As a onetime journalist, I know a project often starts with a seemingly innocuous question about the world around us. The genesis of this one came as I wondered why the attempts at interracial and multiracial coalition building that I first witnessed and then joined in my current hometown of Durham, North Carolina, played out the ways they did. Why did African Americans, Latinos, and white liberals disagree vehemently about how to pursue and achieve justice for the neediest among us? Why was poverty so often addressed separately? Was there anything natural about the coalitions activists sought but rarely could achieve? Obviously, these turned out to be remarkably complex questions—questions that set me on a path that resulted in this book. While not exactly a community study itself, this book was born in a community, and it took a community to write it.
First, I want to acknowledge those men and women who shared with me their stories, experiences, and memorabilia from more than forty years ago. They did not have to return a stranger’s phone calls or invite me into their homes and offices, but they did. I am honored that they would trust me enough to attempt to relate their stories, and I hope I did them justice. A few folks that deserve particular mention are Gloria Arellanes, Gilberto Ballejos, Carlos Montes, Maria Varela, and Ernesto Vigil, all of whom went above and beyond in helping me make sense of this era through their personal experiences. Also deserving mention are the movement icons that I corresponded with but did not formally interview, including Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, Tim Black, Reies Tijerina, William “Preacherman” Fesperman, and Corky Gonzales (the last just weeks before he died in 2005).
I am grateful to those who read all or part of this book in the making, including Lauren Araiza, Rob Chase, Erik Gellman, Bryan Gilmer, Tom Jackson, Max Krochmal, Orion Teal, Justice, Power, and Politics series editors Heather Thompson and Rhonda Williams, and my not