody keeps you in a cage where you sleep
when you can, scrunched and contorted,
Tormented by lice, covered by the bleak aluminum wisp of a blanket,
Where you wake for weeks on end in the same soiled clothes,
Your cough untreated, your fears untended,
Stalked by nightmares that don’t dissipate with the dawn.
Where there is no play, no food that warms and nourishes,
Where the exuberant unruly energy for which childhood is noted
Withers, wailing and clutching its forsaken heart.

And most of all—
Listen up, here—
Most of all the difference is
That at the end of the day, at the end of camp,
The person who dropped you off
Picks you up, and takes you home, undamaged.
Back to the people who love you.

[I hope] Some day you’ll feel like an eagle in the air,
Some day you’ll fly like an eagle in the air,
Some day you’ll be like an eagle in the air,
A long way from home—no more!
You’ll find your way home.

Mary Susan Gast © 2018


    Benicia Lights for Liberty – reflections, references and follow-ups

    By Roger Straw, July 14, 2019

    Wow, what an amazing show of support – 400 plus in attendance!

    Crowd of 400 at Benicia Lights for Liberty Candlelight Vigil, July 12, 2019 [Photo credit: Larnie Fox]
    Crowd of 400 at Benicia Lights for Liberty Candlelight Vigil, 7/12/19 [Photo credit: Larnie Fox]
    On Friday evening here in Benicia, we showed up in huge numbers to call for an end to our government’s cruelty and mismanagement at the US southern border.

    Caring individuals from Benicia, Vallejo, Martinez and beyond sang, listened, carried protest signs, mingled and lit candles to show solidarity with immigrant families who seek asylum here in our nation that has historically welcomed the world with open arms:

    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
    – Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus

    Benicia joined over 800 cities worldwide in Lights for Liberty events, calling for an end to human detention camps.

    More than one of our guest speakers whose everyday work is helping immigrants showed surprise and deep appreciation at the size of the gathering.  The support we showed paid off in immediate terms for caregivers and organizers – they learned they are NOT alone in our communities, that they have support in their outreach and solidarity and in their shock and disapproval over the callous policies of the Trump administration.

    I will list here a number of resources coming out of our candlelight vigil.  Enjoy – and take note where you can contribute going forward…

    Two videos of the Benicia Lights for Liberty candlelight vigil

    Produced by Benicia’s activist videographer, Constance Beutel, the first is a 22 minute HIGHLIGHTS version.  The second is a FULL version of the evening’s program, running for just over an hour.

    For great photos taken at the vigil, see:

    Listing of vigil expert speakers and their organizational contacts:

    • Cecilia Flores & Miriam Sammartino – Catholic Charities of Yolo & Solano Counties, offering a full range of immigration services to residents of Solano, Yolo and surrounding counties, including informational sessions, and individual and group processing of citizenship/naturalization applications., (707) 644-8909.
    • Bonnie Hamilton, M.D. – Retired pediatrician, advocate for children, educator on environment.
    • Mina Diaz – Diaz & Loera Centro Latino, a bilingual, multi-service volunteer organization designed to meet the needs of Latino families and individuals in Vallejo., (707) 319-0319.
    • Maria Ordonez – Vital Immigrant Defense Advocacy and Services (VIDAS), Santa Rosa based, expanding access to immigration legal resources and information through collaboration and technology., 707-654-8405.
    • Will Baker & Nick Gates – Solano County Rapid Response Network (SCRRN). Call SCRRN when you hear about ICE in neighborhood or work places. They will send immigration-trained lawyers & observers. They will determine if ICE is actually in the area or if it’s a false alarm., (707) 800-4544.

    Here is the printed program for the vigil.


      Benicia Lights for Liberty – a perspective, by Jean Walker

      Lights for Liberty, a candlelight vigil to end human detention camps – a particpant’s thoughts

      By Jean Walker, July 12, 2019

      The early evening summer sun simmered in the western sky, shining like a beacon upon the group gathered within and around the gazebo at Benicia City Park Friday evening. I later overheard the crowd estimate was at least 400 hundred people.

      My husband and I each had a black canvas camp chair slung across a shoulder. We carefully stepped across the grass, avoiding parents, toddlers, pre-teens, high school students, college kids, and oldsters like us. We found an empty spot, planted our chairs, and, as if on cue, Benicia City Councilmember Steve Young stepped up to the podium with the microphone near his face, speaking a welcoming message to all: “There are people, even in my own family, who tell me, ‘You’re so into politics .. I’m sick of politics .. I don’t pay any attention to politics.’ And all I can say to that is, you may not pay any attention to politics, but politics pays attention to you.”

      Young then introduced Benicia City Mayor Elizabeth Patterson who shared that the Benicia City Council adopted the Inclusive Tolerant Safe Community for Everyone resolution in late January 2017 by a vote of 3-2 ( ). She stated this resolution was passed to show “unity and solidarity” against the “illegal and unconstitutional actions by the current administration.”

      Representatives from the offices of U.S. Representative Mike Thompson, State Senator Bill Dodd, and State Assembly Member Tim Grayson also spoke. Monica Brown, Benicia’s representative on the Solano County Board of Supervisors, urged everyone to vote “for compassionate caring leaders in all 50 states.”

      Dr. Bonnie Hamilton, pediatrician, read a first-person account written by Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier (published in The Atlantic: ). “Dr. Sevier went to a Border Patrol warehouse in McAllen, Texas, where more than a thousand migrant children were being detained. She saw: a baby being fed from the same unwashed body for days; children with clear evidence of an infection; children with signs of malnutrition, dehydration, and sleep deprivation, and several children were exhibiting clear evidence of psychological trauma.”

      I learned a lot about local organizations that are helping immigrants:

      • Catholic Charities of Yolo & Solano Counties ( )
      • Diaz & Loera Centro Latino (a bilingual, multi-service volunteer organization designed to meet the needs of Latino families and individuals in Vallejo). Find them on Facebook:
      • VIDAS 501(c)(3) (Vital Immigrant Defense Advocacy and Services), 707-654-8405
      • SCRRN (Solano County Rapid Response Network 707-800-4544). Call SCRRN when you hear about ICE in neighborhood or workplaces. They will send immigration-trained lawyers & observers. They will determine if ICE is actually in the area or if it’s a false alarm. On Facebook:

      It was 9pm, the sun was just a soft peach glow below the horizon, and a cool breeze had begun to raise goosebumps on my arms. I pulled on a jacket and stood up with everyone, my little battery-lit candle high above my head, and sang with my heart, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, Everywhere we go, I’m gonna let it shine, We got the light of freedom, we’re gonna let it shine, All around the world, we’re gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

      Thank you to Lights for Liberty (, specifically Sherry Vinson, and to the Progressive Democrats of Benicia (, for sponsoring Friday evening’s vigil at Benicia City Park.