Escuela, Randomness

Not the Only Ones: Tam and Cinthya’s Memorial

Memorial service for Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix

“In their honor we will pass the DREAM Act soon and very soon.”
– Kent Wong

When I saw Matias at dinner on Sunday, he looked tired and weighed down with grief over the loss of two of his best friends. Despite this, he offered some advice and shared what he’d learned as a former chair of IDEAS (an advocacy group for undocumented students) and as an organizer for the DREAM Act. Before leaving, he reminded the new crop of student leaders of the memorial service for Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix.

“It’s in the Grand Salon right now, but we’re trying to get a larger venue.”

That didn’t surprise me. The Grand Salon fits 160 people and the event page on Facebook already showed a couple hundred who planned to attend. By morning, he venue was changed to Moore 100, a lecture hall which seats 419 people.

I showed up at 3:20. The room was already filling up. I found a seat next to my friend, Jessie, and waited for the memorial to begin. Soon, all seats were filled and latecomers crowded around the doors or sat in the aisles.

Kent Wong, the director of the UCLA Labor Center emceed. First he introduced Tam and Cinthya’s best friends, Dana and Susan. The two spoke together about the foursome’s bond. “We came as a four-pack,” Dana said about the group that could have been the poster children for diversity at UCLA. Susan and Dana reminisced about their Monday night fried chicken dinners and retold silly anecdotes about the two women many knew as filmmakers and advocates for undocumented youth. Susan told us that Cinthya outreached to high school students even though she really didn’t like kids. Everyone laughed. The full lecture hall broke out in laughter again when Heather admitted that many thought that she and Tam were a couple because they both had short hair and were inseparable. Dana and Tam worked on their papers together. “When we got stuck with writer’s block, we’d just switch papers,” she admitted sheepishly to the crowd which included administrators and faculty. “But it was okay, because we were the same person.”


Next, Cinthya and Tam’s younger brothers spoke about their sisters. Cinthya’s brother (Martin, I think) told us that his sister always pushed him. Lolly, Tam’s brother confessed that he wasn’t a writer or much of a reader. Still, he felt compelled to write a poem for his sister. His poem highlighted his sister’s life, education and passions. It was also silly, “We are here today… To celebrate the best German import since Mercedes Benz,” again, everyone laughed. (Tam was born in Germany.)

Tam and Cinthya’s family members were followed by several friends, student leaders, alumni, professors, and mentors. They shared their experiences with Tam and Cinthya and told us how they’d been inspired or seen them change. Through them, I learned that Tam wrote a senior thesis on Radiohead and Cinthya was a daredevil who had gone skydiving.

In between the speakers, we watched two of Tam’s short documentaries. First we watched Lost and Found, a widely viewed short about Tam’s friend and fellow UCLA student, Stephanie Solis and her experience as an undocumented student. Stephanie also shared and said Tam, always selfless and giving, sold DVDs of Lost and Found to raise money for Stephanie’s education. Afterward, we watched The Seattle Underground Railroad, a 12-minute film featuring Cinthya, Matias and another student’s road trip to Washington to obtain a driver’s license.

After the roadtrip documentary, Matias spoke about his close friends. He told the crowd that he always found it odd that Cinthya had a car and a vanity plate. The license plate read “YLLEGAL,” which made him think “now she’s just asking to get pulled over.” Everyone laughed.

Next, Christian Estrada and Charlene Gomez, sang Violeta Parra’s Gracias a la Vida” (more in Mercedes Sosa’s style and another song. They played and sang beautifully.

Finally, Fabiola, an IDEAS leader, asked current and former DREAMers to join her for a moment of silence. Half the attendees got up and crowded the small stage and area around it. The room fell silent for a moment. Then we were asked to link up arm in arm for the final song, John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Some sang along softly and others sobbed as they remembered Tam and Cinthya, not the only DREAMers.

***

If you’d like to help keep Tam and Cinthya’s dreams alive, you can contribute to their memorial fund here.

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One thought on “Not the Only Ones: Tam and Cinthya’s Memorial

  1. Diana says:

    Cindy, thanks so much for this post. I’m so sad that I couldn’t be there. I remember both Cinthya and Tam from school. I vividly remember the night that we saw the Seattle Underground Railroad at a MEChA meeting or something. I’m happy to see what happened at the memorial.

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