Puente activist Sandra Castro's interview with Rev. Jesse Jackson
I want to turn your attention to these two videos by Sandra Castro, an activist in Sal Reza's Puente Movement, which is based here in Phoenix. This footage of the Rev. Jesse Jackson was taken at the big pro-immigration rally in Washington, D.C. that took place March 21.
Jackson's speech, true to form, is electrifying. He leads the crowd, estimated by some at over 200,000, in chants of "Immigration reform now," "Citizenship now," and the ever-popular, "Si, se puede."
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Jackson's address to the pro-immigration crowd on March 21
During the address, he preached bilingualism and solidarity, especially between African-Americans and American Latinos.
"I want African-Americans and Latinos to feel stronger bonds," he said. "I want young blacks to learn to speak Spanish, and I want Latinos to learn to speak English. We have to talk to each other...We are the coalition of the future."
Castro got a chance to speak with Rev. Jackson briefly, and she was able to ask him two important questions: The first dealing with the criminalization of the undocumented; and the second, dealing with the similarities between the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s and the fight for Comprehensive Immigration Reform now.
"It's the same movement," Jackson answered without a beat when asked the latter. "First of all, there are more African Latinos than there are African-Americans...and that's often uncounted. The second part is that Dr.[Martin Luther] King embraced Cesar Chavez. I worked in the fields of Calexico, California with Chavez...We have shared interests. So I'm here today in the King-Chavez tradition."
As to the first question, Jackson was unequivocal.
"It's morally wrong," he stated. "we must end the criminalization of undocumented people."
Jackson also seemed confident about the possibilities of passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
"If we can win the health care bill," he said, "we can win immigration reform."
Kudos to Castro for this little taste of hope and optimism. It's sorely needed here in Arizona where every day the state legislature passes unconstitutional laws aimed at Hispanics, and where raids and sweeps of the Hispanic community by Sheriff Joe Arpaio are, sadly, regular events.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.