I had dinner with some great friends this week…we started talking about all the negativity in the world these days…in particular with politics. We all vowed to keep things as positive as possible in anything that we post on social media and in the way we conduct our lives. It made me think of another time in recent years when things got pretty nasty but friends and neighbors pulled together to show unity and hope. This is a post from a blog I had back in 2011 about events surrounding the anti-immigrant bill (HB56) that was signed into law by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. This event that I attended and documented showed that not everyone in the state agreed that this law was a good thing…
This past weekend I attended, along with my husband and daughter, a candlelight interfaith vigil to protest an anti-immigrant bill that was signed into law by the governor of my state. This misguided law goes into effect Sept 1st and if you believe the comments on media stories you would think we were back in the 60s and that everyone in the state was anti-immigrant.
The day the governor signed the bill, with the state representatives who sponsored it smiling broadly next to him, I felt sick to my stomach. Comments ranged from “this will send them all back where they belong” to “this will create jobs for more Alabamians.” The pure mean-spirited nature of the comments and personal attacks were hard to read at times. It is being called the toughest illegal immigration bill in the US, modeled after the Arizona law but supposed to be foolproof when it hits the courts. Again…people smiling broadly like this is something to be proud of in a state where race relations and violations of civil rights are well-known. People across the US once again are looking at Alabama as the epicenter of discrimination – only this time it is against our “brown” brothers and sisters. Haters spouting that we are a nation of laws and they must be enforced…quick to forget that just 50 to 60 short years ago segregation was the law of the land and it was clearly unjust. It seems incredible to look back at such a short time ago and think people thought that was okay. I’m sure people asked themselves then…WHO are we that we would think this is right…clearly we are better than this. And many set out to change things…and were successful.
Clearly we are better than this once again. People can’t truly believe this law is just. If you lived in Alabama in the 60s – like my husband did – you must have the perspective that this is wrong. Do we really want to go through all that again?
Well the march on Saturday evening set out to prove we have learned something from our history and we ARE better than this. The march was organized by the faith community…and churches of all denominations were present and denounced this law as morally wrong. Organizers expected about a thousand people but clearly word got out and people – feeling like they had to do “something” – showed up in bigger numbers. I think the final estimate was about 2,500 attendees.
And what a sight it was to see…marchers were asked to wear white shirts and bring a candle. Churches were asked to bring their banners but other signs were discouraged. Families came out in full force…it brought tears to my eyes to see the little children – so sweet and innocent….leading the marchers, holding candles and riding on the shoulders of their dads…
The crowd was diverse too with about half being Hispanic but the other half was quite a mix. I’m sure there were many documents AND undocumented who would have liked to have been there but were afraid and I can’t blame them. The police were present but they were there to make sure the marchers were safe and the Spanish language radio stations tried to get that word out. Still…fear is real right now…you could see it in some of the marchers eyes and you could hear it in the stories being told to one another throughout the evening.
Afterwards my husband, daughter and I went to dinner with my friend Isabel Rubio and her husband Freddy. Isabel is the Executive Director of HICA – Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, an organization that I’ve been a part of for about 8 years. We talked about the march and the law and how it will be challenged. Isabel mentioned how the one thing missing in her mind is that during the 60’s the marchers had songs to sing. She said “we don’t have a song. We need a song.”
She’s right…music unifies and in this case we do need something – a song, a slogan…something that people can grab on to and pull us together. Maybe others are thinking the same thing and just maybe this will be something organic that grows from further marches and protests to this dreadful law.
We ARE better than this…I think we proved that Saturday night at Linn Park and through the streets of Birmingham.