Walking with a purpose

  • Dublin resident Grace Aldrich is set to embark on a 1,700 mile journey from New York to Texas, starting this spring, to bring attention and help with the healing process surrounding the family separation policy. STAFF Photo by Ben Conant

  • Dublin resident Grace Aldrich is set to embark on a 1,700 mile journey from New York to Texas, starting this spring, to bring attention and help with the healing process surrounding the family separation policy. Photo by Ben Conant—

  • Dublin resident Grace Aldrich is set to embark on a 1,700 mile journey from New York to Texas, starting this spring, to bring attention and help with the healing process surrounding the family separation policy. Photo by Ben Conant—

  • Dublin resident Grace Aldrich is set to embark on a 1,700 mile journey from New York to Texas, starting this spring, to bring attention and help with the healing process surrounding the family separation policy. Photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/9/2019 9:20:27 PM

For 1,700 miles, Grace Aldrich plans to walk with a purpose.

Over the course of about six months, broken up into three sections, the Dublin resident will pound the pavement for roughly 10 miles a day, making the journey from the Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale, New York to Texas. And it all starts May 9.

The reason: the family separation policy.

Aldrich first heard about the policy last May and was shaken by the thought of children being taken from their families. After visiting the Widow Jane Mine soon after, Aldrich came out with the idea that she was going to walk South. She had dreams for three nights after learning of the policy. In those dreams she was looking for the right shoes to wear to the border to protect the children, some of who, in her dreams, resembled her son. More dreams ensued about Doris “Granny D” Haddock, the Dublin activist who walked across the country for campaign finance reform. And some of her friends had dreams.

“I feel like its in the subconscious of other people that they’re wanting it to happen,” Aldrich said.

Then there was the sign near her Dublin home that essentially said that if Granny D can walk across the country, you can walk to Peterborough.

“Over the course of the year, I’d be like if I were to walk…,” Aldrich said. “Then I decided I had to go. I just didn’t know in what capacity.”

Aldrich knows what she’s about to embark on is a big endeavor. Being away from home for long stretches is a challenge in itself, but walking from New York to Texas adds an entirely different set of circumstances.

“I kept thinking, how do we make connections and inspire and encourage a new vision for our immigration and impact those families,” Aldrich said.

Along the way from New York to Texas, Aldrich plans to stay with friends and at churches. At various stops, Aldrich hopes to host community events. Whether it be at local homes, in libraries or churches, the gatherings will be anything from a shared meal or practice of prayer and meditation, to a night of singing and storytelling featuring local voices, artists, teachers, healers and leaders.

“Walking just feels like a way to process the hopelessness, the confusion, the grief,” Aldrich said.

Over time, Aldrich has just realized this is what she’s supposed to do. There have been enough signs telling her to do it, so she’s listening to her heart.

“I was waiting for the idea to go away,” Aldrich said. In fact, the pull to do something, to tell the stories of those affected by the policy to help the healing process only grew stronger.

Prior to May, Aldrich has a number of smaller walks to begin the process – and garner attention. She is currently walking to the Strafford County House of Correction in Dover, a facility that Aldrich said functions, in part, as an immigrant detention center. The 79-mile journey is taking place over the course of three weeks and will come to an end on Oct. 23. So far the walks have varied in length from 5.9 miles to 9.6. The next section of the walk is Friday, when she picks up where she left off along the Goffstown Rail Trail. She’s been joined by Sonya Martino, as well as Balmeet Kaur Khalsa. Last Friday seven people joined for the 6.7-mile journey from Greenfield to New Boston. Khalsa is her unofficial walk manager and has been doing a lot of work behind the scenes to get things ready, help plan a route and offer advice when needed. Aldrich went to Khalsa days before making her intentions public at the Amos Fortune Forum this summer.

“She said I have this crazy idea,” Khalsa said. “I said, I don’t think that’s crazy, I’m in.”

There will be two more walks held over the fall/winter – one to the Franklin County House of Correction in Greenfield, Massachusetts and the other to the Suffolk County House of Corrections in Boston.

In the middle of her first walk, Aldrich will be at the Dublin Community Center on Monday, Oct. 14 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. for an event called the Joy in Showing Up: Creative Movements Supporting Immigration and Our Futures. She will present her planned walk along with Sue Hay, Marjorie Margolis and Glen Ring – who recently helped facilitate the arrival if the Uncaged exhibit at the Mariposa – all with projects around the issue of family separation. She has another speaking event at the Peterborough Town Library on Nov. 8.

“She has a good way of reading the opportunities in front of her and making the most of it,” Khalsa said.

Aldrich plans to do her walk in two month chunks. The first of which will begin in May, followed by the second leg of the journey next fall and will finish the winter/spring of 2021. The final details about the walk are still being decided.

During the walk, Aldrich has many planned stops along the way, which may change as the trip unfolds.  So far there’s the Orange County Correctional Facility in Goshen, New York, Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, New Jersey, Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, and Hudson County Correctional Facility (Kearney, New Jersey). In Pennsylvania, she will make stops at the York County Prison and Berks Family Residential Center in Leesport. The Howard County Detention Center in Jessup, Maryland is the only planned stop in the state, but will also make her way to the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsen, Alabama and Lassalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana.

“I kept thinking this is unreasonable, but so is putting kids in cages,” Aldrich said. “Because really it’s nothing compared to what people are doing to get to safety.”

And in the end, Aldrich hopes to share the stories of what she’s witnessed.

“It is one person, but it almost starts with one person,” Khalsa said. “She was called to do this and would be to her detriment not to.”

For up to date information and to follow along, visit www.walkingwithgrace.net. To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/walking-with-grace.


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