From the Field

Bernard’s Story: How One Community Changed a Young Man’s Life

Cloee Cooper • Jul 24, 2011

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“Bernard is part of Reading. He is part of everyone’s family, really. We’re all family in Reading.”

These are the words of Jenny, one of Bernard Pastor’s high school classmates, and they echo the sentiments of many of the residents of Reading, Ohio, a small town that was in the cross-hairs of the national immigration debate.

As one Reading mother explained, “I think on the outside, that you would think, that people in this community would be against immigration and against undocumented people, but because they know him personally and because they know his situation, I think their viewpoints have changed.”

The film Bernard’s Story is the kind born simply and deeply from the intersection of friendship, caring, and community, and the collective sense of will that such an intersection instills in us.

His story is the story of what happened when a recent high school graduate and star athlete was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the fall of 2010—the residents of Reading came together and took a stand for justice.

This is the story of what happens when ordinary people do extraordinary things. Of what happens when people remember and remind each other that, as Bernard echoes, “People do have power.”

But, this is truly a story of hope realized—the recognition that American communities can halt bigotry and change the way we think about and debate civil rights issues.

In Bernard’s own words, “There’s a lot of change that needs to be done. And when one community decides to change, the city decides to change. When the city decides to change, the state decides to change. And when the state changes, the nation will change.”

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