Feathered Bastard

Zack de la Rocha Signs Hundreds of Autographs at Fundraisers for Tonatierra, Macehualli

Apologies for leading with my stomach (something I do in real life, physically), but the mole sauce at Garibaldi's Real Mexican Grill -- the site of a fundraiser Friday night for the Macehualli Day Labor Center -- played like a tejano band in my mouth and made me long for my days as a food critic. Whoever picked Garibaldi's, a clean, modern-looking eatery situated in a little mall at 3024 West Van Buren, as the site of the event deserves a medal.

In any case, diners, including rocker Zack de la Rocha, were serenaded by a classical guitar trio from Maryvale High School. Later, a video by Dennis Gilman and Puente activist Carlos Garcia was played, detailing ambitious plans to convert the Macehualli Day Labor Center into the Macehualli Community Campus, which will meet the numerous needs of the North Phoenix Palomino community, from dental services to teaching English as a Second Language.

Following the video, there were speakers included Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, Phoenix civil rights leader Sal Reza, Tonatierra's Tupac Enrique Acosta, and, finally, Rage Against the Machine/One Day as a Lion frontman De la Rocha, the guest of honor for the evening. De la Rocha spoke briefly, then read verbatim for the crowd a moving letter written by some of the female prisoners of Joe Arpaio's Estrella Jail.

The letter is painful cry for help from the incarcerated mothers, daughters and wives kept from their families by Joe's inhumane policies. At one point, De la Rocha choked up reading the missive. That's not surprising, considering passages like these:

"We find ourselves here in a tunnel without an exit, being treated like dogs that are not deserving of anything. We need help for our cases. Someone to listen to us and do something for the injustices that are being committed against us. Our children and our parents suffer our sentences the most. And we find ourselves with our hearts broken without knowing what's going to happen tomorrow."

Outside, prior to the fundraiser getting under way, one lone neo-Nazi protester, dressed all in black, stood on the Mexican flag at the entrance to the parking lot. It was none other than "Vito Lombardi," the very same National Socialist Movement member who punked out of a meet-up he'd asked to have with me recently.

Lombardi explained that he was standing on the Mexican flag as a way of protesting a fundraiser for "a safe haven for criminals." He insisted he was not a racist, but told me he believed in setting up a white homeland, and that he believed in the separation of the races. I'd give him a point or two for coming out to a Hispanic neighborhood by his lonesome and holding a sign that read, "Stop taking American jobs, go back to your third world box," except for the fact that a couple of plainclothes Phoenix PD were present throughout his stay. Once they left, Lombardi amscrayed.

On the other side of the parking lot entrance from Vito was Robert Aceves, his wife and his son. Aceves had a sign quoting a line from Rage Against the Machine, "Some of those who run forces, are the same that burn crosses." His family moved out here about two years ago from Southern California and bought a house in Buckeye. Currently, he's trying to organize a nonprofit, West Valley boxing club for troubled youth there.

When Aceves asked what Lombardi had to say for himself, and I told him about the white homeland stuff, Aceves cracked, "Well, there's always a plane ticket to Germany." Aceves also told me he had never experienced racism like he has in the Valley, mostly at the hands of the sheriff's department. He says deputies have pulled him over on numerous occasions, for everything from his brake lights "not being red enough" and for spitting sunflower seeds out of his window. Despite the harassment, he says he and his family plan to stay put. I'm glad to hear it. The more newcomers like Aceves relocate here in Sand Land, the less likely the prevailing attitude towards Hispanics in Maricopa County will persist.

After signing autographs and posters made by Shepard Fairey, of the Obama "Hope" poster fame, and Fairey's collaborator, artist Ernesto Yerena, De la Rocha made his way across town to Tonatierra on 7th Street near Roosevelt. There he and Yerena signed hundreds more posters, sold to assist Tonatierra and the Macehualli Work Center, both of which need all the help they can get these days.

While De la Rocha and Yerena were signing posters for a line that snaked through Tonatierra's parking lot, there were musical performances by various local acts: Valley MC Grime; self-proclaimed Commie-folkster, the Black River Bandit; and the punk rock foursome Automatic Self Destruct, who sang an anti-Arpaio song called The Fool and did an awesome version of the Dead Kennedys classic, California Uber Alles, with the lyrics changed up to Arizona Uber Alles.

The get-down didn't stop getting down till past midnight, with everyone vowing to get up early to gather at Cesar Chavez Plaza downtown at 8 a.m. for the big Walk for Respect, starting at 9 a.m. at the Wells Fargo building, and heading down to Estrella Jail, scene of many of Joe Arpaio's atrocities against female detainees. Check back here for a full report after the march.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons