The Otay Mesa Detention Center

Joel Tauber bears witness to the Otay Mesa Detention Center everyday, as part of Border-Ball: A 40-Day Pilgrimage Along The U.S. - Mexico border.

The Otay Mesa Detention Center troubles me. I walk there everyday from the Otay Mesa Port of Entry as part of my 40-day pilgrimage. Guards slowly circle the Detention Center in vans. They stare at me. I meet their gaze. They tell me that I have to remain on the sidewalk. The large private prison company that owns and operates the Detention Center, CoreCivic, maintains the dirt pathway that surrounds it. I cannot film, or even stand, on this pathway—or on the very large parking lot where the multitude of Detention Center employees park their cars.

I stand on the sidewalk and bear witness. I toss a ball, repetitively and meditatively, contemplating the expanse of concrete “pods” holding the detainees. Three layers of barbed wire and electric fencing separate me from the people locked inside. I cannot see them. I cannot talk with them or play catch with them. I cannot offer food or other forms of direct aid.

I try to imagine what it must be like for the detainees—especially those who are forced to remain in the Detention Center for years on end. Refugees. Dreamers. Most have no criminal records whatsoever. Treated like prisoners. In jumpsuits. Living in concrete cages. Breathing in terrible air from the power plant across the street. Suffering, according to multiple reports, from physical and sexual abuse. Medical neglect. Contaminated and insufficient food. Forced labor.

I toss the ball and I think about how my paternal grandparents survived the Holocaust. How my grandfather’s brother died in a labor camp. How I am a descendant of immigrants who came to this country because they believed, like I do, that it is a welcoming place that values people from all ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs. A compassionate country that finds homes for refugees, that cares for those that need help.

I’m still shocked by the march in Charlottesville, so close to where I live with my wife and two young boys. Klansmen without hoods, shouting openly about killing Jews and African Americans. I’m frightened by the rise of racist rhetoric and the rise of hate crimes. And I’m terrified by white nationalism.

But, I have hope nonetheless. I continue to believe in our country. I’m confident that we will rediscover our values. So, I toss a ball and declare:

Walk with me along the border. Play catch with me in front of the wall. Share some hot dogs and salsa. I don’t care what part of the world you’re from. Let’s root, root, root for teamwork. If we don’t find some, it’s a shame. For it’s one, two, three strikes, we’re out at the old ball game.

On Thanksgiving, a guard stops his van and tells me that he sees me everyday. We discuss the Detention Center, the Border, the Wall. The value of compassion. A friend who has walked with me that day adds his thoughts. Then the guard asks: “we need this place, right?” I thank him for asking such an important question. He thanks me. Then the guard resumes circling the Detention Center in his van. And I start walking back to the Port of Entry with my friend, as the conversation circles over and over again in my mind.

The Border Wall

Border-Ball is a 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S. - Mexico border, a movie, and an art installation by Joel Tauber. Tauber begins each day at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California before walking along the wall and then heading to the Otay Mesa Detention Center.

I’m continually confronted by the Border Wall. I walk alongside it everyday, while making my 40-Day Pilgrimage from the Otay Mesa Port of Entry to the Otay Mesa Detention Center, and then back again.

The Wall seems most imposing to me from the easternmost point of my 7 mile route before I head north towards the Detention Center. The towering metal barricade marches seemingly forever east, past the horizon line. I stare at The Wall, but I cannot touch it. I face it behind a second shorter metal fence and a restricted buffer zone of highly patrolled land.

I stand at this spot, tossing a ball and thinking about The Wall. I interview people about the border and about baseball, and I toss a ball with them. I talk to Border Patrol agents nearby. Then, I toss a ball to myself some more.

And I wonder. What does The Wall do to us? Psychologically? Ethically? Spiritually? What happens when we emphasize, so clearly, the boundaries between us? When we heighten them with steel, rebar, and concrete? Does The Wall make it harder to recognize that we’re all connected to each other? That we’re all on the same team?

I continue to toss a ball, over and over again. As a ritual. As a meditation. As a prayer. I think about our teammates who are suffering. The hungry. The homeless. The refugees who we turn away. And all those we lock up in detention centers. 

Then, I declare:

Walk with me along the border. Play catch with me in front of the wall. Share some hot dogs and salsa. I don’t care what part of the world you’re from. Let’s root, root, root for teamwork. If we don’t find some, it’s a shame. For it’s one, two, three strikes, we’re out at the old ball game.

Story about Border-Ball: The Otay Mesa Port Of Entry in The Kite

I love what Rosanna Albertini wrote about Border-Ball and the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in her blog, The Kite: about thinking as the art of desire, and art as the desire of thinking fresh. Inclusivity. How liberty is a better guiding principle than freedom. And how art is the servant of need.

Read Rosanna’s post, “Border Ball: THE OTAY MESA PORT OF ENTRY”, here.

The Otay Mesa Port Of Entry

Border-Ball is a 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S. - Mexico border, a movie, and an art installation by Joel Tauber. Tauber begins each day at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California.

I’m getting ready for the 17th day of Border-Ball: a 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S. – Mexico border. I start each day at noon at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California. It’s wonderful to see so many people cross the border, even in the middle of the day – both into the U.S. and into Mexico. There are distinct pathways for trucks, cars, and pedestrians; and each of these pathways are always busy.

I find the fluidity of movement at the port to be extremely beautiful. The constant flow of people from so many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds reminds me that the United States is a place of immigrants and diversity. And, so, I’m often moved to declare:

Oh, say, can you see, our country’s gorgeous dream: an endless field of green, where everyone can live and play? Our star-spangled banner yet waves, over the land of immigrants and the home of us all!

I spend most of my time at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry on the pedestrian bridge, tossing a ball. I introduce myself to people I meet and ask them to share their stories, experiences and thoughts about the border and baseball. Then, we play catch.

The borders between us disappear when I’m listening to their stories. And our connections deepen when we play catch. It’s amazing to me how, even after sharing incredibly sad and heartbreaking stories, people start smiling and laughing once we play catch. All of a sudden, we are friends, playing and laughing together.

We are all on the same team, after all.

People thank me. And, I thank them for connecting with me and for giving me strength to continue my long 7 mile journey each day: from the port of entry, along the wall, and up to the detention center – and then back again.

Story about Border-Ball airs on NBC 7 San Diego

Many thanks to Joe Little for the wonderful story about Border-Ball! It was a joy talking with Joe and playing catch with him, and it was fantastic to see the story air on NBC 7 San Diego on Thursday (November 7, 2019) at 4:30 pm and 6 pm.

You can watch the story, “We’re All in This Together: Playing a Game of Catch Along US – Mexico Border”, now – and read a written version of it too – on the NBC 7 San Diego website, the NBC 4 Los Angeles website, and the NBC Bay Area website.

Participate in Border-Ball

Tomorrow is the 11th day of Border-Ball: a 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S. – Mexico border; and I would love it if you would accompany me on my journey.

I’ve had many amazing conversations with the people that I’ve met so far on my pilgrimage, and I look forward to many more. Many thanks to all those who have walked with me already, and many thanks to everyone who is planning to join me in the future!

I start, each day, at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California, and walk along the border wall before heading north two and a half miles to the Otay Mesa Detention Center. I’m traveling there and back again each day – a seven mile journey that connects legal entry to the U.S. with the border wall and the detention center holding those who might be in the country without all legal permits.

You are welcome to walk with me for as much as you like: for a little bit, or for as much as the full 7 miles.

Here’s a map of the Border-Ball route.

In addition to participating in Border-Ball by walking with me; you can also participate by playing catch and by sharing your stories about baseball and the border.

Here’s the walking and interviewing schedule, as well as some logistical information about food and water.

Stories about Border-Ball in the Winston-Salem Journal and The Kite

Many thanks to John Hinton for the story about Border-Ball: a 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S. – Mexico border in the Winston-Salem Journal. The story, “WFU artist to ‘play ball’ on U.S. border”, came out on November 2, as part of the Journal’s Higher Education Notebook, and can be read here.

Many thanks as well to Rosanna Albertini for her post about Border-Ball in her blog, The Kite: about thinking as the art of desire, and art as the desire of thinking fresh. Check out the post, “Border Ball : THE ROUTE e auguri di buon viaggio” here. And stay tuned for future posts about Border-Ball in The Kite as well.

Story about Border-Ball in Wake Forest News

Many thanks to Kim McGrath and Wake Forest News for the wonderful story about Border-Ball

WFU artist Joel Tauber will ‘play ball’ on the U.S.-Mexico border

It’s a whole new ballgame for artist, filmmaker and Wake Forest associate professor Joel Tauber who will undertake a 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S.-Mexico border to build community through baseball…. 

Read the rest of the story here: https://news.wfu.edu/2019/10/22/wfu-artist-joel-tauber-will-play-ball-on-the-u-s-mexico-border/

The Tree Is Gone!!! Replaced by concrete.

The Tree is gone!!! Replaced by concrete!!! Joel Tauber is beyond devastated.

The Tree is gone!!! Replaced by concrete. And, I’m beyond devastated.

At the same time, I’m trying to focus on all of the Tree Babies that are thriving. So, I went to visit the USC Tree Baby to try to cheer up.

Many thanks to all the Tree Baby parents!

Thankfully, many Tree Babies, including the USC Tree Baby, are thriving.

Today, I returned to the site where the Tree once lived, and I mourned It’s passing.

I will always love The Tree, and I will always miss The Tree.

Border-Ball: A 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S. – Mexico border

Hola compañeros!

I’m very excited about my new project Border-Ball: a 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S. – Mexico border. If you’re in the area, I would love to walk with you. Info below.

Nos vemos luego!

Joel

Border-Ball is a 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S. - Mexico border, a movie, and an art installation by Joel Tauber.

Joel Tauber is undertaking a 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S.-Mexico border to build community through baseball.

Growing up, Tauber went to Fenway Park to watch baseball. He dreamed of playing professionally. Baseball, for him, stands for openness and a belief in a welcoming, diverse America. He hopes to encourage conversation and togetherness rather than division and separation.

The journey will begin on Oct. 29. Tauber will start at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California, and will walk along the border wall before heading north two miles to the Otay Mesa Detention Center. He will travel there and back again each day – a six mile journey that connects legal entry to the U.S. with the border wall and the detention center holding those who might be in the country without all legal permits. While walking, he will be declaring, in English as well as some Spanish, an adaptation of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”:

Walk with me along the border. Play catch with me in front of the wall. Share some hot dogs and salsa. I don’t care what part of the world you’re from. Let’s root, root, root for teamwork. If we don’t find some, it’s a shame. For it’s one, two, three strikes, we’re out at the old ball game.

He is also proclaiming, as an adaptation of “The Star Spangled Banner”:

Oh, say, can you see, our country’s gorgeous dream: an endless field of green, where everyone can live and play? Our star-spangled banner yet waves, over the land of immigrants and the home of us all!

Tauber will be wearing a custom vintage baseball uniform and backpack in blue, white and red. He will be tossing a baseball as he walks along and inviting people who walk along with him to play catch.

As part of the border walk, Tauber will be filming people he meets and gathering personal reflections and stories related to baseball and the border. He will produce a film and art installation, called Border-Ball, about the experience.

Tauber was born in 1972 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA and comes from a long line of rabbis. His work focuses on generating conversation and facilitating change. Most recently, the Vintage International Film Festival in Kolhapur, India, named Tauber’s “The Sharing Project” movie “Best International Documentary Film.” He lives and works in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; where he is Associate Professor of Art at Wake Forest University.