By Liisa Wale
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
This past Saturday, August 24th, communities of color came out to celebrate their successes through events and marches. Somos America Coalition had a community event to celebrate 7 years of civic engagement. The African American community in Phoenix marched to celebrate the 50th Anniversary March on Washington. Even though this was a day of celebrating both groups acknowledged that there is still a long way to go in the struggle for equality.
The day started off at the Painters Union Hall with Somos America Coalition. The organization is a coalition of community organizations advocating for migrant rights. The community gathered to celebrate victories and success but was also there to reinvigorate. Seven years ago over 200,000 people marched in the streets of Phoenix to speak out against injustice for the migrant community. People spoke of their experiences and how far the group has come. Mary Rose Wilcox stated it has been “a great adventure that got its start in 2006”. The day included speakers, food and music. On the walls protest signs, pictures of the 2006 march as well as a slide show represented some of the work that Somos America Coalition is doing. Some of the speakers included past and current presidents of Somos, representatives from Team Awesome, Sheila Ryan of End the War Coalition, and Monica Sandschafer of Living United for Change in Arizona(LUCHA). Monica of LUCHA provided some words of encouragement to the audience by saying that as long as we keep standing up for migrant rights “the state is going to look way different in 7 more years”.
Later in the afternoon in celebration of the 50th Anniversary March on Washington about 200 people marched on Washington in Phoenix to celebrate the famous “I Have A Dream” speech. This was a small march compared to the one in Washington D.C. which took place earlier in the day, but was full of as much energy. The people in the crowd were marching for justice, jobs and freedom just as people in D.C. did 50 years ago. It began at 8th Street and Washington in downtown Phoenix and ended at the Arizona State Capitol. The march was lead by leaders in the community carrying a NAACP banner with people following behind them of all ages. Signs were being held included “We March for Human Rights for All NOW!”, “We Demand Social Economic Justice NOW!” and “We the People! Jobs! Equality! Freedom!”. At the state capitol many speakers spoke of the past, present and how to change the current system. The long list of speakers included Mayor Greg Stanton, Arizona State Senator Leah Landrum, Kerwin Brown and Rev. Oscar Tillman. Their unifying message “We Shall Overcome” and will not remain silent in the face of injustice.
Both groups mentioned some of the struggles that they are facing in everyday life. In the migrant community things have gotten better but 1200 people are still deported everyday. For both the “black and brown” communities they both continue to be targets of racial profiling. There is some awareness that if the United States Congress passes a Immigration Reform Bill that racial profiling will still continue. Especially here in Arizona were Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been found guilty of racial profiling. Both communities here in Arizona acknowledge that they share a similar struggle of injustice. At both events the ideas of encouraging people to rise up through voting, becoming leaders in the communities and education were displayed through words, action and example. Daniel Rodriguez, current President for Somos America, spoke of how the communities must stand up to injustice because “the problem is not civil disobedience, but civil obedience” and continued on to say “If we fail to stay involved things will go back” to the way they were.
**Feature painting is on exhibit at Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center in Phoenix.