This Unity Corps web site has been created to commemorate the significance of La Gran Marcha which occurred in the streets of downtown Los Angeles on March 25th, 2006. While for the most part, the majority of all U.S. mainstream news media was wholly absent, arrantly disconnected, oblivious, insignificant, and/or uncharacteristically reticent in its overall reportage of this important historic American mega-event; the U.S. public at large took serious notice (primarily through word of mouth) on the major implications of this unprecedented display of human / civil rights assemblage. Never before in the history of the U.S. had any civil or human rights gathering brought together so many people at any one time and place. Even the "low" crowd estimate such as that which was initially given by the L.A.P.D. tabulated the total number of participants at 500 thousand (or more). This lowest of estimates would still be significantly larger than any other major American protest demonstration 'ever' in the past.
Comparison of U.S. News Media Coverage on African Americans of the 60s and Latinos Today
On August 28th, 1963, the much celebrated March on Washington known for Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, drew an audience of roughly 200,000 supporters. Now in a retrospective comparison to La Gran Marcha, even that great day (generally considered to be the apex of the Civil Rights Movement) appears to have been somewhat deficient in the potential of what it could have also been memorialized for representing. Meaning, that if the U.S. Latinos living in that era would have also been systematically included in the dialogue of that period's civil rights struggles (more so than they were), then many of the struggles that Latinos are currently still facing would not be coming to even further fruition today. There's a reason La Gran Marcha was much larger in size than the March on Washington. The reason of course is.. Latinos. Our great many diverse issues of hardships and struggles are still being experienced today and in very heightened ways. The struggle for us continues to go on..
Undoubtedly, there are many commonalities in the experiences and struggles of African Americans living in the sixties and Latinos living in the United States today. Yet, there are also a tremendous amount of huge differences in our respective struggles as well. Whereas both African Americans then, and Latinos now, may have been searching for the same things in terms of increasing our societal power and demanding an overall common respect for our dignity as human beings. The main difference between the two groups is the amount of media attention that the African American community has always been given in the reportage of their particular struggles being dealt with at the time. Whereas, the Latino community (both then and today) is still seeking this same type of adequate representation and media exposure concerning our respective issues and more so.. from our perspective as well.
Hence, while La Gran Marcha was a tremendously important display of organizational power and unity within the Latino community; there is an equally strong tragedy in that although it was the single "largest protest event in U.S. history", it was not adequately shown and almost viturally shunned by all of the mainstream U.S. news reporting agencies.
According to the U.S. Dept. of State, during the time of the March on Washington: "Press coverage was more extensive than for any previous political demonstration in American history." Similarly, according to Taylor Branch author of Pillar of Fire, a bestselling history of the Civil Rights Movement, "millions of television viewers, including President Kennedy, heard the complete King speech... All three U.S. networks carried it live" and to its full conclusion. Cameras of the various media news reporting agencies were everywhere. An organization of those who were active participants entitled, Civil Rights Movement Veterans recalled that "Media coverage of the march is extensive and world-wide. There are roughly 1,200 accredited journalists and reporters in Washington, and most of them (to) cover the march. In addition, 1,600 special march-related press passes are issued. The result is the most extensive media coverage of any event in Washington since the funeral of President Roosevelt... the march is the lead story on all 3 network news shows, and it's on the front page of every major newspaper the next day."
So then, why did La Gran Marcha not receive the same? Was this massive assembly of nearly a million or more people peacefully demonstrating their concerns not large enough to be heard? Can America get beyond the myopic opinions and representations of only a few groups? Can it get beyond the white and black paradigm? Can we get beyond this narrative of our American story from a white and black perspective only? It needs to. It must. And.. it needs to happen now. Because Latinos are hear to stay. We are part of the American landscape. We are a strong, descent, growing productive part of this nation. Withholding any shame, ultimately, this is our country too. Thus we too demand an adequate representation and respect as the African American community has already received - as we too are here for the permanent literal good.
So too, from the conversations being heard in our homes, and the shouts being seen in the streets, it's easy to realize that many from the Latino American community (and other underrepresented groups) are not feeling that we have fully received all of the same benefits derived from the 1960's civil rights era to the same extent that the African American community already has.
Is this not a question of adequate representation? Is this not the same plea to have one's own unique perspective seen in the media and represented in our politics, in television, film, music, and all of the other areas of society? Is this not a matter of public visibility and access to media which gives rise to equality and real power? Certainly, with the display of La Gran Marcha it is evident that there continues to be (at least - in the conscious mind of the Latino American community) a major struggle that still persists in America today. Ironically, it is a struggle that is not merely defined around the basic desires for recognition of one's dignities and civil rights in this society. Even though these are undeniably real concerns. It is also an urgent plea on the recognition of a need for a national dialogue on the very issue of "human rights" for all people living in the United States today. Citizen or not. Unlike the African American community of the sixties, the Latino American community has a fight which revolves around the issues of immigration and whether or not we are even welcome as mere residents of this land. The threat of real deportation was not ever an issue being dealt with by African Americans living in the sixties or the Civil Rights Act.
Surely, few would undermine the importance of what the great "March on Washington" meant to the history of the United States and the Civil Rights Movement in general. Yet, when considering the great abundance of media support for Dr. King's March on Washington, both prior to and during the actual event, and its much smaller size in comparison to La Gran Marcha, one can only help to question how the efforts of nearly a million (or more) Latinos marching at La Gran Marcha could be virtually ignored. This is quite remarkable and telling about our country and how it deals with Latinos in our time. It is yet another reason and testament to the fact why many Latinos both then and now have not felt fully included in the crux of discussions about civil rights and representation in America today - and, we should be. And it's time to change. Now.
The Significance of La Gran Marcha. What It Represents & Where Do We Go From Here?
To the singular issue of La Gran Marcha and what it has represented, America should at minimum be listening to the masses of its largest so-called minority group living within its own borders. Can we not see that this isn't merely a plea? It is a proclamation. More so, it is now a demand. Here us now. You must. Was this singular demonstration, La Gran Marcha, not loud enough for us to recognize that America must become more culturally aware? What more must we do? What would be the next step? We've already demonstrated with the largest protest that this country has ever seen.
A major reason that La Gran Marcha was so grand is that it was a display of values. It was the Latino community stating to a significant legislative body (the U.S. Congress) which is currently threatening to break up our families (that entity which is most valued in our community) for the misdemeanor violation of crossing an invisible, unenforced border, in the search of a better life; that, it is here, at home - in this, the land of Miss Liberty and what she stands for - that you are consciously going against your professed values. You are being hypocritical. And, you are wrong.
This was a display of the masses on the heart and soul of what this country represents. Give us your poor, your impoverished, and those seeking a better life in this land. Well, isn't this what we are? The consciousness of being right over Congress is what propelled the momentum leading to La Gran Marcha. In the best interest of America and our shared world, all of us as Americans must learn to know and understand more about all cultures of the world, and most certainly those within our own borders. Ourselves. This is more than what is expected of any nation which would proclaim to be the leader of the free world. It is an intelligent act and an ability to understand the fullness of our own social dynamics. It is our calling. It is the only way that we as an American people can truly be considered "great" in the truth of living up to our professed values.
For both the opponents and supporters of the proposed legislation Sensenbrenner / King H.R. 4437, this demonstration was seen as a wakeup call. For many in the community of people who abhor the current rates of immigration (both legal and illegal), they see it as direct evidence of an imminent threat to our nation. Many of these type who will readily refer to the undocumented worker as an "illegal alien", an "enemy of the state" or "invader", and often times even worse, continue to see this newest influx of immigrants as a threat to their "American way of life". They see the influx of people from the south as a threat to their jobs, and occasionally even their safety at home, and their lives. This has been a common occurrence within our country.
With any new immigrant groups' arrival, some other established group has always been threatened. It seems this is just human nature. But with education and understanding, familiarity with each other, these fears can be overcome. Humans are often afraid of each other as strangers. But when we break bread with each other, literally, we most usually can learn to get along. What is most particularly disturbing about this current new furor over immigration is that it has taken on the tones of being a threat to the "whiteness" of America; and in some respects, even the "blackness" of America too. Now we must win over the power structure and fears of two groups? Really? Interestingly enough, many in the African-America community have also expressed similar fears about the current large influx of immigrants coming from Mexico, other parts of Latin America, Asia, and all areas of the world. This, despite the fact they too were once an underrepresented and overly oppressed minority group? With respect to the black community, there is an additional factor in that it's current silence and general lack-luster support in overcoming the struggles that Latino Americans are currently fighting in this country is being perceived as an unfortunate occurrence if not a slight betrayal. Traditionally, the African American community has been very pronounced in its opposition to the dominant forces of so-called "white America" and the immoral behavior of its legislators who would choose (whether consciously or not) to continually push for further hardships on the oppressed. In any respect, Latinos who are actively being seen as the spearhead on this continuation and furtherance of the Civil Rights Movement in America for the most part have not, and do not see this issue in the same manner as either whites or blacks. For, we are neither. This is not only a color issue for us. Often it is not this at all. This is about family and the ability to support it over the consideration(s) of anything else. It is about the desire for accessibility to the promise of America. It is about the desire for opportunities to be much more than merely one's gardener, the maid, or any other menial labor alone - despite the worthiness and honoring of these noble professions. We are a people with a culture based primarily on the importance of certain values. Family, our deep sense of spirituality, loyalty, humility, and the strength of our overall community are of tantamount concern. This despite any of the perceived hatreds that may be coming from the detached legislators of Washington, the overly jingoistic American patriot, a white supremacist, black fears, the motivations of corporations and money, or any other perceived threats to us based on any of the simple fears and unethical laws that may arise.
The main significance of La Gran Marcha is that we Latinos have now empowered ourselves. With this historic event, we not only showed this country and the world our power to assemble. We showed ourselves who we truly are. With this, the largest mass demonstration in the history of the United States (which consisted primarily of only one cultural group), we showed an ability to peacefully demonstrate with one mindset and have the capacity to be highly organized for the purpose of obtaining one common goal. The implications here are many. They will undoubtedly be felt for many generations to come whether or not this hateful legislation known as H.R. 4437 - coming from its Republican sponsors, U.S. Senator Jim Sensenbrenner (WI) and Congressman Peter King (Seaford, NY) - passes or not. As the story of the Latino Civil and Human Rights Movements continue to evolve, many organizations are now coming together. We are forming alliances. We are stressing the importance of having a commitment to the concerted message of unity.
Beyond the Latino community, and even this country alone, the way to peace on this planet is for all of humanity to have the common mindset of unity amongst all of the various factions of our society, all types of human beings worldwide. While there will always be many sides to any issue, we should always remember that we are human beings first and the citizen of any government second. We should never leave our sense of humanity and our love for any fellow human being to anything beyond one's own conscience; and most certainly not to the disposal of any particular legislator(s) or the laws of any one land alone. In our heart of hearts all human beings know what is right and wrong. It is by our own volition through our own levels of connectedness to the inner being within us all that we chose to act. It is time for us to act in good. All of us. We must trust in our own individual senses of humanity and our feelings of righteousness seated at the heart of every soul.
It is not merely in the media or the halls of Congress that we need more of an enlightened understanding. It is with every faction of society and every inhabitant of our world. It may be that at our present evolutionary state it is too much to expect heightened understandings of all, everywhere and everything. Nevertheless, for the simplicity of our American legislators, let it merely be said. Any legislation that would criminalize an undocumented worker but lay blameless any American employer who actively seeks their labor is neither fair nor justifiable. Any government that would seek to shoulder the burden of blame on its own lack of national security to the poorest of the poor from any nation, on this body of people who are "the most" unempowered of our society, i.e. the undocumented immigrant/worker, does not see clearly who it is and what is to blame for this country's real lack in national security and the real reasons for this country's declining respect being suffered around the world today.
To this American government, know that the attempts to felonize the simplest of human beings for crossing our national border out of a deep love for family and the greatest of desperations - is neither in the best interests of peace and harmony for our society nor morally correct. Our government could learn much from the undocumented worker. When it is a choice between the love of one's family and their well-being, and what is disobedient in the face of an unreasonable, unethical, unenforced, or inhumane law, the choice is quite simple. It is for the love and respect of one's own their survival that will always rule above any government's laws.
To the American people, it is our society's persistent lack of understanding on other cultures, and our deep lack of diversity and representation in many aspects of our society that is most threatening to the stability of America now. It is the extreme reprehensible ignorance and blind hatreds, the compassionless hearts of too many Americans that claim to be shedding tears over the falsity of losing jobs, benefits, or any advancement in our society at the expense of a so-called "illegal" human beings. No one is illegal. This is not a theoretical debate. We all exist, in the real. Such dialogue is false rhetoric. It is foolish. It is an undermining of the great and noble desire and drive in most human beings to truly thrive. Rarely do these same self-proclaimed displaced individuals question their own inefficiencies, their own work ethic, or the reasons any employer might be favoring any other individual over them. More than just being senseless in the absence of a critical self-examination of one's own lack in ambitions or abilities, the questions of laziness and inefficiency, far too many Americans are also remiss in considering even the most current of information presented as facts. In all of the statistics that we currently have, there is a revealing of the truth and a positivity about what the real effects of immigration on communities are. This is a time when both the growth of American jobs and personal income is up. This is a time when both unemployment and the national crime statistics are at record lows. So then, what does this say about the arguments of jobs that are being lost and American society being hurt? Is there more or less being revealed here about the hearts of these hostile voices that are commonly heard in public media? Isn't this really about who they are, the anti-immigrants, anti-immigration reformists, and their own hatreds?
In many respects, it is specifically this great event, La Gran Marcha, which has now propelled our American psyche to re-examine what we truly believe to be fair and just in a modern society of this millennium. This is a question for all Americans that is neither solely black nor white, partisan nor religious, popular nor underground. It is a recognition that America as a nation must continue to progress and mature even beyond what has already been achieved to date. We as Americans must learn to solve our problems without the subterfuge of blame on the most destitute and innocent of this planet. Thus, to be true and faithful to the greatest ideals of our great nation, any further oppression of these poor undocumented workers - who in truth have been actively sought by a multitude of oddly quiet individuals and corporations alike - is not the answer. Whether by the selfish interests of big or little business, or the privileged individuals of this country, society has clearly proven that this immigrant population is truly wanted by a mere virtue of the fact that they are here and in numbers. It is a de facto reality being expressed in the multitude of their presence. And yet, despite any of the oppressive conditions that they currently endure, they are still fighting to sustain a fulfilling life for themselves and their own. If anything we as Americans should all be commending them for their courage and their loyalty to family and community. Even in the face of extreme discriminations, hatreds, hostilities, oppressions and vilification, they continue to remind us of the promise to immigrants that this nation was built on. We should be thanking them for reminding us about what America is supposed to be.
The verbal and physical abuse of these good and decent people must stop. Unity Corps encourages all Americans to join in the struggle for creating greater widespread recognition on the need for respect of the basic rights and dignities of all human beings. The solution for this current dilemma and all of our concerns lies with one solution. It is in the expression and implementation of true caring concern and representations for the rights of all human beings as equals - despite any dissensions that may be created by our own government or any special interests that favor only a few. (original publication date - 04/06/2006 ; revision - 03/22/2009; statistics further revised - 07/27/14)