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Building Black and Brown unity

May 26, 2006 | Page 4

OVER THE past few weeks, we have seen a tremendous movement around immigrant rights in Los Angeles. At the same time, there has been some press coverage of Black activist Ted Hayes speaking out "on behalf of the community" in support of the Minutemen and against the immigrant rights movement.

The response by progressive Black forces has been immediate and politically very inspiring for the prospect of building a truly multiracial movement in this city.

In Community Call to Action and Accountability (CCAA), the anti-police brutality group in South Central that was formed over a year ago after the brutal murder of a young boy by the police, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) put forward a proposal to endorse and build the May 1 boycott and rally.

There was a heated debate in our committee group that split the room. People argued hard that the immigrant struggle was a class struggle, and that our position should be to unite against our real enemies: the crooks who run the system. This got some support, but there was also a feeling in the room that people's own lives are so difficult that it was easy to scapegoat immigrants in a city with a growing Latino movement and presence.

The argument was not resolved, and those of us in the meeting feared we would not be able to win the overall position of endorsing May Day.

The following week, one of the leaders of CCAA invited a guest speaker from a local college to give a presentation about the history of Black and Brown unity. There were several Latinos in the room, many of them active in local struggles, as well as about 75 Black activists.

Pastor Lewis Logan invited Professor Ron Wilkens to speak. He had heard Wilkens' presentation at a conference he had attended in early April, and felt that a discussion about the legacy of Black/Brown unity would sway people to get behind the May 1 movement.

Professor Wilkens spoke on the long history of Latinos helping escaped slaves, the Mexican War and the leadership roles that Blacks played in the Mexican revolution. It was amazing to hear so much information that has been deliberately left out of our history books.

The discussion that followed was an open forum, where most speakers expressed support for the immigrant rights movement and had questions about the role Blacks could play in such a movement. It was a definite change from the previous week, and Pastor Logan argued hard for unity.

The ISO members who spoke were given support from the crowd, and though I had been race-baited (being one of the only white people in the room) the previous week, the support I received from fellow activists who I had been working with for months, through the work to stop last year's execution of Stan Tookie Williams, meant that no one did it again at this meeting.

On May 1, the Nation of Islam and CCAA had a contingent in the noon immigrant rights march, and also participated in the later marches and rallies. Pastor Logan, Minister Tony Mohammed and Stan Mohammed were all on the speakers' list at the ending rally.

This was a huge step forward for Black/Brown unity, and a major blow to the racism coming from the small number of dissenting Blacks in the community who have managed to get the ear of the press (which is trying to perpetuate a split for their own ratings). Through our work as socialists and the progressive arguments raised in CCAA, we have been able to play a role in bringing together two groups in the community.

The May 1 march was incredibly multiracial, and showed the world and the racists in LA that we can build across cultural, religious and ethnic lines and that together we are a force to be reckoned with.
Dana Blanchard, Los Angeles

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