Sunday, August 11, 2013

Just People, All Colors (Remarks from the Pinal County Annual Fundraiser Dinner)

Remarks from Pinal County Fundraiser 8/10/13
I was the “MC” at the Pinal County Democratic Party’s annual fundraiser event, and a really beautiful event was built into the program. A local strong Dem member, Roberto Reveles, was picked to select a recipient for an award to go to a DREAMER (an undocumented immigrant trying to go to college and be an immigration activist at the same time.) He picked a wonderful young woman named Jimenez whom he met working at the Wells Fargo, as American as apple pie. Reveles, a national leader in the ACLU, gave a fiery speech on the injustice of existing immigration policy. It was one of my personal issues. When they were done, I launched into this:

I grew w the issue of immigration all around me, on the very southern tip of the US, of Texas, the Lower Rio Grande. Puro Chicano. 85% Hispanic, that is why I moved to AZ, actually, to get back to a land that was predominantly Hispanic. I missed the culture after living for years in central Illinois. And as I live out here in the desert in this land where there is so much hatred, so much racism used in the society to hold each other down, I think back to what it was like where I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley. The land reminds me of this land here, very flat, farmland. Lots of brown skinned people. When I was very little I played w the braceros who picked cotton at the end of my street.
At the very tip of the state where the river, the Rio Grande meets the Gulf of Mexico, is a beach called Boca Chica, the little mouth. The nearest border patrol check-point is about four miles away and you have to go through it to get to or from the beach, but there where the river meets the sea there is no worry about law enforcement and border and what-not. Back in the cities, on the multiple bridges that span the river people travel back and forth by the thousands each day, but here at Boca Chica, at the very tip of America, the river is so small, the mouth is so little, people can wade across it. Here where the river meets the sea folks swim and frolic back and forth w total abandon, just for the fun of it. Just for the fun of not having to worry about borders for a change. And you know what? On both sides the people are all different shades of color and they are all doing the same thing: playing w their kids, listening to music and cooking and eating food--just playing w their kids, listening to music, sharing food. Being people.
Now that, that is my dream. I dream of an America where all people are treated like people. I dream of an America that doesn’t depend on exploiting poor economic refugees. I dream of an America that doesn't confuse freedom of speech with "Freedom of English," that wants people to be all sorts of colors and live all sorts of ways and doesn’t treat others badly just because they are different, just because we can get away w it.
I believe it’s more than a dream. I believe we can change this. I believe it can change in the blick of an eye. I know, because it happened to me.
 Here’s a story of how I know things can change. The town where I grew up, Raymondville, TX, was and is one of the poorest places in America. It was a farming town, a small number of owners exploiting a large number of poor and migrant workers. At a time when I was working for a minimum wage of $2.50 per hour, these folks in my hometown were out in the fields picking onions for about 25 cents an hour. Of course they went on strike. Of course, anyone reasonable or sane, would have supported them, but not our small minority of white people in my hometown. All they talked about was how the farm workers were cheats and liars, trying to rip off the struggling farmers who represented the heritage of the community. That the farm workers, the Mexicans, outside agitators, they were trouble, they were criminals, communists and more.

And then one Saturday when I was hitchhiking out of town, to a date I had about 30 miles away … Oh & I should tell you, I had been a teen runaway, and so hitchhiking was something I was used to, it was something I understood, the poor guy walking on the side of the road because there was no other way to get where you’re going. So I was walking out of town when I saw this cloud of people walking in, a parade strung a quarter mile. It was the striking farm workers marching into town for a rally. At first I was worried, I thought back to all I had heard, then, as they got closer, I saw they were people I knew from the community. They were the kids I had liked and trusted in school. There were the pillars of the community marching in solidarity w them, except not the ones names Smith & Jones. It was the ones names Garcia & Gomez. And right there I walked over to the other side of the street and walked right in and joined their march. I knew I had found what truth was and there was no further reason to work for anything else.
And here we are, still marching.
See, I turned myself around just like that. (& btw, later that evening I still made it to my date on time), but I just turned around in that instant, when I finally saw what the truth was I could change in an instant. And so can America. Tonight, I am just glad now to be part of the Democratic Party & join in the work to make my dreams come true and to join in the work to spread the good news that we don’t have to be slaves to the lies that try to tell us we aren’t all brothers, to the people who would want us to fight against each other, instead of simply being all colors of people on the beach, playing w our children, listening to music, sharing food, happy. Free.

Thank you for helping me work to make this dream come true. Thank you.

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