Completing Circles of Life

Jose Montoya is a pioneering Chicano poet whose legacy surpasses the Sacramento community where he lives and where he's much beloved. He's been honored in Mexico, Europe, and throughout the United States for his writings and his art. His poetry collection, "In Formation" (Chusma Press) is a classic. The father of Richard Montoya of the reknowned Chicano comedy group, Culture Clash, Jose has also planted seeds of consciousness, indigenous knowledge, literature, and community for future generations.

I first met Jose Montoya when I was 18 years old. I was just out of jail, using heroin, and sporting long Indian-style hair. I was inbetween two worlds -- the street life of my barrio, a street life I had known since age 7, and the movimiento, the Chicano movement for dignity, rights, land, and justice.

I probably could have gone either way at that time. One of the events that pulled me further into the movement, and a lifetime of revolutionary study, work, and writing, was connecting with Jose Montoya.

I was in Berkeley, CA (the first time I ever flew in a plane -- quite harrowing, despite have been shot at, having ODed, and jailed) after winning honorable mention in the Quinto Sol Chicano Literary Prize. The winners were Rolando Hinojosa Smith, another veteran Chicano expositer, and the late Estella Portillo Tramblay, a master storyteller.

I attended a poetry reading that featured Jose along with the Puerto Rican master poet Pedro Pietri and the African American word shaman David Henderson. It was the first poetry reading I had ever attended. I sat in the audience totally enthralled. I felt the energy, the spirit source of words and wounds, and I was changed forever. I didn't know then that my life would follow this thread. But somehow these voices and verses pulled me into my present life's passions and purposes (I now read all over the country, Latin America, and Europe).

That was 1973. I saw Jose again in the early 1980s when he read as part of the LA Latino Writers Association's reading series at Self-Help Graphics in East LA (I was director of the LALWA for a short time). Then about three years ago, Jose read at Tia Chucha's Cafe Cultural -- the bookstore, cafe, art gallery, performance space I helped create in the San Fernando Valley in December 2001.

Then as life tends to do in the process of completing circles, on May 19 at the Sutter Cancer Center in Sacramento, organized by my friend, the poetry healing doctor, Chip Spann, I read with Jose Montoya in a special evening that brought a standing room only crowd.

To say the least, it was magical. Jose's voice still resonates with years of barrio stories and images and truths. We had a kind of sparring -- Jose reading a couple of poems and I followed in a round robin of back-and-forth, give-and-take exchanges. We didn't rehearse, but it seemed as if we had been doing this for years. And perhaps in our spirits we have been. The elder and mentor, the teacher and student.

Gracias, Jose, tlazhokamati for being there in my life when I most needed this sage light to guide me. And thanks to Chip Spann and his crew who made this last event happen.
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Recent Attacks part of Systemic Plans to Divide and Divert

Today at 5 AM, sheriff's squad cars, helicopters, and bulldozers broke into the South Central Farm (on 41st and Alameda) to evict 350 families who have made a 14-acre garden oasis in an area of urban blight for more than 14 years. The showdown came weeks after the farmers and their supporters tried to get the city to work out a deal so they could stay. A wealthy developer fought in court to get the land back from the city so he could build warehouses in an area already inundated with warehouses.

Academia Semillas del Pueblo, a charter school for kindergarten to eight grade students, in the Eastside community of El Sereno continues to be targeted for closing by Dough McIntyre and other right-wing talk show hosts on Disney-owned KABC-AM 790 radio. The school's sole "crime" -- to be run by Chicanos/Mexicanos/Central Americans (and others) with indigenous concepts, and things like Tai Chi in the morning, and language courses in Spanish, Nahuatl (an indigenous tongue of Mexico and Central America), and Mandarin. McIntyre and his crew are saying the school is run by "terrorists," "self-segregationists," and "racists" because they don't abide by a European-based curriculum. Although the school is meeting charter-school standards and has rising test scores (in a community with some of the lowest test scores in the city), this is not good enough for the real racists at KABC-AM 790 radio. Last week, the school received bomb threats, forcing students to go home.

Attacks against Mexicans have been going on for decades. But the recent removals and targeting against institutions is to destroy anything that provides Mexicans self-sufficiency and independence. The recent anti-immigrant moves by groups like the Minutemen and Save our State (you may as well include the Congress and President Bush) are aimed against the so-called "mexicanization" of the culture. Although undocumented immigrants are made up of people from all over the world, the single largest group comes from Mexico.

This is an unfounded fear. Yet, hysterical calls for English as a national language, billion-dollar walls and National Guard troops on the border, and criminalizing undocumented people who live and work here (and those who support them) shows how desperate a people can be when they perceive a danger.

Terrorism seems to have driven some people mad. Yes, there are terrorists in this world. Yes, 9/11 has changed most everything about how we do things. But Mexicans and other immigrants are not terrorists. Apparently, most terrorists are coming through Canada. The people coming through Mexico are mostly trying to survive.

But just like the US lashed out against countries that had nothing to do with 9/11, including Afghanistan and Iraq, certain groups are lashing out at any people of color, in particular the large number of indigenous Mexicans and Central Americans forced to come here.

They are trivializing the true horror of what happened on 9/11. They are extending terrorism to almost anybody who has an issue or beef with this country. To even loudly proclaim any errors on the part of the government or President Bush has warranted an outrageous response from right-wingers and conservatives (look at how crazy some of them went against the Dixie Chicks, one of whom expressed her righteous opinion against President Bush).

We need dissent. We need critical voices. We need people to challenge the goose-stepping, racist-based, movement of people like the Minutemen and others.

The biggest thing to point out is how divisive this country has become (which is what some of these right-wingers live for) and how much diversion they have stirred up away from the real issues facing all Americans (citizen and undocumented alike, including "red state" conservatives): a polarized economy (falling for most people), increased fuel prices, astronomical housing costs in major markets, global warming, and a war that is a waste of humanity and resources.

Attacking urban farmers and charter schools who are law-abiding and within their rights to exist is a waste of energy, funds, and ideas. But that's where the dividers and diverters like to go.

The real issues facing this country, and the world, are pushed aside.

The problem is most of us won't forget. Our job is to keep bringing these issues back home. Poor whites (even in the Minutemen), poor African Americans, poor Native Americans, and poor immigrants (regardless of status) are in the same boat -- what unites us is greater than what divides us.

It's time we fought for the cohesion and coherency we need to truly safeguard our rights, our lives, and our livelihoods.
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KABC-AM Radio Attacks Eastside Charter School

From Xispas Magazine, June 5, 2006 (www.xispas.com).

Academia Semillas del Pueblo is an LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) sanctioned charter school in the Eastside community of El Sereno with students from kindergarten through the eighth grade.

"[Academia Semillas del Pueblo is] dedicated to providing urban children of immigrant native families an excellent education founded upon their own language, cultural values, and global realities," their official website says (www.dignidad.org).

Besides meeting all requirements for students in LAUSD schools, ASDP provides an ancestral Mexican (indigenous) school environment, based on the Mexika/Aztec concept of kalpulli, which caters to the mostly Mexican/Central American community in El Sereno. Besides English, they also have language classes in Nahuatl (native Mexican), Spanish, and Mandarin. While the majority of the students are Mexican/Central American, the Academia is open to all children of any race, culture, or creed.

Recently, KABC-AM 790 talk radio, which the right-wing has used for years to spout their ugly divisive politics, has targeted ASDP for closure because "they do not instill 'American' values." In particular, Doug McIntyre, a morning talk show host, claims the school is part of the "multiculturalism" push in this country, which has become a particular focus of attack by some US conservative fringe organizations.

Last week, their rabid attacks against ASDP led to bomb threats against the school and its children (even forcing students to go home).

KABC-AM, which is apparently owned by Disney, is a disgrace to academic freedom and the celebration of a rich, cultural reality in Los Angeles and throughout the country. They argue for the homogenization of everyone in this country into what they deem is "white" American society. In essence, they are saying everyone should believe like them, act like them, talk like them.

This is fascism, pure and simple -- people walking in goose steps (literarily or figuratively, it's the same concept). It's also racist (in fact, McIntyre once stated on his radio show that it was good that Whites attacked and killed Native peoples for their land).

What makes this society truly valuable is the diversity of cultures, religions, tongues, and peoples who have come here (some out of necessity). This country was not just built by Europeans. Mexicans, in particular, have been working and fighting for this country for more than 150 years. They've helped build the railroads, pick our fruits & vegetables, and labor at all levels of industry. They've fought in all major wars in the 20th century, garnering more medals of honor than any other ethnic group during World War II. Although Latinos (including Mexicans) are said to be 10 percent of the US armed forces, they reportedly make up upwards of 30 percent of soldiers, marines, and National Guard units in Afghanistan and Iraq (including many undocumented people).

KABC is trying to close Academia del Pueblo not on any legal basis or for incompetence or any issues of malfeasance. The sole focus of their hatred is that the school is run by Xicanos, for Xicanos, and dedicated to Xicano/Mexicano culture and traditions.

What McIntyre and some of the other KABC anchors fail to realize is that Xicanos, Mexicanos, and Central Americans, particularly the indigenous Aztec/Mayan and other tribal roots that these people come from, are part of "America." They are as native as any Native American in this country. They were here for tens of thousands of years before any Europeans arrived. American English itself has many Nahuatl (Aztec) words, including avocado, jaguar, chocolate, maize, tomato, and more. While we at Xispas are not against European culture or people in this country, we are against any imposition of European (Anglo or otherwise) culture to people who are not European (that's colonialization).

While we agree this country should have a unifying language such as English, we also should be fluent in Spanish and/or tribal tongues (or any other of the more than 350 languages spoken in the United States) if we so desire.

In the United States, we can agree on uniting around essential aspects for all people regardless of their origins or traditions, including following the law (when they are just and based on our healthy development, not control), support for the well-being of all children, English as a common tongue, and the freedoms all of us (not just Europeans) have fought for. We should not demand we become homogenized into one mono-culture (in the US there's no such thing anyway).

American culture has the sighs of Jewish mothers, the scraping brooms of Italian street cleaners, the sweat of Algonquin construction workers, the callused hands of Mexican farmworkers, and the immense fortitude of African Americans through slavery and beyond. The Irish, the German, the French, the Japanese, the Filipino, and the British all belong here. So do the Lakota, the Navajo, the Pueblo, the Cheyenne, the Tohono O'oldham -- and now the millions of Zapotecas, Mixtecos, Mayans, Yaquis, Tarahumaras, Huicholes, Purepechas, Pipiles, and other indigenous groups from Mexico and Central America.

We need to stop KABC-AM's racist campaign to remove the variety of human lives and expression in this country. We ask all activists, leaders, speakers, teachers, youth, and elders to contact the radio station and demand they cease any more attacks against Academia Semillas del Pueblo and other non-European community-based institutions.
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Hearts & Hands -- A Pathway to Authentic Community

I am pleased to report that Hearts & Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times will be the core curriculum in a newly certified staff training program for State of California juvenile detention centers, halls, and camps.

The Seven Stories Press book was first published in 2001 and summarizes the almost 30 years of work I've had with youth, gangs, community building, men's work, and justice work.

Drawing from ideas as old as the oldest stories, to some of the best findings in current practices among community youth advocates, Hearts & Hands is a call for imagination, connection, caring, vision, and hope in a political environment that abandons youth, removes vital creative resources from schools and the economy, blames the family and the youth themselves, and then creates massive prisons and juvenile facilities as the only means to address the breakdown of adequate and whole sustenance -- spiritual and physical -- for all of us.

The actual program that has been certified is called "Conflict Management Training: Breaking the Cycle with Dignity," created by Fidel Rodriguez of K.R.Y.L.O.N-13 Educational Initiative (he's also with Divine Forces Radio and co-owner of Imix Bookstore in Eagle Rock, CA) and Michael de la Rocha of the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission. Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall Superintendent Edward Anhalt was instrumental in seeing this program off the ground and eventually certified. My hats off to this open and courageous leader in youth transformation work in some of the most dire circumstances -- youth detention centers.

The program utilizes spiritual practices (yoga, meditation, indigenous, African, and others) and deep rage/grief work with staff members in our juvenile facilities so that they become the real advocates and activists for the youth themselves. It also includes work with the youth in those facilities, supported by and sustained by staff.

I took part in three of the six-month trainings this year first held at the Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, CA. Youth probation superintendents and staff from LA County probation camps, juvenile halls, and gang units were also involved. All participants were encouraged to buy Hearts & Hands and read various chapters throughout the training. Guest facilitators included Luisah Teish, a long-time African American spiritual leader and community activist from the Bay area.

I hope this becomes a major step to injecting imagination, deep soul and spirit work, and mentoring/eldership into places where our most troubled youth need it the most. I'm honored to be part of this immensely vital work.
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A Letter

I recently received this letter by email, which was an honor to read. I'd like to share it with the rest of us (although with a couple of slight changes).

Dear Mr. Rodriguez,

Having just completed your most beautiful novel (Music of the Mill), I feel compelled and inspired to write you to say you are a timely voice -- not only for your people, but for all of us who cherish the eloquence and commonality of the human spirit. How relevant you are these days when the borders of our so-called American nation have become confounded with thoughts about who is, or is not, American. As you instruct, long before the onslaught of the Europeans, (Native peoples) crisscrossed a borderless land with hope and dreams of equanimity. Funny how those who usurp and uproot can now claim moral outrage. Shock and awe! You have certainly made me a convert to desire the assimilation, not only of current immigrants to this nation, but in the ultimate possibility of an America inclusive and truly diverse. What a voice you are. An awesome writer. I can't wait to read your next book.

Yours Truly,

Bob Rubenstein
Brooklyn, New York
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Teatro Chucheros

The young people, including several children, had their faces painted partly in skull face; boys with a cursory knowledge of music played bass, violin, guitar, and drums in the background; and a small but appreciative audience that included parents and friends smiled, laughed, and applauded during the opening performance of Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural's newest arts theater project: Teatro Chucheros (named after our cultural establishment in the Northeast San Fernando Valley).

Funded in part by the City of San Fernando, the play brought out the history of the community surrounding the San Fernando Mission, including the devastating impact the Spanish invadors had on the Native peoples, but also the role of their descendents and Mexicans in creating and expanding the city's roots, flavors, and future.

Taught and organized by the renowned Chicano comedy theater group, Chusma Theater Collective, Teatro Chucheros gave these youth and children theatrical and comedic skills as well as important history lessons, confidence, and recognition. We are thankful to Chusma as well as the City of San Fernando for making this project possible. We are also hoping it will continue and expand as an ongoing project of Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural.

Speaking of which, it's always great to come back from my many trips to this cultural space created by my wife Trini, my brother-in-law Enrique Sanchez, and myself, something I've always dreamed of and now have seen become a positively invaluable meeting place of books, art, poetry, performance, music, dance, and our indigenous Mexican and Central American roots.

Open to all people who can appreciate and honor these aspects in themselves, we've become a beacon of imagination and creativity in a community that had no bookstores, cultural outlets, or even movie houses until Tia Chucha's Cafe Cultural opened its doors more than four and a half years ago (in an area with more than 400,000 people, mostly Spanish-speaking, although LA is considered the Entertainment Capital of the World).

Thank you all, especially the children, the youth, their parents, and their teachers for expanding this dream of community empowerment.
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Where We Go From Here?

Today President Bush proposed deploying 6,000 National Guard Troops on the US-Mexico border to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants. This is nothing but pandering to the most conservative elements in Congress and in the country, including the vigilante anti-immigrant group, the Minutemen. Despite the fact the Minutemen have not had more than 200 people at any of their events (far less most of the time), they seem to matter more to Bush than the millions in 150 cities who boycotted, marched, demonstrated, and walked out on May 1 – probably the largest social mobilization in US history.

We know that the government will not do the right thing. Even their plans for guest worker programs are super exploitation programs. What the movement has been demanding is full and complete amnesty for close to 12 million undocumented people, and a fair & equitable immigration and border policy.

But it appears Bush and Congress will have nothing to do with this.

I think at present the movement has to expand its vision, its reach, its unity, and its organization. At the heart of this movement are the economic rights for all people to have decent lives, decent work, decent pay, decent healthcare, and decent housing. There are millions of American citizens, let alone immigrants, who don’t have these vital things. Let’s move into this Heart of America that the capitalist class, as well as their policy makers and apologists in the media, pretend don’t exist or don’t matter.

A unified, strong, ongoing movement of the poor by the poor and for the poor is the direction the present struggle for dignity and human rights for immigrants is going. Once engaged, the linkages across all borders in this hemisphere and other parts of the world can make this a truly world-wide, historically momentous movement, the possibilities of which are inherent in the recent mobilizations among labor, churches, and social organizations to change immigration policy in the US.
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We Can Do Both: Welcome Immigrants and Be Safe

When I arrived—a couple of hours late mind you—to the Greensboro, North Carolina airport last April 8, around 45 children, teenagers, parents, and community leaders greeted me with signs, specially-made T-shirts, and song.

Other people in the waiting lounge looked interested, and perhaps as surprised as I did, to have such a welcome.

I was completely overwhelmed and honored. They were a group organized by Centro de Accion Latino in Greensboro, who had been awaiting my arrival for talks I was doing in the library, the community, some schools, and county jail. It was one of the few returns I’ve made to North Carolina since I spent ten weeks in early 2000 traveling from one end of the state to the other–from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Outer Banks.

North Carolina, like many US Southern states, has had a tremendous rise in the Latino population this past decade—I read somewhere around 600 percent. These people include many migrants from Mexico, but also from Colombia, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and other Latin American countries. Many are working in the lowest paid, most dangerous work available, including turkey and chicken farms, tobacco fields, service industries, factories, and textiles.

As in most states, tensions between these Spanish-speaking workers and English-speaking Americans, specifically African Americans but also Whites, became the catalyst behind my momentous residence: In two rental cars, I drove my way around this amazingly beautiful country to speak, read, and conduct workshops in some 21 events a week in universities, colleges, public and private schools, prisons, juvenile detention centers, migrant camps, churches, cafes, bookstores, and other venues.

Organized by North Carolina Word Wide (sponsored mostly by the state’s arts council), I spoke to Black, White, Asian, Native American (I now have good friends on the Cherokee rez), and Latino audiences, in English and Spanish.

It turned out to be one of the most healing efforts I’ve ever embarked on.

This April one of my talks/readings was in Greensboro’s Carolina Theater (one of those old ornate turn-of-the-century structures) to around 500 people. That particular visit capped a quick tour of the East Coast with visits to Amherst, MA and Syracuse, NY—both fantastic cities that treated me well and had me addressing many large and important audiences.

There is a growing interest in Chicano/Latino literature, but also in the rapid and extensive growth in the Latino population wherever I go. Here’s what I’ve found—and this after more than 25 years traveling and speaking around the country, Canada, Mexico, Central America, Puerto Rico, and Europe: Most people I’ve met are open, welcoming, and genuinely concerned about why Latinos are here and how we can best incorporate them in this country. I’m also aware that many are scared about our future, about security, about the sense that our resources are being spread too thin.

However, I’m convinced there are imaginative, encompassing, and significant ways to have a country free of terrorism AND a fair, equitable, and humane immigration policy.

The fact that millions mobilized around the country on May 1 for immigrant rights (and they were not only undocumented and documented immigrants, but many American citizens as well) is forcing us to re-examine this issue and find ways to resolve it in the interests of both Americans and non-citizens. This may seem impossible, or at least unlikely, but it’s timely and necessary.

We cannot continue to insist on policies and projects that isolate Americans from the rest of the world—this is the most indefensible position to have.

The vast majority of new immigrants without documents in the United States—reportedly close to 12 million people—are pro-America, willing to work hard, pay taxes, and even go to war (I don’t think they should, but that’s where they’re at).

Minutemen and other anti-undocumented people are cutting their own throats by trying to drive away a mostly peaceful, flag-waving, honest, hard-working people from our shores.

Fortunately, for the moment, their efforts are ineffective. The fact is we need these workers and they need us. It’s time to make this work for all of us; it's time for real imaginative work to make sure we can be safe and have a decent and dignified position around immigration.
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Unfounded Fears Drive Anti-Immigrant Movement

The number of anti-immigrant organizations have exponentially grown in the past few weeks--beyond the myopic racism of the Minutemen (regardless of how many Black and Latinos they manage to recruit) into an alphabet soup of organizations, many of which don't even get along. Some groups are building their own walls on the US-Mexico border, many are rallying in various cities (around 200 average, often smaller), others are waging recall campaigns of candidate they feel are pro-immigrant rights (recently several city officials were kicked out of office by anti-immigrant candidates in a small town in Florida).

However, they are organizing in the midst of the greatest mobilization of people in the history of the United States--for example, on May 1 millions marched, rallied, got off work and school in support of amnesty for undocumented immigrants and fair and equitable immigration and border policies.

These millions also include many citizens and legal residents; the weight of their efforts is on the side of human rights for all people, including undocumented immigrants.

Not so the anti-immigrants. They want whatever pie the US economy consists of to be just for them (although, they'll find that they're being pushed out of the economy just the same, and not because of immigrants).

Yet, it's very likely the Senate will more or less heed the smaller number of Americans who want greater border enforcement and removing undocumented immigrants from US society. Although, I'm sure some Senators will pull away from the total absurdity of the House Sensebrenner Bill that got passed earlier this year (the bill included a 700-foot border wall to the tune of billions of dollar; the criminalization of undocumented immigrants and anybody who helps them; and other inane proposals).

Yet what most pro-immigrant rights groups have been fighting for will probably not see the light of day.

Guest worker programs, different tiers of amnesty approval, and other suggested policies are not good enough. They maintain a second-class population, to be exploited below the exploitation most American workers have to endure.

Our basic premise: If we lift the repression and remove the exploitative nature of being undocumented in this country, it will help all workers, whether they are citizens or not.

But the anti-immigrant groups are poised on fear. One woman called the large number of Mexicans in this country a "genocide" (presumably of white citizens). A recent editorial in the LA Daily News (and echoed on TV shows, including Lou Dobbs on CNN) continues to decry the Mexican flags at rallies (although this is mostly sparse, with millions more US flags in evidence), the spectre of Mecha as a pro-Aztlan takeover organization (Mecha is none of that; besides this movement, which most Mechas support, is much larger than Mecha), and the Spanish-version of the Star Spangled Banner (although there are now reports that George W. Bush sang the National Anthem in Spanish while campaigning in Texas; also, there is evidence the US government commissioned a Spanish version of the National Anthem in 1916).

The hyperbole is insane. What are they afraid of? It's clear Mexicans and other immigrants want to be part of the United States, are willing to work, pay taxes, and even fight in their wars (many have already been killed--I understand there are thousands of undocumented soldiers presently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan).

I don't personally agree we should buy into everything this country is about. But the fact is most Mexicans and other immigrants are very loyal, law abiding, and Christian (although there are many non-Christians among them).

These anti-immigrant people are undermining one of the most solid pro-American sectors in this country. Again, I'm for the end of all borders, for the end of nations to determine our future and destinies, and for the equitable and just distribution of our vast resources to benefit everyone. But, hey, that's just me.

The anti-immigrant groups, driven by unfounded fears and paranoias, are cutting their own throats--similar to what the Confederates did when they seceded in the 1800s and the segregationists did when they opposed Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.

The world is changing. This country is becoming more like the world. This is not bad; it can be very good. But don't blame this just on immigrants--the corporations went global a long time ago. They have long participated in shifting the borders and our formally "sacred" delineations of country and culture.

However, while the corporations do this to enrich themselves, immigrants are here to make real whatever American Dream still exists. Most whites I've talked to support this. It's just a few old-guard whites (and, again, some Blacks and Latinos) who just can't adapt until they're forced to.

With the current pro-immigrant movement issues of race and class are coming to the fore. We don't need to divide around our shallow racial/social positions. We can find the essential goals we all need to unite around--and begin to create a country worthy of all of us, not just the few.
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Expand the rights of Immigrants to include all People

I was privileged enough to take part in the May 1 massive mobilization for immigrant rights that involved 150 cities and millions of people in the US (as well as Mexico and Central America). Our bookstore/cafe, Tia Chucha's Cafe Cultural, closed for the day in solidarity with the Great American Boycott. I took part with my wife Trini, my daughter Andrea, my son Luis, and my grand-daughter Cati who joined Tia Chucha's other partner, Enrique Sanchez, and three Tia Chucha employees/volunteers.

We marched with around 1.5 million people in Los Angeles (officially, it's been declared 600,000 people in two marches). I felt the spirit of unity, of peace, of the righteous demand that all human beings should to be free of hunger, exploitation, oppression, and fear. This is the cause underlying this movement, the banner of which is: Full and complete amnesty for 12 million undocumented workers, and the establishment of fair and equitable immigration and border policies.

In the march and rally I took part in, there were no fights. No rancor. No anger. People felt strong and united. While most were Mexicans, there were many from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Cambodia, the Philippines, Korea, and other countries (I saw one man with a sign that said: "Polish Immigrants Support Amnesty"). Most people wore white and waved American flags.

The world is here. The world is at issue. What we do as a country will make sure we are a beacon for smart, progressive, and encompassing change--or home to some of the most backward, mean-spirited and idiotic ideas (including building walls on the border and criminalizing undocumented people and those who help them).

I'm not sure the Senate will do the right thing when they meet again to debate this issue in two weeks. But I hope the message makes an impact. As activists and leaders, we know we have to do more.

I was pleased with the participation of African Americans in the march, particularly the leaders who spoke and helped with security. We need more whites, Asian, Native peoples, and others involved. We need to expand this struggle to include all people. We still have a war to deal with. We continue to have growing joblessness, homelessness, prisons, lack of health care, eroding environment, and rotten schools. Immigrant rights is part and parcel of all these concerns.

The battle to push forward the rights and economic realities of millions of undocumented and documented immigrants should be seen as a foundation to address why workers of all races, tongues, and creeds continue to lose ground economically, politically, and socially.

Capitalism can only ensure the profits of a few wealthy will grow at the expense of everyone else (while everything else goes up and down, mostly down, profits have steadily soared to astronomical proportions). Gas prices are beyond $3 a gallon now--while Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, and other major oil companies post the biggest profits in their history.

All this affects immigrants as it does citizens. At some point, beyond all the racist, anti-immigrant stands and hate mail, we can find the common thread that ties us all in the same battle, the same struggle, with the same conclusion: the creation of an imaginative, healing, cooperative, and truly secure social system to replace the present decaying, profit-based, material-oriented capitalist system.
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