200,000 March For Immigration Reform in Massive D.C. Rally
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While the audience and the speakers were distinctly Latino, there was a heavy emphasis on demonstrating the bridges being built between the pro-immigration reform movement and the African-American community. The heads of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous, and the National Urban League, Marc Morial, each spoke and Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. and civil right icon Dick Gregory mingled with the crowd and with the press and organizers back stage.
As the Washington Post reported this week, the cooperation between the pro-immigration reform movement and the leading black and Latino civil rights organizations has been building for some time. As Krissah Williams reported Saturday:
Last year, [the National Council of] La Raza and the NAACP launched their first joint ad campaign in support of overhauling the health-care system. The Urban League joined with [NCLR] and the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development in a program to stem home foreclosures in minority communities.
A similar level of cooperation is happening in North Carolina, where the state NAACP and the immigration rights group El Pueblo have formed an alliance in Raleigh. "We found that the same forces that fight changing the laws to help immigrants also fight civil rights, they also fight health-care reform, they also fight educational reform," said the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP.
Tony Asion, executive director at El Pueblo, put it this way: "If we don't stick together, then we both lose."
Asion was one of the hundreds who rode buses from North Carolina to the rally and his theme was continued by Janet Murguía, the President and CEO of NCLR. She shared the stage with Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and her remarks reflected the shared goals of two communities that many in the anti-immigration movement try to pit against one another:
Our African American brothers and sisters took a stand here in Washington before, and continue the fight to keep the dream alive.
That’s why we are here, united, to win opportunity for all America’s families. So we can say, powerfully, respeto a nuestro prójimo - I am my brother’s keeper.
Early on Sunday morning on C-SPAN, as they prepared for the day’s debate on health care and the dueling health care and immigration stories, it was Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez that summed up the confidence and optimism the activists were placing in the hands of President Obama to move the issue forward. Referring to the President’s term in office, he said:
It’s been a really a very difficult first fifteen months… I really am much more hopeful, maybe than I’m letting on in terms of turning that page and his embracing us more fully and really energizing and...I think of the Barrack Obama in 2004 that just lit up that Democratic Convention and if he could bring some of that charisma and energy and passion to our issue I know we can win.
Based on how they received his remarks, a crowd of at least 200,000 citizens and people who would like to be citizens some day, agree that the President’s support and leadership is welcomed and perhaps, a bit overdue.
Douglas Rivlin is a consultant and blogger and the former Director of Communication for the National Immigration Forum.