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Sí, se puede – Yes we can enact immigration reform!

 

A crowd of more than 200,000 gathered in our nation’s capital on last Sunday to push President Barack Obama to keep his campaign’s promise to enact a  “just and humane” immigration policy for our nation. Jimmie Garland Sr. from the Clarksville Tennessee NAACP was there along with members of the Hispanic Organization for Progress and Education (H.O.P.E.) and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC).

Seldom does one have the opportunity to witness history in the making.

As we marched through the streets of Washington, D.C., our nation’s capitol, you could feel the tensions of excitement in the spirit of the marchers. There were participants of all ages, nationalities, ethnicities, and social germane. Each brought their story, and contributed openly to the most important march for freedom in the 21st Century. A march that is certain to go down in history as the beginning of the Hispanic community’s call for real equality and justice. An appeal for unhindered citizenship, the ability for their children to not be left behind as they prepare themselves to become productive citizens.

Members of  the Hispanic Organization for Progress and Education (H.O.P.E.) and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) march past the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington DC

Members of the Hispanic Organization for Progress and Education (H.O.P.E.) and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) march past the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington DC

In reflection, my mind ventured back to the 60’s when we as African Americans began our trek towards justice and equality. A time that met with grave resistance from individuals who would dare advocate moderation in our move to declare our right to citizenship and the freedom to exercise our right to vote. I was please to see the impact our movement, in the 60’s, made in the call and execution of the Hispanics movement towards equality and justice.

Noteworthy was the fact that the participants in this rally did not have to face the consequences of fire hoses, dogs, police brutality, etc.. The march to and from the rally point was cordial and very uplifting. Rather than meeting resistance by members of law enforcement, we were assisted by them as we negotiated the streets to and from the monumental event.

Pastor Tommy Vallejos from H.O.P.E., and other Tennessee delegates to the National Immigration Reform March

Pastor Tommy Vallejos from H.O.P.E., and other Tennessee delegates to the National Immigration Reform March

I have been privileged, during my lifetime, to experience the selection and acts of several leaders who have made notable contributions to the social, economic and judicial elevation of people of color.

To name a few, I have endured through the leaderships of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, JR, Malcolm X, Mrs. Rosa Parks, General Colon Powell, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Soto Meyer, and President Barack H. Obama, 44th President of the United States of America. Each of these leaders introduced new perspectives in the lives and habitations of citizens of colors who reside in the greatest nation in the world.

This weekend, I had a unique opportunity to witness the arrival of a man who is destined to be a leader in changing the way America recognize the worth and contributions of our Hispanic brothers and sisters. The contributions they have made and are making in their struggle for equality.

Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, D, IL

Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, D, IL

His name is U.S. House of Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, D, IL. Congressman Gutierrez was the keynote speaker for the Immigrants Rally held in Washington D.C. on March 22, 2010. There were several notable civil rights leaders who attended this event, such as Benjamin Jealous, President CEO National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Reverend Jesse Jackson, SR, Director, P.U.S.H Rainbow Coalition, Marc H. Morail, CEO, National Urban League, but the rose was pinned upon Representative Gutierrez to bear the mantle for his people as their advocate for the equality of immigrants across this nation. He bore it well.

As I and those present listened tentatively to Rep. Gutierrez’s address, we were mesmerized with his passion and captivated with the delivery of a speech designed to awaken the conscience of a nation to the true meaning of inclusiveness and the personal responsibility of each of us to be fair and opened minded to the realities of the contributions immigrants has made and continues to make to our nation.

The echo of the chant, “Sí, se puede – Yes we can”, still ring in my ears as the rally participants responded to the several calls for justice and equality for their people. A basic call for simple things such as equal education, affordable housing, fair labor and the right to exist unfettered in the greatest society on earth, America.

To be truthful, with the exceptions of the Native Americans, we are all immigrants. Regardless of your heritage, if you search far and deep enough into your lineage, you will undoubtedly find that your ancestors were not original inhabitants of this great nation. Being such, regardless of how minuscule, we each have traveled this path to citizenship.

During his keynote address, Representative Gutierrez halted for a few seconds and looked over the vast crowd that was responding to his monologue. I imagined that at that moment, he was assessing the magnitude of the position he had been assigned which is the responsibility to lead the way in bringing real justice to his people. A position previously held by such notable as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, JR, Mrs. Rosa Parks, General Colon Powell and other who blazed the trails of equal and social justice.

It will be Rep. Gutierrez’s job to ensure the nation does not return to business as usual. His job will be to constantly remind America its responsibility to remedy the situational disadvantage of those who work hard, adhere to the policies and laws of this society, and are willing to meet the demands ascribed to making them true partners in this great society. Our job as citizens of this great nation will be to support them in their plight by not letting our representatives at all levels of government know that we are a nation of immigrants, bound by our desire to be active participants in the making and execution of laws designed to serve and protect the rights afforded us under the umbrella of our constitution.  “Sí, se puede – Yes we can!”

Photos from the National Immigration Reform March


About Jimmie Garland, Sr.

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