Colors of Optimism 

The immigrants’-rights movement energizes a nation

Wednesday, Apr 12 2006

AND THE MARCHERS kept marching.

Up and down the coasts, through the deserts and mountain country, in the Deep South, all over the Northeast and in the plains, on Broadway in New York City, by the hundreds of thousands on the Mall in Washington, and through L.A.’s Chinatown, immigration-rights marches brought millions onto the streets of America on Monday.

A million more marched the day before, with at least half of them walking peacefully through Dallas.

Related Stories

  • Beer Festivals 3

    Nothing says summer in Southern California like unlimited beer outside on a sunny day. If you're new to craft beer, attending a festival is the perfect way to access many different breweries and styles in one place. Plus food to keep you grounded and music to keep you occupied.  Every...
  • Tijuana Punk Festival

    The L.A. DIY punk scene and its south-of-the-border cousin have long been tight, but with Burnouts en Baja: Vol.1, a two-day punk festival in Tijuana this weekend, the trans-national community-building is about to hit the next level. San Francisco independent punk and hardcore label Discos MMM organized the festival, which features headliners Los Monjo...
  • New CA Beers

    A three day weekend is swiftly approaching - and plenty of beer drinking with it. Lucky for you, this is one of the most exciting weeks we've seen for beer releases, and every selection we've featured is unique and large-format. If you're looking for beers you can take generous pulls...
  • Stop the Anti-Immigration Hysteria: Murrieta's Obama Haters Need a Fact Check 61

    We're pleading here for straight talk on both sides of the illegal immigration debate, so we'll start this party with some brutal honesty: Illegal immigration isn't necessarily good for Latino Americans, and many of us don't always welcome it. Why would we ask for the clock on our U.S. assimilation...
  • Beer Camp!

    If you're the type of observant beer drinker who's keen to such things, you may have noticed last week's aggressive marketing launch of Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp Across America, one of the most ambitious craft beer celebrations yet. A multi-pronged offensive into the gullet of beer fans nationwide, the Beer Camp...

Monday marked one month since the historic March 10 rally and march on the Loop in Chicago, where hundreds of thousands of residents of that multicultural, muscular city gave a listless country a preview of what was to come by the sheer size and diversity of their presence.

March 10 already feels like it belongs to another era.

By March 25, when more than half a million gathered in downtown Los Angeles for the largest peaceful demonstration since anyone around here could remember, there was little doubt a movement had begun that was unlike any in the nation’s history. Then Monday happened. The demonstrations spread. And grew.

Black Muslim, Christian and civil-rights leaders were present at events in cities including Detroit and Seattle, and here in L.A. At La Placita, the Rev. Norman Copeland, presiding elder for the Los Angeles conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, made connections between the “walls” that separated blacks from their civil rights in a previous era and the “walls” separating immigrants from their rights today.

“Black Americans have faced walls before, walls of segregation, walls of discrimination, walls of slavery, legal walls that would not allow my father to eat in a restaurant or sleep in a hotel,” Copeland said. “Walls are the breeding ground of fear and confusion.”

Then, invoking a rallying cry everyone in Los Angeles can understand, he hollered: “Fight on! Fight on! Fight on!”

During the march through Chinatown, a neighborhood with its own nasty history of racial discrimination against the Chinese immigrants who came to build California late in the Industrial Revolution, NAACP president and CEO Bruce Gordon stood at the center-front — flanked very symbolically by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Senator Gil Cedillo, rivals and old friends.

African-American leaders have attended many of the immigration-rights events since the beginning, but organizing leaders and media figures overshadowed their presence. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, the columnist and political commentator, has drawn attention to the fact that the “old guard” of black organizations such as the NAACP, the Urban League and the Congressional Black Caucus, have been slow to stake their position on the immigration-rights movement. “Just getting a speaker to come to a rally is not enough,” Hutchinson said. “There’s still a feeling-out process on the part of the mainstream older civil-rights organizations. It’s overwhelmed them in many ways.”

That’s part of it, of course, but so is the widely held and dangerously generalized notion that tensions exist in Los Angeles between blacks and Latinos. For this reason, organizers at the vigil and march downtown on Monday had a point person ready to tackle a topic that is laced with inadmissible, Crash-prone stereotypes.

Shannon Lawrence, a 28-year-old political coordinator in South Los Angeles for Service Employees International Union Local 434B, said L.A. blacks are seriously discussing their place in the new movement, and tackling some of their own prejudices. “At the end of the day, everybody is an immigrant to this country, but second of all, we all live in the same community, we all shop in the same stores, we all go to the same libraries, our kids go to the same schools,” Lawrence said. “There should be no reason why my neighbors should not be able to participate the same way I do.”

The immigration-rights movement, he added, is “really calling people out on their own personal beliefs. I think it’s forcing them to look in the mirror, and in looking in the mirror, people are realizing that we’re more the same than we are different.”

A hopeful message, but one that maybe hasn’t resonated with African-Americans who are filling the infosphere with angry messages about the immigration marches. For Hutchinson, the response is a sign of deeper problems that leaders on both sides of the divide have failed to actively address. In an interview Tuesday, he said that African-Americans have a legitimate concern on the question of jobs, but that instead of first “pointing fingers,” community leaders must also tackle the social ills that afflict black America, such as failing schools and broken homes.

“There still is a disconnect between what they’re doing at the top and what many African-Americans feel at the bottom. They do not see the illegal-immigrants’-rights movement as their movement,” Hutchinson said. “It’s not going by polls, it’s not quantitative, it’s just what people are saying. As a matter of fact, many are very hostile to it: ‘How dare you make that comparison.’?”

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets


  • Street League Skateboarding Super Crown World Championship
    On Sunday, Street League Skateboarding touched down in the Galen Center at USC as part of a four-stop tour for SLS's Super Crown World Championship. The L.A. stop determined the roster for Super Crown, airing August 24th on FOX Sports 1. The final eight are Nyjah Huston, Luan Oliveira, Torey Pudwill, Shane O'Neill, Paul Rodriguez, Chaz Ortiz, Matt Berger and Ishod Wair. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Comic-Con's "Celebrity" Autograph Area
    A sometimes overlooked (but still incredibly unique) aspect of San Diego Comic-Con are the celebs available to sign autographs, as well as the autograph seekers themselves. If you've ever wanted to meet the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld or the guy who played Michelangelo in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, chances are, as you wander the Autograph Area, you'll be able to connect with someone you didn't even realize you were waiting your whole life to meet! All photos by Rob Inderrieden.
  • Real Madrid Soccer Practice at UCLA
    Fans came out to greet world champion soccer team Real Madrid as they practice at UCLA. This is the first time that soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has practiced with the team this year. All photos by Jeff Cowan.