Tonight's Colored Pencils Art and Culture Night, sponsored by the Center for Intercultural Organizing and an array of other local community groups, has a special poignancy -- the project's beloved event manager has been arrested and is currently incarcerated in a Tacoma immigration jail awaiting possible deportation.
Andre Susanto was born in Indonesia but has lived in Oregon since he was a baby, growing up in LaGrand. An engineer by trade, he graduated from Portland State University.
He was detained April 20, but a lively Facebook campaign to bring him back home to Portland has already drawn almost 350 members.
"I've known Andre since we were freshmen in HS. He was the best man at our wedding 11 years ago," one post notes.
Another reports that Susanto is continuing his activism around increased cultural competency in the Portland schools curriculum – from jail, in the tradition of nonviolent social change icon Martin Luther King Jr.
"He's sitting there thinking about how he can help middle school students with their education," the friend writes. "That's what makes Andre amazing."
The local case comes as national headlines focus on Arizona's draconian new immigration law requiring police officers to demand proof of U.S. citizenship from anyone they may encounter in the course of their duties who appears to be "illegal."
Meanwhile, Susanto's many Oregon supporters from around the world are visiting him in jail, coordinating carpools to Tacoma, supporting his mother and father in traveling between LaGrand and Washington state, and piecing together legal representation.
They're also continuing the Colored Pencils Arts and Culture Night. Tonight's event features food by Los Ninos Cuentan ("Children Count" shelter for Latino women and children), and the traditional open mic with music by Gauri Raj, Ro, and Gary Marschke; yo yo tricks by Pedro Ponce; the Stand Against Racism pledge by Jeri Williams; a Native American blessing by Ga-lo James; poetry by Sourixay Vilalay and much more.
Maria Rubio will speak about her life. Emcees will be Ronault Catalani and Carmen Madrid.
The event is at the Center for Intercultural Organizing, 700 North Killingsworth Street, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. For more information on that, call 503-287-4117.
Thursday night a supporter sent out a long personal letter of thanks from Susanto to his supporters on Facebook.
Susanto's letter to the community says, in part:
"Within the "pod" I am in, there are about 70 people or so and they represent every continent of the world, except the Arctic and Antarctica. While Mexico and South American countries are represented heavier than others, they don't make up a vast majority. Other common countries are represented as well, such as: Somalia, Ethiopia, India, Thailand, Russia/Eastern Europe, and China. A few countries surprised me such as France, Italy, and Greece. One if a little odd, he came to the US when there was still USSR. Now he is country less as the Soviet Union no longer exists…
"The mutual respect and solidarity here embodies many of the values of Colored Pencils. Food is shared to those who need it, assistance given to those who require it, and laughter is a currency freely given. Language and cultural barriers don't exist, only the community of Northwest Detention Center Unit G4. If only it were this easy to achieve in Portland. Fortunately, the Colored Pencils Community leads the way in creating a New Portland with many of these values."