Riding with the Wind: Immigrant Rights Activists Travel the Deep South to Learn from the Civil Rights Movements

By Calpotura, Francis | Colorlines Magazine, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

Riding with the Wind: Immigrant Rights Activists Travel the Deep South to Learn from the Civil Rights Movements


Calpotura, Francis, Colorlines Magazine


On March 7, 1965, Congressman John Lewis, then chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), led one of the most dramatic protests of the civil rights movement when 600 marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, singing "We Shall Overcome" and claiming their full rights as citizens of the United States. State troopers and local police attacked the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas in a confrontation that has become known as "Bloody Sunday."

On another Sunday morning, 38 years later, 90 immigrants and their supporters, part of the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides, reenacted the Pettus Bridge march, this time singing "We Shall Overcome" and "Las Mananitas de los Inmigrantes" and chanting "Somos Uno/We are One." We have come from Texas, riding in two coach buses, winding our way through the important markers of the civil rights movement--this time to gain public support and to press legislators in Washington, D.C. on an immigrant rights agenda. "I can't believe that we're here," says an awed Maria Jimenez, a Houston-based activist and a veteran of the immigrant rights movement.

Resurrecting a Movement

Walking with Maria at the head of the Pettus bridge march are Maria Elena Durazo, president of HERE Local 11 in Los Angeles and head of the IFWR, Pat Ford, vice-president of SEIU, and Marilyn Sneiderman, director of field mobilization of the AFL-CIO. The frontline symbolizes the central role of the labor movement in the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides and in resurrecting the immigrant rights agenda that has been floundering in the aftermath of 9/11.

"Sept. 11 created a crisis in immigrant communities," says Durazo in an interview. "Thousands of people lost their jobs and immigrants were branded as enemies. We wanted to provide a spark to promote unity between workers, and to make sure that no one gets left behind."

The spark found fuel at the December 2001 AFL-CIO convention in Las Vegas when the proposal for the Freedom Rides was adopted. "Now is not the time to retreat on immigration issues," declared John Wilhelm, president of HERE and chair of the Immigration Committee of the AFL-CIO, in an impassioned convention speech.

Maria Elena Durazo, president of HERE Local 11, recalls that back then, organizers envisioned a plan much smaller in scope. "We thought of going through eight cities with one bus," she says. But as word got out and enthusiasm spread, the plan changed radically. "The response from immigrant rights, community and religious organizations overwhelmed us," Durazo says. As the rides kicked off last summer, 18 buses with 900 riders from 50 nations stopped in 103 cities and covered 20,000 miles. "We have built alliances and coalitions across the country ready to fight for the values of justice, fairness, and dignity for all immigrants," she adds.

The Blessings of Another Movement

The immigrant rights movement purposefully traveled through the South to get the blessings of African American leadership, and to draw on the legitimacy and unassailable moral standing of the civil rights movement. In city after city, speaker after speaker, the message from the South was consistent; it echoed the words of Rev. Jim Evans, president of the Mississippi chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference: "I don't care if you came from the Mayflower or crossed the border last night. You are entitled to the same human rights as I. You are my brother. You are my sister. You are my people. The fight for freedom is not over."

Outside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, longtime resident Diane Nolen watched two busloads of immigrants solemnly walk to the burial site of Martin Luther King, outside Ebenezer Baptist Church and lay a wreath at the foot of the crypt. When told about the purpose of the visit, Nolen said simply, "Martin would have liked it. People just want to be free, just like anybody else. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Riding with the Wind: Immigrant Rights Activists Travel the Deep South to Learn from the Civil Rights Movements
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.