109: Coffee with AmyBeth Willis

AmyBeth Willis is the Director of Children and Youth at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona and an organizer with the national sanctuary movement. AmyBeth comes to the sanctuary movement as an ally and to this podcast with lots of wisdom.

AmyBeth and I met at an event at Richmond Hill organized by Lana Heath de Martínez and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. AmyBeth was one of the leaders throughout the several-day event. Lana especially wanted me to attend an event with about 15 student-leaders pursuing U.S. citizenship. They were part of a the Latino Leadership Institute with Father Jack Podsiadlo. I was touched very deeply by these students, their hard work, and their desire to liberate other groups of people. They understood the largest vision of the American Dream. They deserve to be here more than I do, that’s for sure.

It was great to initially meet AmyBeth that night and to connect with her again in 2017 in this interview. Between our original meeting and the interview I’ve asked Lana repeatedly how I can help advocate for the Latinx communities, immigrant communities, and refugee communities. Repeatedly, Lana would reply, “Have you talked to AmyBeth yet?”

There are several things to learn about Lana asking me repeatedly. First, most obviously, AmyBeth has knowledge, stories, and expertise to be shared with me and all of you. Second, Lana understands the importance of stories being shared.

AmyBeth quotes Lilla Watson, who refuses to take credit for words from her community, “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together.”  AmyBeth knows that our own salvation comes by putting ourselves at risk and standing alongside the marginalized. In the words of American Jewish poet, Emma Lazarus, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” We know Martin Luther King Jr. said, “no one is free until we are all free” and that this principle is fundamental to Latin American Liberation Theology. Thank you to AmyBeth Willis for being the source of so much courage, knowledge, and inspiration.


Southside Presbyterian Church

Lilla Watson

Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (Learn. Pray. Act.)

Kim Bobo, Exec. Dir. VICPP

Interview with Lana Heath de Martínez

Richmond Hill

Emory University

Sanctuary Not Deportation

Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg

Latino Leadership Institute, Sacred Heart Center

United Faith Leaders