Denzel’s Melody, DACA dance & Disappearing Dad

An immigrant story of trauma and love

Poor for a Minute
8 min readMar 5, 2020


Melody Lumbang-Stevens holding her newborn son Denzel Mendoza. Photo courtesy Mendoza.

Denzel Mendoza loved his student model King 606 trombone so much he would shower and sleep with it as a sixth grader, his mother, Melody Lumbang-Stevens recalls.

“He’d come back from school and take a shower and clean the trombone, and he’d sleep beside the trombone,” she laughs, still marveling. “The trombone was always in his bed.”

The instrument would become a part of his highest highs—including winning a GRAMMY with John Daversa—and lowest lows.

The day Denzel Mendoza found out his father Eduardo was gone for good—leaving the country to be with a girlfriend—came hours before his first big performance, at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

“He called around 8:30, because we were waiting for him for dinner,” Lumbang-Stevens recalls of that day, March 17, 2005. “He was already over in San Francisco. Denzel said ‘What!?’”

“I said, ‘OK, why don’t you talk to your son?’ The only thing I heard from Denzel [was] ‘What!?’ And then he cried, and then we cried.”

Plans had been laid for 36 family members to come to the show the next day.

“The only empty seat was my father’s,” Mendoza remembers.

For Lumbang-Stevens, Denzel and his sister Gabrielle, the trials and tribulations of a dad’s disappearance were unforeseen, unforeseeable. They would reshape the family’s lives for many years to come.

“Eddie sent letter from airport with $100 in it,” Lumbang-Stevens recalls. “He said ‘take care of the kids, I’m not coming back, and I keep in touch,’ and then that’s it.”

Denzel Mendoza and his mom Melody Lumbang-Stevens. Photo courtesy Mendoza.

Mendoza’s and Lumbang-Stevens’ story illustrates how misguided President Donald Trump’s attacks on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program really is. Mendoza qualified for DACA, a law passed to make an exception for immigrants who came to this country as children, in 2013. He now lives in Portland. DACA’s sure…



Poor for a Minute

We are all poor due to the broken social safety net in the United States, the world’s richest nation. Portfolio, bio, contact:

Recommended from Medium