tv Minority Activism and the 1968 Election CSPAN November 2, 2014 6:30pm-7:50pm EST
here. and also because sometimes the other room is booked. this is the room where the robert bork nomination hearings were. >> i never advised the white house how to meet, how to deal with the watergate special prosecution force. thomas'sarence nomination, a very controversial nomination. thomas was narrowly approved. the hearings were very important for both of those nominations. this room added to the setting. we can hear the echoes. you can hear " point of order, mr. chairman." you can hear the gavel. sittingmember sam irvin up there. it brings back memories. it certainly is filled with the echoes of history.
coming up next on american history tv, a panel discusses minority activism leading up to the 1968 election. it is part of dr. martin luther king jr.'s "poor people's ," african-american into condo activist came to washington, d.c. they explained how people of different races came together but it is largely remembered as an african-american movement. this event is part of the american folklife center at the library of congress to mark national hispanic -- heritage month. this is about 80 minutes per to >> thank you so much, everybody. we are going to move on to our first panel discussion. i should say that my name is thee winick, a writer at american folklife center. we are presenting this symposium thetled " organizing across boundaries, strategies and coalitions in the struggle for civil rights and social justice.." this first presentation is
called when poor people marched on washington, the 1968 campaign in black and brown. i will introduce the speakers, and then they can come up and begin the discussion. so, the first person i will introduce is gordon -- who is an assistant professor at george washington university specializing in the history and the rhetoric of 20th century social justice movements and the african-american and latino experience in the united states, as well as oral history and history of film. his first book and focus of his library presentation is "power to the poor, the fight for economic justice 1960 to 1974." it was published in 2013. so, we are really happy to have him here.
he is the recipient of many awards, including the first ferrar civil t. rights history award. and how is this going to work? come on up and have a seat. yeah. our second speaker is going to be our second panelist is going ao be carlos montez, nationally recognized leader in this condo immigrants rights and antiwar movements who resides and works in east l.a. it was while attending college he joined the mexican-american student association and founded conneaut stu -- a chicano student group. we have an academic program coming out of that, which is wonderful. he tookd p part in founding various social movements,
including the brown berets. he took part in the antiwar men and the free newton campaign and other campaigns during the 1960's. heremained active organizing other social movements's. so carlos montez, if you would come on up as well. finally, i will introduce our third panelist who is or our moderator who is the wonderful -- who work here at the american folklife center of the library of congress where is a senior specialist. he looks after our civil rights history project. so gupta. [applause] >> good morning. vicki for coming out today on a
rainy afternoon -- thank you for coming out on a rainy afternoon washington, d.c. carlos forhank flying off from california to be here. has been to believe it nine years since i first interviewed both of them for my book that came up 8 years later, back in 2005 when i first trekked out to california, new mexico, and colorado to speak with them and some other folks. oral history became the core of the book. so, what i plan to do today is to briefly sketch out the story poor people marched on washington in what was dr. martin luther king's final crusade. so, you may have noticed that we are in the season of civil rights anniversaries. as the opening introduction to
the entire symposium today suggested that this is the last program of a season of programs that started off in the spring to commemorate freedom summer, the 50th anniversary of that in mississippi, as well as the civil rights act of 1964. it is the 60th anniversary of the first brown decision from 1954. no commemoration has been, moment has been celebrated as much as the 1953 march on washington in d.c. last august. i'm not going to go into criti que and analysis of the original march, but what i will say is that i am struck at how much tht the march has overshadowed other marches, particularly the 1957 prayer pilgrimage a few years after the brown decision, as well as the 1968
"poor people's campaign." i think this is a product of continued public memory a scholarship thatn emphasizes two 1960's. early 1960's, the healthy on days of the civil rights struggle, and perhaps kennedy liberalism and a bad 1960's. a good and a bad 1960's of riots, white backlash, and for a lot, black power. today i want to talk about the "poor people's campaign," dr. king never saw. one i argue reveals the complexity of the man, the far more than the campaign's better-known counterpart. alarmed but what he saw as a vicious circle of state violence in the form of police brutality and harassment as military
involvement in vietnam, and by rioters frustrated with the slow pace of civil rights reform in northern and western cities, dr. was fearful that we were very quickly moving toward a fascist state. in december, 1957, king announced "poor people's campaign," in which the southern leadership conference would "bring ways of the nation's poor to washington, d.c., to redress their grievances by the government..." adding the poor would "stay until america responds." he envisioned the campaign as not just one of black and white rainbow coalition that included mexican-americans, puerto ricans, and native americans. he hoped the campaign would do a number of things. one, transform fully the struggle for civil rights into
human rights. of course, many other people had been already doing that. one of the leading civil rights organizations, this was a considerable turn from what they had been doing earlier, including other people they had not worked with before. bringing about the federal government's -- war on poverty which have been declared by president johnson and never fully fought or find it, at least partially because of the commitment to the war in vietnam. restoring credibility of nonviolence and social justice organizing, which had armedround amid calls for self-defense. into theign blossomed most ambitious ever taken, ,ndertaken by sclc and dr. king and has been dismissed by journalists and even some activists as irrelevant or a ackastrous coda of the bl
civil rights struggle. one former official called it the little bighorn of the civil rights movement. it certainly was flawed. it did not achieve many of its goals. the closer look at the campaign reveals a remarkably instructive moment, an experiment to build a altiracial -- tow wage sustained fight against poverty. representatives of so many different movements come together to build a physical and spiritual committee about justice and poverty that went beyond a one-day rally. represented was the southern civil rights movement, labor unions, chicano and american indian activist, the student movement, north south and west. what a diverse campaign reveals is how class-based multiracial coalition apologists often operate alongside black power and chicano power.
they were not at odds. this is often times what the public memory suggest as well as historiography and scholarship, that these were always at odds. but in fact, i would argue they were mutually interdependent. the campaign also reveals how poor folks saw the property different league. based on the different historical trajectories. 's call for dr. king a different sort of campaign, it wasn't until march 19 68 that activist beyond traditional civil rights circles began to respond. in what was called the minority group conference, 80 eight to 80 activists gathered in atlanta. it was a moment that few people had ever heard of. some of the most important leaders of the chicano movement.
the mexican american political association in california. the founders of the mexican american youth organization in texas. and denver's crusade for justice were among the folks there. their were welfare rights activists. there were coal miners eastern kentucky and west virginia who were interested in environmental issues. religious activists from the national council of churches. serviceamerican foreign -- activists from the quakers. they saw themselves as opponents of the vietnam war. theassaw that as linked to abandonment of the war on poverty by 1968. here king presented his vision. one that was not just about how defined poverty as jobs or income or a solution to poverty
but one that included everyone's ideas. activists offered a familiar refrain about the burgeoning relationship between them and civil rights activists, representing more urban chicanos reminded king that "conferring is a two-way street." reyes -- dominated the room in a cap committee defense of the land grant rights.struggle . i also will not go into all the details of the land grant struggle but i will be happy to talk about that in q&a. the delegates bonded over food, culture. the growing realization that they were stronger together than they were a part. and perhaps most importantly, that sclc took their issue seriously. so miles horton, the founder of
the highlander folk's school, fortraining -- or center civil rights and union organizing in tennessee wrote king after this conference. "i believe caught a glimpse of the future and the making of a bottom-up coalition." king was assassinated three weeks later, sparking violence in more than 100 cities including the district. the district being one of the most devastated by it. ralph abernathy insisted the campaign would go on and support exploded as many people who had initially dismissed the campaign for a variety of reasons -- to provocative, social nonviolent protests was outmoded. for a variety of reasons. many of them reconsidered. black panthers who i talked with said, we wanted to go to washington as, in memory of dr. king.
even if they were still skeptical. in fact, the campaign was so flooded with volunteers, so flooded with financial support, t campaignh was overwhelmed. and speaking of this idea of ptsd, that is a good way of describing ralph abernathy and a young jesse jackson, the folks that were the close aides around king, the people who had been working with him for years trying to put this campaign on a month after dr. king's death. so, this disorganization -- it starts to become apparent as marchers began to descend on washington through the nine caravans modeled after the 1965.mery march in west,ame from the northwest, midwest, northeast, and of course the south. i hope in his comments that
carlos might speak about his experience on the caravan from the west. i remember some interesting stories he told, some of which are in the book. photographed of the caravans, however, was the mule train. a classic civil of southern poverty, sharecroppers, even black southern property. -- poverty. what this did was inadvertently reinforced the notion that the campaign was one more black civil rights campaign, and not the multiracial campaign that scls and dr. king had thought. by having a reporter cover and ressow the mule train, the p reinforce the idea that this is really about southern poverty. not about westerner midwesterner northeastern, puerto ricans and native americans.
upother symbol that ended distracting from the campaign's multiracial message was -- resurrection city. the plan was to have some sort of encampment in washington. where marchers could stay and they could launch their campaign of federal agencies, of congress and the white house. so, they settled in a small tent city on the national mall. now, it's partly based on the army march of 1932. when world war i veterans came to d.c. to demand their bonus early, rather than getting it in 1945. because they were desperate to have some kind of money at the depths of the great depression. they were burnt out by u.s. soldiers led by douglas mcarthur. and sent back over the bridges
into virginia. at it was seen by king aides successful and that it helped bring down hoover. it was one more way, one more poor optic for president already on the ropes, that he just did not care about poor people or care about regular folks and veterans. it's interesting if you go to be lbj library and spend time with the papers of aides to johnson, they were all reading arthur slusser's history -- reading arthur solicitor's -- arthur schlesinger's history. so, resurrection city did take a own, take on a life of its and became a focal point of the campaign. by late may, the city had 2500 people living in it.
described as a revival meeting within a carnival within an army camp. when people were not lobbying congress and federal agencies, they ate at the mess hall. they put themselves in a day care center. they got their hair cut. they listen to some of what was called the best entertainment in town from pete seager to diana ross and gladys knight. residents wrote their own newspaper, criticizing sclc leadership. there was the poor people's university that offered a range of courses. everything from mexican american history to the intimacies of income maintenance. there was also the many races soul center. but it was a rainy spring.
i feel like again -- there was a lot of rain. as one of my, folks i spoke with for the book said, it rained like in the bible. 19 days out of 31 it poured. a wet spring here. it had to be evacuated twice. you can see what happened. maybe the drainage has gotten better in west potomac park. here are pictures of slightly happier times. bers doing their job, one of the white families from west virginia. time most of the mexican american and native american marchers arrived from the weset, which is several days after resurrection city had been started and they started pitching tents there, the city was a mess. somee said with
understatement, we did not see what we hope to see. for understandable reasons. martin luther king had been assassinated. we figured, we wished them the best. meanwhile, we have to get on with what we want to do. who camemost chicanos to washington lived in
the hawthorne school, an experimental high school that opened its doors to the marchers. at the time, their building was southwest the became part of southeastern university to which went defunct a few years ago. the choice of hawthorne was critical. it was in this space that much of the campaign's relationship building for chicanos occurred. several activist independently called it "a successful multiracial community." some of it was cultural exchange over food and music. others describe their shock at fromoverty of poor whites
appalachia to the point where th ey would give their extra shoes and jacetkkets to them. chicano activists in their teens and 20's, and the age is in the poor people's g, it forcedwed youn them to take
a more sophisticated look at the world and consider how race, class, and gender were intertwined. activists met folks they would not have otherwise met. and who got them thinking in different ways. one of my favorite quotes from carlos, i'll give here. huh? let's see if i get it right. when would we have gotten together with the crusade for justice? live with them, shared bread with them, marched every day
with them. their activities and washington bonded the activist together in such a way that they build on these relationships when they went home. maybe mostrotest, interesting was next-doorin front of the supreme court. in early june, 1968, where 400 african american, and mexican-american activists joined to protest a recent court ruling about native fishing rights. was one of's, this the key issues for a lot of native americans. who had been supposedly given the right under treaties that were up to 20 years old to fish in ancestral waters0. state laws, including washington em from doing th this and they would be arrested. so, inspired by the direct action they saw on tv by the student nonviolent coordinating committee, they would fish in places they were not supposed to, be arrested, and put this challenge into the court system.
the supreme court earlier that year had ruled that the state laws were indeed constitutional. they were not a violation of the treaties. and so, they showed up in june and protested in front of the court. this protested not change the ruling. the ruling would change later on in the early 1970's. is highlightid do the potential of coalition building at the time. on on their way back to hawthorne, where most of them are based from the supreme court, the district police attacked and beat a lot of the protesters. maria showed that one photo of ernesto -- from that moment where they did not think the protesters were moving fast enough, and they attacked them. several folks were jailed. and ernesto remembers about it years later, you find common
cause when you sit in the same jail cell. and they were released, thanks to naacp bail money. they were greeted like heroes in a rally. this incident underscores the role of police brutality and harassment as a key issue that everyone agreed on. not all the issues that folks brought to washington were the same. but police brutality and folksment brought together, whether it was in chicago, the district, l.a., albuquerque, denver. this was something that bonded folks together. on june 19, the campaign sponsored solidarity day. it looked a lot like the march on washington from five years early. made for media. that featured a theme of hunger. and in contrast to the march from five years earlier, women
played a prominent role. karen scott king gave a -- c oretta scott king gave a keynote. yet, what i would argue is focusing on it, obscure the campaign's relevance, which was not just about a one-day rally but the relationships built over several months' time. just days after solidarity day, resurrection city was not down. the department of interior decided they have had their say. we are not going to renew the permit. we're going to force the evacuation of folks. the police came in and knocked it down. i will say that many of the documents, many of the what sclc had that an historian can normally use to talk about were destroyed when the police did this. me several years of piecing together the story of the campaign and resurrection
city, oral histories and through, travels to 20 archives. and so, in the end, the campaign a polished -- accomplished modest policy changes. activist did gain the ears of bureaucrats in what was then a lame-duck johnson administration. the even gained a seat at table in a new nixon administration. the government released surplus food to the 100 poorest counties in the coutnry. a lot of things around hungary did change, at least on the edges. more important we should care about the "poor people's campaign" for several reasons. d reassessnk we shoul the expectations we have for multiracial coalition building.
just because they are fleeting, that they are not sustained. does not mean they are not unproductive. areclass, race, and gender mutually exclusive. this is not the case, but they reinforce each other. and three that the black freedom struggle or the civil rights movement was not simply a happy optimistic message for nrotherhood, as the march o washington might suggest, but one that demanded full citizenship rights but full economic and educational opportunity for >> thank you, gordon, carlos, if we could have you up here. >> if you could help me out. >> sure, let's see what's going on here. >> i brought a thing on the land-grant struggle.
i've got a couple of power points that kind of long so i'm going to try to do a new one. but what i'm looking for, you know, it was great looking at all the photos, it brought back a lot of memories. but my history is a little bit different. my family is from mexico. let's see, library of congress. power point, is that the power point? yeah, and then i've got this outline that i did a little longer one. can you hear me here. this is a quick four point. it is not even the best when i should do. let me start out with an introduction. -- i parents brought me was born in el paso, texas. we lived in juarez and we moved from juarez to l.a. in the late
'50s. so my experience -- and we grew up -- i remember living in juarez in an alley. you don't know you're poor when you're poor. when i go back and look at it, it was an alley, dirt streets, no bathroom, no running water, no electricity, and it had no refrigerator, it was the kind that you put the ice where the iceman delivered. i didn't know we were poor until we moved to l.a. i didn't know a word of english, but i grew up in south l.a., and it was interesting that my my culture assimilation, the music and i'm walking to school, but also the neighbors across the street, southerners, i didn't know they were southerners, the young black guy was raising pigeons, i was fascinated by all of that. my mom didn't speak english, so you've got a rural family from mexico, from the country and you have blacks from the south in the same block, chicanos and
blacks. the older whites were already moving out. and i grew one the cholos. but you goes, right -- vpachuko pachukos, right? and they treated me ok. so i went to school in a chicano-black community. i so i thought it was normal. but some of the first things i saw on the black and white tv, was shaaban is raving -- chaves ravine -- does anybody know about dodgers stadium, there was -- i said how are they doing that to the mexicans, they were picking them up and throwing them out, they were evicting them to build the stadium. it was not watch, but close enough. enough., but close but i grew up in south l.a., florence area, walking into the neighborhood, which was still white, southeast l.a. huntington park, to see the movies, right, and seeing a
sign, apartment for rent, whites only. so you're a little chicano, you're a mexican becoming chicano, you're like, ok, the -- they do not like the blacks, but what about us? where do we fit in? so little by little, we realized , that they didn't want us either. the racism that i faced from the police and in the schools -- you got to give me a time thing because sometimes i talk too much. [laughter] today.way, i am active i'm a writer, part of the legalization -- obama didn't do the doca like he promised. he was still doing the protests. so my involvement growing up with racism in south l.a., during the '65 rebellion, i was a janitor with blacks at the local school.
i remember a debate, we could come back the next night and we would be cleaning, i was right in the middle of it having that discussion with them, kind of just learning from them, or seeing the debate. but my experience in high school in east l.a., i was young, growing up in the urban city, there was soul music, being sing, being harassed by the police, being pushed out of high school, being recruited by the military, becoming angry young chicanos without any direction, but the civil rights , you watch it on tv, moechldhammed ali, they told me why don't you go ahead and do it.
the older chicanos, they're more about assimilation, i said why can't we do like carmichael? they said why don't you you do it. i was at east l.a. college. so i hooked up with the young chicano for community action, which became the brown berets. the big connection with the black panthers, bobby seele giving us the red book and then john huggins achkdnd bungee carter. gangfounded the slausons in south l.a., but they founded the black panther party and they came to east l.a. to say let's work together. i said who are these guys? i could relate to it because i'm from south l.a., i had already moved to east l.a. by then erp they believe to bridge that. and bungee and john were eventually assassinated at ucla,
but they had the vision the , forethought to talk about black and brown unity. here's a picture of me, i don't know where that was. but there i am, angry young chicanos, right. when we became conscious, we thought the problem was the whiteman, chicano power supported black power. and one of the first big actions was the east l.a. walkouts, the massive walkouts that were in the book and the movie "lockout" by hbo. out" by hbo. i think that they be one of the reasons we got the notoriety, but by then we were already becoming more radicalized, the vietnam war, the black panthers, we weren't really socialists, but we liked mao. his little red book. we liked what he said. we liked china and mao, better
than we did russia. but it was real basic, we wouldn't get into theory until later on. later on, i have a little five-minute youtube we can show. but the poor people's campaign, we get the invitation, king had been assassinated, and, i got the call, and, you know, you're young at that point, let's do it. we did the walkouts it took a , couple of months, it run into -- months. one of my jobs was to go into out.chools and say, walk when you're young, you're 20, you're down, right? and, is so, we ran, we did go down to south l.a., got on the bus, we were proud to say, we, the chicanos are going to be on
the back of the bus. and the caravan going over there was tremendous, every night was a rally, black, native americans, whites, eventually. it was exhilarating, it was like wow, phoenix, we're having a big rally, with the farm workers, everybody's eating, so happy, we're starting to bond and other chicano organizations that were there. going to el paso with the tents, it was the texas rangers, you know, it was a lot more repressive, police weren't able -- police were able to shut us down at the l.a. convention center. it was welcome brother, welcome brother. but then another chicano guy, he said, no, you're not my brother. i said what do you mean i'm not your brother? come on, man. there were still some blacks and chicanos that had prejudice.
but the caravan bonded us together. albuquerque, the native american movement, going out to colorado, another experiment. more the urban chicano, the crusade for justice. where was it when we took over the bridge, the the mississippi river? i remember one time we were marching over a bridges, and we said, we're going to sit down on this bridge read you mentioned it, what state was it? missouri. i don't know how it happened, it was spontaneous, you know. we were the young talks, we were going to take over the bridge. the older sclc were there--they shut it down for a little while. so we were getting all pumped up, and we respected sclc and martin luther king, we don't -- king, but we were not nonviolence. we don't advocate violence as the brown berets, we started to become more politically conscious because we were about walkouts and stop police
brutality, but when they did the great raid, they said, hey, he wants the land back. it kind of just do our minds. blew our minds. it's not just about better schools, stop police brutality, it's about taking our land back and chicano power. i know a lot of republicans in arizona are afraid of that. eventually it is going to happen, right? that's why they keep shutting us down in arizona. so let me get back on the poor people's campaign. so, yeah, eventually we got to d.c.. to the hawthorne school, roke, it was just an empty school, cement, it wasn't no luxury, we're all getting bunk beds and showers and and where are we going to eat? it was fun, but they were native americans, blacks, whites, and that's where i saw poor whites, poorer than us in l.a. and i go, oh, my god, and puerto ricans.
and so i say little by little, the white man's not the enemy, we are all poor people. it must be the economic system. so with the panthers and everything, we started evolving. it was a struggle against capitalism eventually and give me a time thing. i remember, you know, i'm glad you showed the march on the supreme court. i remember, support the native americans, land rights, fishing rights, and i remember we were marching up to the stairs, right? oh, i got ten minutes? good. [laughter] so we were marching up the stairs, where are going to the supreme court and demand justice. we have no appointment, no caseload. and we walk in there, and the native americans, we're going to lead this march, so we're marching up behind them. as soon as they get up to the supreme court, what do they do? the big giant door closes on us. and then we walked up and
started banging on it. let us in, let us in, let us in. i guess the security guy saw us coming and closed the door or we would have gone in there and sat down. but it was kind of symbolic and we were like, they were denying justice to the native americans, all this genocide, so we surrounded the whole area and we had pictures of that, we surrounded the whole thing and we had a rally there and -- oh, here's one of the poor people's campaign. yeah. so that was exhilarating, but also consciousness raising, the native americans struggle, learning, for me, about the land rights, the fishing rights, the treaty rights. i don't even remember when this one happened, somebody e-mailed this to me and said you're in there. did you take that one? you took that one? all right, all right. thank you. thank you. so i didn't know, i think it was raining that day, so i don't know what the issue was that day? do you remember? do you remember what we were doing?
we're going to march, let's march, and it was windy and rainy, every day was exhilarating, i don't know why. but i'm in there, if you can figure out where i'm at, you get a prize. [laughter] because i totally don't look like i look today. but another one that i remember, when we were there, we were indicted by the l.a. county grand jury for conspiracy to disrupt the school system. when we were in d.c., and we said, we're going to be arrested, we should get our beret off and get under cover. so we're like let's march to the ramsey clark attorney general's office and demand amnesty for us. we said, yeah, let's do it. we got all the blacks and the native americans. we marched on ramsey clark, they had a delegation saying give us amnesty, i already have a warrant for me. so we were outside, and corky, i don't know who else went in in, i don't know if you know who
went in, the delegation -- spokesperson.he >> they came out and said ramsay said, hey, cool, but he's got no jurisdiction, but we said we're going to have sit in outside, by that time the young people are starting to, hey, we like abernathy, we like jesse, we starting tod we are relate to the young plaque -- blacks and the young puerto ricans, so we said we're going to have a sit in at the attorney general's office. so we started our set in -- and yeah, we're going to fit in, all blacks, we started our sit in, no preparation, no nothing. so then a little while later, they send jesse. this is where i learned my lesson about classes. let me see here. i just have some pictures that i have continued to work in the community in the struggle with
black liberation movement consistently all my life. even until the last couple of years. i was going to talk about, what was i going to talk about, yeah. so jesse shows up, young elegant speaker, black power, yeah, yeah, yeah. and i figured ok, he's going to , be solid there with the sit in. and he gets everybody riled up, what we're going to do now, we're going to march back to resurrection city, let's go. and i was going, wait a minute, wait, we're having a sit in. and i went, oh man, this guy. that's when i realized there was a difference here. i love jesse, but i saw him as a were poorss and we working class. and they used him to kick us out, to kind of diffuse that anger there. let's back up. i wanted to show that real quick.
because we had a -- i'm kind of digressing, jump and hit a little bit. a year or two ago, they invited me to speak at the south l.a. power coalition, building black unity. and it was ron karanga. how many of you know him? he was there and i was there. and we talked about building black unity. i can get it, thanks. thank you, thank you. and by the way, thanks to the library of congress, and the library staff, i want to thank you for putting this together and flying me out. [applause] so i have to bring in bunchey and john carter. because they wanted me to talk about the history of black latinos. i was like, hey, you guys kill ed them. and then, you know, i know with the fbi cointelpro thing.
so, back on hawthorne school, to what was the other big ok, so then jesse jackson, the -- and another big march that i really loved was jesse, i don't know if it was the department of housing or agriculture or food, which one was it, we're going to march, we're going to protest, ok, let's go. so we all marched into the big giant federal building, we're -- we went to the cafeteria, we're going to go eat. let's go eat, right, so we wind up in the cafeteria and all the cafeteria workers, the cooks in the cashiers were black, they said get your food and go up there and don't pay. and it was not just me, there was a bunch of us. hundreds of us. we get our food, a bunch of food, we get up there and the poor african-american lady is reading it up. we're like, just go give it to jesse in the back. we're not going to pay. the issue was food.
every day was a different issue, i guess it was food that day. lack of food, we were starving, there's no food, powdered milk and all that. i'm telling you, the staff was there with us. there were like, ok, yeah. but it was a big media thing. so the -- you know, we did bond with the other chicano organizations, the welfare rights organization, the crusade for justice, long lasting relations which helped solidify and build the chicano liberation movement for years. because after that, we went to the mountains, we visited up in, campasinos, learned about the struggle. said we're going to introduce you to our sheriff. no, i don't want to meet the sheriff, this is our own government, i was like oh, shoot, i'll meet him. their own mayor. they had their own autonomous government. so the crusade, so we continued
to have relations with the black panthers, i had the pleasure of meeting geronimo pratt after he got out of prison. i was on a panel with him with erica cousins, kathleen cleaver, myself and geronimo before he passed. these are other african-americans that i continue to work with in the struggle for fbi repression that -- against fbi repression that continues today. i mean we continue working together. i had the pleasure of reading fred hampton jr. a year or so ago. but, you know, and in some ways the poor people's campaign was really transformative. i learned that word the other -- a few years ago. we used to say it blew my mind. in the 60's. [laughter] so i continued a life of activism where it was not just the white power structure and the capitalist structure.
and we have to learn about the political prisoners of puerto rico. i continued protesting. i was real active in kind of summing up here. one of the things i'm proud of is the l.a. rainbow coalition for justice in which black and chicano families got together to protest against police murders. and we worked with johnny , andan, he was with us the miguel in th suing counties. and i was a delegate, i was latinos for jackson, i was at the democratic convention. if they ain't going to do it, we need jackson. and we knew mondale was going to go down, so we supported jesse in '84 and '88. i can go on and on and talk about solidarity's struggle that we worked with in african-america. but i will wrap it up and maybe just let that go. here's another the southern coalition, the two sisters,
julia. but go ahead, i'm finished. [applause] >> and i got newspaper of the fightbacknews.org in the back, you can check out. thank you very much. and we have time later today, there's a little video clip. take this off. ok it's supposed to be a panel. right, i'm so excited. [laughter] >> go ahead and give me the mic. >> right. >> thank you. of course, this is a problem listening to engaging speakers. you have a bunch of questions written down and they go right out of your head even though we have them written down on notes. i want to go to both of you and perhaps i'll start with you, gordon and give carlos a chance to catch his breath. the word transformational. and i'm going to reintroduce blowing my mind back into my lexicon. i think, i like that better.
[laughter] can you talk a little -- elaborate on that a little bit because you go to some lengths in your book which by the way is on sale out there in the lobby. a shameless plug for gordon's book and for all the other author's books. yeah. he'll sign it for you at no extra charge. so, please. >> at least you made the plug and not me. so, the question is about how it was a transformative moment. yeah, i mean, as i said, it was the demographics, i guess of the poor's people campaign skewed young so you had a lot of teens, 20-somethings like carlos who were there, who were coming to washington for the first time often times. and so going to the nation's capital, the heart of it all, and meeting all these folks, that they really didn't have a chance to interact with very much, and -- and i was struck by
all the oral histories that i did and how many folks independently brought up the white appalachians that they met from eastern kentucky and west virginia and the coal fields there. and they were struck at how desperately poor many of these folks were. materially in particular. the moments where it's like -- a white coal minor says, well, i'm interested in land rights, and being able to control my own land rather than having some coal company own the mineral rights underneath their homes, and chicano activists and native american activists saying i'm interested in the same thing, . and seeing that these issues bonded folks, you know, across the country, maybe in different contexts to a certain extent, but not completely, right? and this is one of the reasons why i think the advocacy for the land rights struggle, a flawed advocate, not as much an organizer as he was an order, and yet he built a really vibrant organization and coalition in new mexico in
particular that inspired folks from across the southwest for sure, and even the rest of the country for several years around this idea that land should be restored to the people that it was stolen from, and, you know, in the wake of the u.s./mexican war. and so, yeah, for a lot of these people, they come. they meet people that they had never met before. they had conversations with folks they never met -- you know, that they never would have had a chance to before, and what i think is so interesting about the poor people's campaign and instructive about it. as i say, it's not some grand success, at least in the way the media would define, you know, the criteria they would suggest, but living with folks day in and day out, standing in line , whether it's for food or for the bathroom or for what have you, trying to stay dry, you know, in this really wet spring. those are the kinds of conversations that you build relationships from, and i -- i
think the march on washington was very inspiring in '67 and yet it was a one-day real, and i -- one day thing and i think , that there's a big difference, you know, through the kinds of relationship, constructive relationship-building that you can do, you know, over six weeks and two months versus one day or three hours for that matter. >> perfect. >> i'm glad that you brought the land grants in because i do want maria varella to weigh in on that a little chance later on in the conversation. but carlos, does that jive with your own? you started talking about that consciousness raising. >> it did. i remember the appalachian families, talking to them and looking at them, how they were dressed and how they talked and hearing about where they lived. and i was saying, like they are poorer than us, at least in l.a. in east l.a. at that time, you know, my father was, you know a -- he was in the carpenters union, assembly lines. you know, and the fact that there was a union there, at
bestie had, you know, not really good money but, you know, we had health care and rented a house and moved and i could see they were poorer than us, you know. and here they were with us, you know, and then also the black, the young blacks from d.c. and from the south, talking to them and -- and then, you know, but hanging out and marching together and going to get food and clothing. we'd go and have some free clothing down the street, we'd go. let's get this and let's get that. you're right. sometimes you would meet people at a rally or event, network for 15, 20 minutes or an hour and then you're gone and then you exchange e-mails but being there day after day and then getting arrested. one thing i forgot to mention, the young folk, we rebelled. we'll have our own march. we marched on the white house, and there was young blacks, chicanos and native americans, and we got busted, and they got
-- posted. we got up there and they got us from the back and grabbed us and shot us down and one thing i'll never forget is the young black brother they got. they busted his head. he was bleeding, and i know they got me and had me down, and i had a beret. i don't know if i got hit, that's why i didn't bleed, but they threw us in the pead wagon, right? literally picked us up and threw us in there, so, you know, like you said, being in jail and getting busted together with blacks, whites, chicanos, you know, that bonded us in the poor people's movement. >> yeah. i was interested in hearing you talk about transformations in the different ways. -- does differently -- two different ways. you said at one point, correct me if i'm wrong, i was a mexican and i was becoming chicano and the other one was the transformation of your consciousness talking about kind of a racial or ethnic identity, all of a sudden you see structural problems and everybody across sort of racial
lines faces. is that a fair way to describe the experience? >> absolutely, absolutely, because, you know, a little mexican kid, growing up in south l.a. and listening to chuck berry and fats domino. >> do you know who that is? >> you know, rock 'n' roll. you know, the beginning of rock 'n' roll and soul music. i don't know if it was the beginning. and i remember another one, we would go to one of the local shows when elvis presley "jailhouse rock" came out and a bunch of young kids, chicanos and blacks in the little theater the saturday afternoon like rocking it out. and people out there in the aisle, tried to imitate elvis presley and i was like, whoa, you know. it was fun, you know, but it bonded, and then going to school together and one of my first girlfriends in the high school when i moved to east l.a., african-american and so -- so -- so i became chicano, you know. i was no longer mexican because my culture and my language and my point of reference is difference, you know, seeing the
racism in the schools and the community, you know, and then my language and my music, you know. and then in east l.a. i was more into cruising music, the santana sound, urban chicano sound and picked up on the soul music and had our own flavor. carlos santana, everybody remembers him. >> sure. >> so it became a chicano culture and then the political part was, yeah, the white man not the enemy. it's the system is the enemy that's keeping us down, keeping the vietnamese down in vietnam and here in the u.s. so i -- so i was more like a class solidarity, you know. and then the rainbow coalition, you know, brought it out as well as the panthers. the panthers say that the white man not the enemy, carlos, it's the system. and here, read the red boar, you -- redbook, you know. and then the cuban revolution. so we started becoming more
anti-imperialist. >> does that jive with you? >> yeah, definitely. one thing can i say is i'm struck by the role of culture. that if politics don't bond people, which, you know, folks have their different political strategies and you see a lot of that on display in the poor people's campaign where there are big personalities, there's strategic differences. the question about does selc allow other folks to real be part of the decision-making or is it just lip service? i mean, not everybody is a fan of ralph abernathy. a lot of people are very critical of him. and yet i think he had an impossible position that he was placed in, and part of, i think, the mistakes he made, of course, was that he tried to step into dr. king's shoes directly rather than be his own self. but even when the politics breaks down, and the differences become heightened even if the commonalities and similarities in their positions on the issues are still there, i mean, it
just strikes me how much culture bonds folks together. and there's a lot of good -- i think there's really good scholarship about how music -- and i keep on coming back to this in the resurrection city and the hawthorne school is that -- that it was often the way the folks started talking with each other, and then it would heed to other things so they would share some food and share some music and -- and then that would lead to other things, so i would -- i think it's -- it's a transformative moment to go back to your initial question for a lot of these folks, and it took -- you know, they only had to travel 3,000 miles here to do it. >> right. >> you say something that was interesting to me. you talk about seeing a struggle in coalition building across not just the various dimensions of race or class or gender . but it's not either/or, it's both.
and, and where does gender enter into your particular perspective? and i'm reminded of what maria said earlier this morning about what is the -- what is the role of, you know, women in this particular, you know, set of coalitions that you guys are talking about? >> you know, great question. so in a lot of ways a poor's people campaign works as much as it does work because of the women that are there, and i think, you know, a lot of this is on display on solidarity day where it is women that are the most prominent and focusing on -- i mean, i recall martha grass who is a native american mother of, i think, 11 children in oklahoma. she plays a prominent role in the solidarity day rally, and speaking about, you know, the challenges that she faces as a mom in the middle of the country. and that poverty, you know, impacted women and children more than anybody else, right?
and so in a lot of ways the campaign highlighted the -- it was -- it provided a space for women who did not see themselves as exactly part of the feminist movement which was unfairly -- or not -- seen as white and middle class. so you see a lot of issues on display that african-american and chicano women, native american women with working class and others are able to stress in this space of resurrection city and hawthorne school here in the capital. >> how does that jive with your recollection? >> no, absolutely. i remember, you know, the leader and organizer of poor working plants in chicano, working rights organization, we bonded and continued to work together. strong woman, you know, no college, but militant organizer and her daughter elishia and the
other women that were there and the other woman who was with us and also i did notice that anita gonzalez, the family and daughter. and i saw the difference with the wife and corky's wife were more quiet and submissive behind the scenes. but i could see them doing a lot of work. that stereotype, get the food and the lodging and the younger woman, she was different and in it all the way, but the younger women were being active, marching and wanted to speak and so there was this -- you know, that gender imbalance, and, you know, when we got back to l.a., alashia scolante wrote me and about wrote the book before i came and found out i was coming. continued the long struggle of activism and then the brown berets that led to us challenging the leadership and
you can't have a male dominated one guy running the show. we've got to have equally -- equality here, so -- so, yeah, but the young woman that marched with us on a daily basis, you know, i didn't cover a lot of it when i was speaking. >> one thing i would add is, that you know, the policy changes that did occur, a lot of that was due to the work of marion wright, soon to be marion wright edelman who then funds the children's defense fund a few years later. she's constantly working behind the scenes and making connections with federal bureaucrats that in a way that wouldn't have happened otherwise. while abernathy is in front of, you know, the cameras, behind microphone and other folks in josefa williams and jesse jackson. it is folks like marion wright that was actually make some changes, at least policy-wise. >> i think what i'm going to ask
is if we could get our microphone passer outers to pass out the old mike phones and turn the question and comments to the audience. like you said, a number of bheem have been involved in the struggle from the delta all the way over to the southwest and on to the west and, please, by all means, we really appreciate your comments and interventions. i know we've got a long afternoon ahead of us, but i wanted to get back to maria to talk to you if you had some times, wanted to say something about the land grants movement. would that be ok with you? >> put on the spot. >> put you on the spot. >> or do you already have another question in mind. >> i think -- i was pretty critical. can you hear me with this? , first of all, i didn't want to do this -- i already had been through stuff with the sclc. this thing about jesse turning everybody around. that's exactly what happened in selma. only king did it.
>> in selma. >> i didn't know that. >> exactly, and it was like i did not want to do this, but the folks i was working with, which was reyes and corky, they felt it was important so kind of like the way we did in snic, what people wanted is what we did and so i did go. but, and i didn't have like -- i think the most important thing that never was able to take off was the poor people's embassy. >> yes. >> can you explain that a little bit? >> which at some point i would love you to explain, gordon. so here you are together and doing all this work but when it really gets down to the potential of being pretty effective here in d.c., over the long term, where people could continue then to lobby, because you -- you know, you know how congress is, this had great potential, and -- and it was a shame, and because you had -- i
mean, anita was corky's daughter was involved in it, and the idea was that the embassy would be here in d.c. and continue whatever people who returned back home wanted to continue to pressure congress for, that the poor people's embassy would do that. so could you explain it a little better, gordon, in terms of. >> yeah, this is definitely one of the -- had a lot of potential. a lot of folks after the resurrection city was knocked down in mid-july, you know, in late june of '68, by mid-july, this idea of a poor people's embassy that emerged was we'll find an office space here. we will have a presence that will continue to lobby congress, and -- and, you know, they had written up several grant proposals, i mean, but as you said there was -- there was not a lot of interest by the foundations to support something led by reyes lupis and that was a key person in -- behind us. he really wanted to sustain this
idea. and so, yeah, anita jo gonzalez, one of corky's daughters was involved as well as several other folks, puerto rican, annabelle sullivan, and eventually what happened, and it seems obvious now. huge strategic blunders that they move the office to new york, and -- and in someone's apartment, and -- and didn't look legitimate, wasn't able to get the funding for a variety of reasons, and then -- and so the idea of basically it just petered out by '69, but you see people meeting and trying to get this thing going as, you know, a -- a sustained presence here in the district here to lobby congress, and as i said, i mean, it was welfare rights activists who were involved with the national welfare rights organization as well as chicana rights activists like alicia scolante who were more
successful because they were able to get the ear of bureaucrats who were still around, you know, after johnson administration left and the nixon administration began. they were more successful, and and if we -- if you remember, president nixon actually embraced welfare reform, not the kind of welfare reform necessarily you saw in '96 under president clinton, but something that did cut everybody a check who fell below a certain income. now, the devil's in the details. the details weren't particularly friendly to welfare recipients, but there was at least a conversation going on between this conservative republican administration and welfare rights activists, and a lot of that really comes out of the poor people's campaign moment. it doesn't succeed, of course, but, yeah, yeah, the poor people's embassy was a missed opportunity, and there's definitely some errors that were
made in the process. >> yeah. thank you for that. >> carlos. >> what did i want to say though overall is that there were some gains and victories that we got in the '60s out of that whole movement, and in terms of affirmative action, ethnic studies, you know. we supported bradley and his first mayor campaign, brown berets, oh, you know, and eventually won. so there were gains, you know, that the system, in my opinion, gave. in california, you know, the welfare and education and the food stamps and jobs, still blue collar jobs. they are all gone now, so we were able to move, make many gains in welfare, education, jobs, but -- but the other thing we faced was the repression, the counterintelligence program, the disruptions, people were killed, assassinate, forced to flee. hi to leave the country for seven years. i was on the run for seven years, and then the -- so then
at least, you know, the system, kind of -- you remember the other thing the war on poverty program that a lot of people had jobs, and they were giving us all this money to keep us working and keep us from organizing. [laughter] no, really you know, because a , lot of people got all these jobs and war on poverty and people running proposals and getting grants. man, you know, like -- so, you know, i -- anyway, we had some gains, but then we went back, right? >> that's certainly like part of the strategy behind, you know, rockefeller/ford foundations is to provide money but for very particular -- for how they saw -- you know, they wanted to channel that energy in a particular way. >> we have a question. >> first off, thank you so much for your presentations, fantastic. my question has to do with the role of puerto ricans and the young lords and i'm wondering if you all can speak to their participation in the poor people's campaign. >> yeah. >> carlos. >> yeah.
>> want me to start it out. that's where we met and would say what's up, you speak spanish, but a a whole difference experience? i'm from mexico, east l.a., never left l.a. so the whole experience meeting all these people we related, you know, in a different level because they are spanish-speaking, right, even though -- you know, another blew my mind, but you're black and also latino, or white and latino. on the culture and the south side. purple berets, we had brown berets and black berets and the puerto rican, you know, all bonding, cultural bonding and political bonding and learning about the colony of the spanish-american war and it was all, like, you know blew my mind, right? >> blowing my mind right now. >> so we went to new york, and
then, because we didn't want to get busted so we hung out in harlem, not just the young lords, other puerto rican organizations, so another long bond and we invited the young lords to come to l.a. and we'll go to new york so it gave us an historical perspective of u.s. imperialism, colonial -- i can't even say the word, that you know what i'm talking about, right? >> and becoming more radical, you know, and then so, you know, che didn't look too bad at all. we were victims of red baiting, young punks, red, red, red, you know, bad, bad, bad, but after a while we said it's ok, you know. the vietnamese r.o.k.. -- are ok. and the young lords helped with that as well as the panthers, you know. >> you want to talk about -- >> i would say great question. puerto ricans were definitely present in the poor people's campaign.
much smaller numbers, but you had certainly a contingent from new york and chicago and philadelphia there. they had their own kind of separate rally rather than during solidarity days. solidarity day was during the middle of the week so puerto rican organizers in new york said, well, we can't come during the week, but we can come on weekend so they had their own sort of separate rally which i guess you could see the optics of it, were, you know, very practical reasons for it but it also -- they are having their own rally that corky gonzalez and rea lopez. showed up and spoke as well. the chicano youth liberation conference in '69 in denver corkywas hosted by gonzalez's organization, the crusade for justice, invited young lords so you had the young lords from chicago and young lords from new york again and in particular who went to that.
and yes. the issues are not quite the same. there's -- and the story in their history is not quite the same, but they were able to find some common ground, right? >> thank you. >> any other questions? >> actually i had one, and this , is interesting because carlos, you're talking about, meeting up with other chicano activists and gordon you've elaborated beautifully in the book how class and race and all these things come together and then you're talking very clearly against the notion of any hard and fast binary between black and white and all these other ways to complicate the question of solidarity. and you said something that struck me about this notion between urban rural because the whole notion of land rights didn't enter your consciousness at the beginning but then all of a sudden becomes very much part of the whole, you know, becomes critically important to you. is that -- can you talk about that? >> no, yes. growing up in l.a., the urban setting, the issues were
education, police brutality, stop the drugs and then, you know, the military recruiting, ampasinos led the raid in june 7, '67 and they came to speak, raised the whole issue of the land so then we started studying, you know, and the treaty of guadalupe hidalgo and the first book i read on chicano studies history was north of mexico carrie mcwilliams and that again blew my mine. think of a different term. raised my consciousness, right, so learned my real history, and, man, this is our land. it was ripped off, and i remember why when we were little kids, showed the alamo and nobody clapped, right? we didn't know what was going on. but we know we wouldn't clap to that, right? you don't know, right, you know, but you sit in a room and it goes all dark. we ain't going to clap on this here.
anyway, so the -- the land, it revolutionized us. it was a combination of the black liberation struggle, the viatnamese struggle and then the raise the land question. not just a struggle for civil rights but actually a struggle for self-determination, declaration of human rights, u.n., what is self determination, political power in a political economic control over your own land. >> right. >> and then when he introduced me to the sheriff, they had their own little self-government, and i said why don't we -- you know, and then -- then, you know, the crusade for justice, the chicano youth liberation conference, we put out the plan where we called for our own nation. it was a little bit spiritual, but then later on when we started reading, there are struggles throughout the world where people want their own land, you know. puerto rico, how big is puerto rico and how many people live in puerto rico?
how big is puerto rico, you know, and you look at whole southwest. >> right. >> the brown masses, you know. we have the right to self-determination, so it took us -- i still -- i still advocate and believe that, the right to self-determination. >> parallel to naft american -- native american struggles to reclaim ancient lands in the south and southwest and the southwest. ok. so i'm going to bring this to a close. >> can i get a photo op. can we get a photo. [laughter] my friend told me to get a photo. can you take a photo? >> of course. >> whoever the photo guy is out there. >> i'll have to do it myself. >> is there a photo guy out there that can take a photo. '>> i think we've taken photographs. >> i want one of my own. [laughter] >> do my phone, please, please, please. >> all right. >> so while we're waiting for the photo-op to develop, i was going to say that we should try to -- thank you. we should try and make our way to lunch. we are about 10 to 15 minutes behind but we'll make it up, and
we've got padding here and there to take care of our food needs for now and come back and be prepared to go for this afternoon's session. many of the themes and the comments that you've heard here which have been so brilliantly set up by maria and gordon and carlos montes -- another one? >> take a couple. all my friends told me take a lot of photos. [laughter] >> i took like five. >> oh, thank you. >> while i was talking. >> there's a young lady. >> just to remind people that several of the books written by our presenters are on sale outside. >> right. >> during the lunch period. they will also be on sale i believe during the break in the afternoon. and then you have some interviews. >> correct, and we're going to also -- we're going to come back -- when you come back from break, you can bring your lunch in here and eat, but eat neatly, if you would, and you can also watch right back on the monitor some of the chrp interviews. we are live with an online
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