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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  October 17, 2014 11:00pm-1:01am EDT

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the cheese makers tended to move around a lot. there were thousands. in 1930 over 2,000 cheese plants in wisconsin. it has transportation and a road system improved there was consolidation among the smaller plants and that continued up until about 1990 when there were only about 200 cheese factories in wisconsin. >> watch all of your own events from green bay saturday at noon eastern on c-span 2's book tv and sunday afternoon on c-span 3:00 at 2:00. now on c-span 3 american history tv. first up a panel discussion on minority activism. as part of martin luther king, jr.'s poor people campaign african-american and chicano came to washington, d.c. to push for equality.
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it's an hour and 20 minutes. >> thank you so much, everybody. we'll move on to our first panel discussion. i should say my name is steve and i'm the writer and editor here at the library of congress and we're presenting this symposium entitled organizing across the bound rice in the struggle for civil rights and justice. this first panel presentation is called when poor people marched on washington taerks , the '68 in black and brown. i will introduce the speakers briefly and then they can come up and begin the discussion. so the first person i'll introduce is gordon mantler, who's an assistant professor at george washington university specializing in the history and rhetoric of 20th century social
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justice movements and the african-american and latino experience of the united states as well as an oral history and history of film. his first book and focus of his library presentation is power to the poor, black-brown coalition and the fight for economic justice 1960 to 1974 and it was published in 2013 as the inaugural volume in the politics and power series of the north carolina press. we're happy to have him here and he's the recipient of many awards. so we're very happy to have gordon mantler here -- and how is this going to work? come on up and have a seat? yeah.
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and our second panelist resides so we have an academic program as well coming out of that which is wonderful too. and he took part in founding a very social movement including the brown berets and the anti-war movement and the free huey newton campaign and other campaigns during the 1960s and 1970s. he's remained active over the years organizing other social moments he will tell you about. so carlos montez, if you could come up as well. and finally our moderator, who of course works here at the
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american folk life center at the library of congress and he looks after our civil rights history project. [ applause ] good morning. thank you for coming out today on a rainy afternoon or morning here in d.c. it seems like fall is here now. and i want to thank carlos for flying out from california to be here today, and for maria's great keynote. it's hard to believe it's been nine years since i first interviewed both of them for my book that came out, i guess, eight years later, back in 2005 when i first trekked out to california, new mexico and
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colorado to speak with them and some other folks and the oral history is that, in a lot of ways became the core of the book. so what i plan to do today is to briefly sketch out the story of when poor people marched on washington and what was dr. martin luther king's last crusade, the one he was working on in the last six months of his life. you may have noticed that we are in the season of civil rights anniversaries, 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 15th anniversary of that in mississippi as well as the civil rights act of 1964. of course it's also the 60th anniversary of the first brown decision from 1954.
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and none, of course, though, no commemoration has been, or moment has been celebrated as much as the 1963 march on washington here in d.c. last august. i'm not going to go into critique and analysis of the original march and the commemoration, but what i will say is that i'm struck at how much that march has overshadowed the many other civil rights marches that have occurred in this city, particularly the 1964 prayer pilgrimage, just a few months after the brown campaign and the poor people's campaign. this is a product of continued public memory and scholarship that emphasizes two 1960s, an early 1960s of the halsigon days of the civil rights struggles and kennedy liberalism, and a
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bad 1960s, of riots, white backlash and for a lot of folks black power. and today i want to talk about the poor people's campaign that dr. king envisioned but never saw. and one that i argue reveals the complexity of the man, the complexity of the movement, and the complexity of the decade far, far more than the campaign's counterpart five years earlier. so alarmed by what he saw as a vicious circle of state violence in the form of police brutality and harassment as well as military involvement in vietnam and by rioters frustrated with the slow pace of civil rights reform, particularly in northern and western cities, dr. king, living here in the district really was fearful that we were very quickly moving toward a fascist state here in the united states.
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so in december 1967, dr. king announced a poor people's campaign that would bring waves of the nation's poor and disinherited to demand jobs for all, adding that the poor would, quote, stay until america responds. but he envisioned the campaign as not just one of black and white, but one of a 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 and human rights, of course many other people had been already doing that, but this was a considerable turn from what they had been doing earlier, including other people that they had not worked with before, bringing about the federal government's re-education to the war on poverty, which had been declared four years earlier by president johnson but never
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fully fought or funded partially because of the commitment to the war in vietnam and three, restoring the credibility of nonviolence and social justice organizing which had really lost ground amid calls for any mean necessary for self-defense. even though we know that was always there. the campaign blossomed into one of the most -- even some activists as either irrelevant or a disastrous coda of the civil rights struggle. one former official called it the little big horn of the civil rights movement. it certainly was flawed, it did not achieve many of its stated goals and a closer look at the campaign reveals a remarkably instructive moment, designed to wage a sustained fight against poverty. only in d.c. in the spring of 1968 did representatives of so
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many different movements coming to build both a physical and spiritual movement that went beyond a one-day rally. the civil rights rights movement, labor union, chicano n-dan activists, student movement north, south and west and many others were represented. and what such a diverse campaign reveals is how class based coalitional politics often operate alongside the race-based identity politics of black power and chicano power. they were at odds. this is often times i think what the public memory suggests, as well as historyography and scholarship that these were always at odds this identity in coalition but, in fact, i would argue that they were mutually re-enforcing and interdependent.
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it also reveals how poor folks often saw their poverty differently, issues that were left but not the same based on the different historical trajectories. despite dr. king's call for a different sort of cam pain, it wasn't until 1968 that activists beyond civil rights circles began to respond and in what was called the minority group conference, about 80 activists across the wide spectrum of the left gathered in atlanta and it was a remarkable moment that few people had ever heard of. some of the most important leaders of the chicano movement, you can see reyes seated next to dr. king, burt corona from california, gutierrez one of the founders of the mexican-are american outorganization and corky gonzalez were among many of the folks that were there. there were welfare rights activist, coal miners from
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eastern kentucky and virginia who were interested in land and environmental issues. religious activist from the national council of churches and american friends service, the quakers. and all these people in varying degrees call themselves as opponents of the vietnam war and saw that inextricably linked to the abandonment of the war on poverty by 1968. it was here that king presented his vision, one, that was not just about how sclc defined poverty, which you could see as jobs or income or solution to poverty but one that included everyone's ideas. the chicano activist offered a familiar refrain, representing more urban chicano reminding king conferring is a two way street. african-americans must listen to them and include them in campaign decision making, reyes lopez dominated the room in a captivating defense of the land
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grant rights where americans demanded the restoration of land ownership. and i also won't go into all the details of the land grant struggle, but i'll be happy to talk about that in q & a. the delegates bonded over food over culture and the growing realization that they were stronger together than they were apart and perhaps most importantly sclc took their issues seriously. so miles horton, the founder of the highlander folks school, the training school or center for civil rights and union organizing in tennessee dating back to the 1930s, wrote to dr. king and said i believe we got a glimpse of the future and the making of a bottom up collision, as we know king was assassinated just three weeks later.
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in early april. sparking violence in several cities including here in the district. but ralph abernathy insisted that the campaign would go on. some dismissed the campaign, saying it was too provocative, the kind of protest was outmoded for a variety of reasons, many of them reconsidered, black panthers, who i talked with who said you know we wanted to go to washington in memory of dr. king, even if they were still skeptical that it would accomplish that much. so in fact the campaign was so flooded with volunteers, so flooded with financial support that the campaign at sclc was quite overwhelmed and speaking of this idea of ptsd, that's a good way of describing ralph
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abernathy, andy young, jesse jackson, the close aides around king and the people who had been working with him for years trying to put this campaign on, literally a month after dr. king's death. so this organization it starts to become apparent as marchers begin to descend on washington in 1965 and 1966. they came from the west, the northwest, the midwest, northeast, and of course the south. and i hope that in his comments and remarks that carlos might speak a little bit about his experience on the caravan from the west. i remember some interesting stories that he told, some of which are in the book. and the most photographed of the caravans, however, was the mule train, as you can see here, a classic symbol of southern poverty, sharecroppers, black southern poverty. and what this did was,
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inadvertently or perhaps advertently that this campaign was one more civil rights cam pain and not the multirights campaign that the sclc and dr. king originally sought. by using this symbol over and over again and having a reporter, it seems just cover and follow the mule train, the national press reinforced this idea that this is really about southern poverty, not about midwestern poverty, or the african-americans or puerto ricans, but southern poverty. another symbol that ended up distracting from the campaign's multiracial message was resurrection city. here on west potomac park in the district. the plan had always been to have some sort of encampment in washington where marchers could stay and they could launch their
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campaigns to the white house. so they settled for a small area on the national mall and got a permit to do so. it was partly based on the march of 1932, those of you who are familiar with that when world war i veterans came to d.c. to demand their bonus early rather than getting it in 1945, in 1932 because they were desperate to have some kind of money at the depths of the great depression. of course they were burned out by u.s. soldiers, led by douglas macarthur, and sent back over the bridges into virginia. but it was seen as, by king aides at least as successful in that it helped bring down hoover, it was just one more way, one more poor optic for a president already on the ropes that he just didn't care about poor people or care about regular folks and veterans. and it's interesting if you go
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to the lbj library and spend time with the papers of aides to johnson in austin, they were all reading arthur schlesinger's history of the march. they were all very aware of how that played out in 1932 and they were insistent that that was not going to happen in 1968. resurrection city did take on a life of its own and became a focal point of the campaign in both good ways and bad ways. by late may, the city had up to 2,500 people living in it. described by one magazine, very colorfully, a revival meeting within an army camp. when people were not part of protest, lobbying congress or federal allegations, they ate at the mess hall, they put their kids in the greta scott king daycare center, they got their hair cut, they listened to some of the best entertainment in town. residents wrote their own newspaper, often criticizing
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sclc leadership in the process. there was a poor people's university that offered a range of courses, everything from the history of the treaty of guadalupe hidalgo, to -- which is what civil rights organizers were demanding as one solution to poverty. and there was also the many races soul center which fostered intercultural exchange between the residents, especially through music and dance. but it was a particularly rainy spring, i feel like again, just like the meredith march, there was a lot of rain. as one of my -- the folks i spoke with for the book said, it rained like in the bible, in 19 days out of 31, it poured. it was a particularly wet spring here. and it had to be evacuated twice, you can see, you know, what happened.
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i think maybe the drainage has gotten better in west potomac park. i hope so. and here's pictures of slightly happier times. barbers doing their jobs, so by the time most of the mexican-american and native american marchers arrived from the west, which was several days after resurrection city had been started, and they started pitching tents there, the city was a mess. as ernest vehill, denver's crusader for justice said with some understatement, we didn't see what we hoped to see, clearly for understandable reasons, martin luther king had been assassinated. but we figured if they don't have their craft together, we wish them the best of luck, meanwhile we have to get on with what we came here for. instead most chicanos who came to washington that spring lived
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in the hawthorne school who opened their doors to the marchers. at the time their building was at i street northwest. that later became southeastern university which is now defunct, went defunct a few years ago. and the choice of hawthorne, i argue was critical. much of the campaign's relationship building, for chicanos occurred. some of it was cultural exchange over food and music, others describe their shock at the poverty of poor whites from appalachian, who they interacted with to the point where they would give their extra shoes, their extra jackets to these poor whites that seemed to have less than they did. for many chicano activists in their teens and 20s, it forced
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them to take a more sophisticated look at the world and consider how race, class and gender were often intertwined. chicano activists met folks that they wouldn't have otherwise met. and who got them thinking in different ways. so one of my favorite quotes from carlos, and i'll say -- i'll get here -- see if i get it right. when would we have gotten together with the crusade, meaning the crusade for justice, lived with them, shared bread with them, marched every day with them. and their activities bonded the chicano activists that it bonded them together after they went home. one of the most interesting protest, one was in front of the supreme court in june of 1968 where about 400 african-americans native american and mexican-americans
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joined to protest native fishing rights. if you don't know, in the 1960s, this was one of the key issues for a lot of native americans who had been supposedly given the right under treaties that were up to 200 years old to fish in ancestral waters, state laws a lot of the times, including washington state forbid them from doing this and they would be arrested, so inspired by the direct action they saw on tv, oftentimes. they would fish in places they were not supposed to be. be arrested and put this challenge into the court system. and 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 here in early june and protested in front of the court. of course this protest didn't change the ruling, the ruling would change later on in the early 1970s. but what it did do is highlight
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the complexity and the potential of coalition building at the time. on their way back to hawthorne, where most of them were based in the supreme court court, the district police attacked and beat a lot of the protesters. there was one photo of ernesto vehill, they didn't think the protesters were moving false enough, blocking the sidewalks, and they just attacked them. several folks were jailed. you really find common cause when you sit in the same jail cell, he told me. they were released, and after they were released, they were greeted as heroes. what i think this incident underscores is the role of police brutality as a key issue
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that everyone agreed on, not all the issues of folks brought to washington were the same and what they emphasized, but police brutality and harassment and opposition to it brought folks together, whether it was chicago, the district, l.a., albuquerque, denver, no matter where they were, this was something that bonded folks together. on june 19th, a made for media event that featured a theme of hunger and in contrast to the march from five years earlier, women had played a very prom -- prominent role. coretta scott king gave a keynote. many other people took the stage to speak. and yet what i would argue is focusing on it, as the media insisted on doing, obscured the campaign's relevance in a lot of ways, which was not just about a one day rally, but the relationships that were built over time, over several months of time. just days after solidarity day,
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resurrection city was knocked down. the department of interior decided they had their say, we're not is going renew the permit and we're going to for the evacuation of folks and the police came in and knocked it down. i will say that many of the documents, many of what sclc had that a historian could normally use to talk about and write about the campaign were destroyed when the police did this. so it took me several years of piecing together the story of the campaign and resurrection city through oral histories and travels through about 20 archives. and so in the end, the campaign accomplished the modest policy changes. the welfaring rights activists did gain the ears of bureaucrats in what was a lame duck johnson
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administration. they even gained a seat at the table at least initially in a new nixon administration, with the ties they made there. the government released surplus food to the 100 poorest counties in the country. a lot of things around hunger changed, at least on intelligents. but what i would argue is more importantly, we should care about the poor people's campaign now in the 21st century for several seasons. one i think we should reassess the expectations we have for multiracial coalition building. just because they're fleeting, that they're not sustained doesn't mean they're unproductive. the class, gender, race some mow mutually exclusive is not the case but reinforce each other oftentimes. the black freedom struggle or the civil rights movement was not simply a happy optimistic message for brotherhood as the march on washington in 1963 but
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that one included full citizenship rights, which included voting rights and equal opportunities for everyone, including black, white, and mexican and native american. thank you so much. [ applause ] >> thank you, gordon, carlos, if we could have you up here. >> i've got a couple of power points that are kind of long so i'm going to try to do a new one. looking at the photos brought back a lot of memories.
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my history is a little bit different. my family is from mexico. powerpoint. then i have this outline. can you hear me okay? this is a quick powerpoint. i 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, 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.
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in l.a. i didn't know a word of english. i grew up in south l.a. my culture assimilation, the soul music, chuck barry, selling that music. and i'm walking to school. but also the neighbors across the street, i didn't know they were southerners, the young black guy was raising pigeons, 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 up with the cholos. and they treated me okay. 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 chavez ravine -- anybody
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know about dodgers stadium, it was a big neighborhood. i saw a black and white tv. 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. i never forgot. the other thing i never forgot -- 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. you're a little chicano, you're a mexican becoming chicano, you're like, okay, the blacks, but what about us? where do we fit in? little by little, we realized that they didn't want us either. the racism that i faced from the police, in the schools, you got
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to give me a time because sometimes i talk too much. i'm active today. 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 at the local school. i remember the debate. we could come back the next night and we would be cleaning, one guy was say yeah we got to get out there. another guy no, we can't do that. 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 and east l.a., i was young, growing up in the urban city, there was soul music, being
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harassed by the police, being recruited by the military, being pushed out of high school, becoming angry young chicanos without any direction, but the black liberation movement, the civil rights movement i watch it on tv, mohamed ali, all come x, it motivated me why don't you do what they are doing. so i said okay, i will. the older chicanos they're more about assimilation, i said why can't we do like carmichael? they said why don't you do it. okay, i will. so i hooked up with the young chicano for community action, which became the brown berets. the big connection with the black panthers, bobby sele giving us the red book and then
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john huggins and bungee carter. -- raise your hand if you know who they are. they founded the gang 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. we were able to bridge that. and bungee and john were eventually assassinated at ucla, but they had the forethought to talk about black and brown unity. here's a picture of me, i don't know where that was. i don't think that was appropriate. but there i am, angry young chicanos, when we became conscious, we thought the
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problem was the white man, chicano power supported black power. one of the first big actions was walk outs in east l.a., that's in the book or the movie, "walk 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. we kind of like what he said. we liked china and mao, better than we did russia. but it was real basic, we wanted to get into theory until later on. and maybe later on, i have a little bit -- but the poor people's campaign, we get the invitation, king had been assassinated, and, i got the call, and, you know, you're
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young at that point, let's do it. it took the walkouts, it took a couple of months, it run into school, when you're young, you're 20, you're down, right? and, 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 bug. blacks suffered for so many years, right. and the caravan going over there was tremendous, every night was rally, food, meeting people, narrative americans, blacks 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
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repressive, police shut us down at the l.a. convention center. it was welcome brother, welcome brother. but 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. we still had that. some chicanos and some black that still had some prejudice. but the caravan bonded us together. where was it when we took over 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, you mentioned
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what state was it? missouri i don't know how it happened, it was spontaneous, you know. the older sclc were there -- they shut it down for a little while. then we moved on. so we were getting all pumped up, and we respected sclc and martin luther king, 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 just blew our mind. it's not just about better schools, stop police brutality, stop the recruiting. it's about taking our land back and chicano power. we went all the way. we want our land back. i know a lot of republicans in arizona are afraid of that.
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it's going to happen, so you know. 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., the hawthorne school. okay. it was an empty school. cement, it wasn't no luxury, we're all getting bunk beds and where are we going to eat? where are the rest rooms and showers. we were thrown in there. it was fun, but there 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, it must be the economic system. with the panthers and everything, we started evolving it was a struggle against capitalism, eventually, right and give me a time thing. i'm glad you showed the march on the supreme court. i remember, support the native
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americans, land rights, fishing rights, and i remember we were marching up to the stairs, right? oh, i got ten minutes? so we were marching up the stairs 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 we walked up and started banging on it. let us in, let us in, let us in. i bet the security guy saw us coming and closed the door or we would have gone in there and sat down. it was symbolic. but they were denying justice to 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
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and -- oh, here's one of the poor people's campaign. so that was exhilarating, but consciousness raising, the native americans, learning, for me, about the land rights, the fishing rights, the treaty rights. i don't even remember when this happened, somebody e-mailed this to me and said you're in there. if you can see me 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. 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.
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we were in d.c. oh, shit, we're going to get arrested, we should get our beret out and get under cover. somebody said, you know what, let's march on ramsey clark, the attorney's office. so we're like let's march to the attorney general's office and demand amnesty for us. we said, yeah, let's do it. 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 -- they came out and said ramsay said, hey, cool, but he's got no jurisdiction, but we said we're going to sit in outside, by that time the young people are like, we like abernathy, we like jesse, we started to relate to the young
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blacks and the young puerto ricans, so we said we're going to have a sit in at the attorney general's office. we started the sit in. and yeah, we're going to sit 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. 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 to the last couple of years. so jesse shows up, young elegant speaker, black power, yeah, yeah, yeah. i said, okay, 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
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going to march back to resurrection city, and i was going, wait a minute, wait, we're having a sit in. that's when i realized, i love jesse, but i saw him as a middle class, we were poor working class, and they used him to kick us out, to kind of diffuse that anger there. i wanted to show that real quick. 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.
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and we talked about building black unity. and by the way, thanks to the library of congress, and the library staff, i want to thank you for getting this out. [ applause ] so i have to bring in bunchy carter. of course. because they wanted me to talk about the history of black latinos, i was like, hey, you guys kill me. i didn't say that directly. and then, you know, i know with the fbi pro and tell thing. so back on hawthorne school, to what was the other big -- okay 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, okay, let's go. so we all marched into the big giant federal building, we're going to go eat.
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let's go eat, right, so we wind up in the cafeteria and all the cafeteria workers were black, they said get your food and go up there and don't pay. jesse said that. that was okay with me. and it was not just me, there was a bunch of us. hundreds of us. we get our food, we get up there and the poor african-american lady is ringing 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. we were starving, there's no food, powdered milk and all that. i'm telling you, the staff was there with us. 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
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for justice, long lasting relations which builds the chicano liberation movement. because after that we went to the mountains, we visited up in, 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, shit, i'll meet him. their own mayor. so the crusade, so we continued to have relations with the black panthers, i had the pleasure of meeting with john pratt after he got out of prison. i was own a panel with him at ucla with eric a cousins, kathleen cleaver, myself and geronimo before he passed.
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and the struggle from 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 transformative, i learned that word the other day, we used to say it blew my mind, so it was 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 police murders and we worked with johnny cochran, and i was a
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delegate, i was latinos for jackson in '84, 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. i'll wrap it up and maybe just let that go. the southern california coalition, two sisters are members of it. but go ahead, i'm finished. [ applause ] nd i got newspaper of the fight back news.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. okay, it's supposed to be a
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panel, right, i'm so excited. >> all right. thank you. of course this is a problem that is engaging speakers. you have a bunch of questions written down and they go right out of your head even though you've got them all on notes. . i want to come back to both of you, perhaps i'll start with you gordon to give him a chance to catch his breath. the word transformation or i'll reintroduce blowing my mind into my lexicon, i like that better. can you elaborate that a little bit. you go in some lengths in your book which is on sale out there in the lobby. he'll sign it for you for no extra charge. >> at least you made the plug and not me. so the question is about -- how
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was it a transformative moment. as i said, it was the demographics, i guess of the poor people's campaign skewed young, a lot of teens, 20 somethings who were there, who were coming to washington for the first time, oftentimes. 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 i was struck by all the oral histories 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 -- you know, a white coal miner says i'm interested in land rights. and being able to control my own land rather than having some coal company own the mineral
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rights underneath their homes. and chicano activists and others said i'm interested in the same thing. seeing that these issues bonded folks, you know, across the country, maybe in different context to a certain extent, but not completely, right. this is one of the reasons why i think the advocacy for the land grant struggle and he's a flawed advocate in many ways. he was not an organizer as much as he was an order and yet he built a really vibrant, you know, 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 this idea that land should restored to people that it was stolen from in the wake of the u.s.-mexican war. for a lot of these people they
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come, they meet people they never met before, they had conversations 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 that they would suggest. but living with folks day in and day out standing in line for food or the bathroom what have you, trying to stay dry in this really wet spring, those are the kinds of conversations that you build relationships from. and i think the march on washington was very inspiring in '63 and yet it was a one day rally and i think there's a big difference through the kinds of relationship, constructive relationship building you can do over six weeks, two months versus one day or three hours, for that matter. >> i'm glad you brought the land
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grant thing because i want maria to elaborate on this a little bit when she gets a chance a little later in the conversation. carlos, you started talking about that kind of consciousness raising. >> it did. i remember the appalachian families talking to them, looking how they dressed and hearing where they lived and i'm thinking they are poorer than us at least in east l.a. in east l.a. at that time my father was in the carpenter's union, assembly line and the fact there was a union, not really good money but we had health care and a house moved. so i could see they were poorer than us. here they were with us. then also the black, the young blacks from d.c. and from the south, you know, talking to them, and then, you know, but
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hanging out, marching together, going to get food and clothing, had some free clothing. let's go get this or get that. you meet someone at a rally or an event and you network for 15 minutes or 30 insurance and you're gone and exchange e-mails. being there day after day and then getting arrested. one thing i forgot to mention, the young folk we'll rebel, we marched on the white house. young blacks and chicanos and native americans and we got busted. they got us from the back and grab us and shot us down. one thing i won't forget one black brother they got they busted his head, he was bleeding. they got me and had me down. i had a beret on. maybe i didn't bleed. they threw us in the paddy wagon. literally picked us up and threw us in there. being in jail and getting busted
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together with blacks, white, chicanos it bonded us in the poor people's movement. >> i was interested in hearing you talk about transformation in two different ways. you said at one point, correct me if i'm wrong, you said i was a mexican and i was becoming chicano and then the other one is the transformation of your consciousness, talking about kind of a racial or ethnic identity now you see structural problems that everybody across sort of racial lines faces. is that a fairway to describe it? >> absolutely. absolutely. because little mexican kid growing up in south l.a. listening to chuck barry and fats domino -- >> you know who that is? >> well, you know, rock and role, the beginning of rock and roll and soul music. another one we would go to one of the local shows when elvis presley, when "jailhouse rock"
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came out. chicanos and blacks on a saturday afternoon in the theater rocking it out. they got up in the aisle trying to imitate elvis presley. it was fun. but it bonded. then going to school together and one of my first girlfriends in high school when i moved to east l.a. was an african-american, shirley. and so i became chicano. i was no longer mexican because my culture and my language and my point of reference is different, you know. seeing the racism in the schools, in the community, you know, and then so my language and my music. then in east l.a. i was more into cruising music, the santana sound, the urban chicano sound that picked up on the soul music. carlos santana. it became a chicano culture and
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then the political part was yeah, the white man is not the enemy it's the system that's the enemy that's keeping us down. keeping the vietnamese down in vietnam and here in the u.s. so i decided it was more a class solidarity. the rainbow coalition, sclc brought it out and panthers say white man is not the enemy it's the system. here read the red book. so then the cuban revolution. we became more anti-imperialists. >> one thing i would say is i'm struck by the role of culture that if politics don't bond people, which, folks have their different political strategies and you see a lot of that in display in the poor people's campaign where there are big personalities, there's strategic differences, the question about does sclc allow other folks to
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be part of the decision-making or is it just lip service. not everybody is a fan of ralph ab abernathy. he had an impossible position he was placed in. part of that, the mistakes he made, of course, is 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 and issues are still there, i mean it strikes me how much culture bonds folks together and i think there's really good scholarship about how music and i keep on going back to this, in the resurrection city and hawthorne school is that was often the way folks started talking with each other and then it would lead to
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other things. so they would share some food or music. and then that would lead to other things. so, yeah, i would -- i think it is a transformative moment to go back to your initial question for a lot of these folks. and took -- they went to travel 3,000 miles here to do it. do it. >> right. >> right. captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2008 and, and where does gender enter into your particular perspective, and i'm reminded of what maria said earlier this morning about what is -- 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
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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 or mother of 11 children in oklahoma. 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
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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 woman who was 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 for quiet and submissive behind the scenes.
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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 said she 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 quality 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, sue to be marion
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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. abernathy is in front of, you know, the cameras, behind the telephone and other folks in josefa williams and jesse jackson. 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 actually 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
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about the land grants movement. would that be okay 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. >> 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. and i didn't have like -- i think the most important thing that never was able to take off
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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 -- ganz les 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
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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. 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
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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 if you remember, president nixon
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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 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
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eventually won. so there were gains, you know, that the system, you know, 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 -- the system -- 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, 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,
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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 participationed in 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, and 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
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blew my mind, but you're black and also latina, white or latina, the culture and sals ann, and some into cumbia. 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 blew my mind, right? >> blowing my mind right now. >> so we went to new york, and 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
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imperialism, 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, red, red, red, you know, bad, bad, bad, but after a while we said it's okay, you know. 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
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sort of separate rally which i guess you could see the optics of it, were, you know, very practical reasons for it but there's -- they are having their own rally that corky gonzalez and rea lopez. the chicano youth liberation conference in '69 in denver hosted by coaching 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. 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? >> i had one, and this is interesting because carlos, you're talking about, meeting up
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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? >> 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, but when they 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 first book i read on chicano
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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, map, this is our lap. 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. didn't know that they would 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, viatnamese struggle and then the raise the land question. not just a struggle for civil rights but a struggle for
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self-determination, declaration of human rights, u.n., what is dev 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 me of that, right to south determination. >> parallel to naft american struggles to reclaim ancient lands in the south and southwest
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and the southwest. okay. so i'm going to bring this to a close. >> can i get a photo op. can we 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. >> 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.
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>> 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're live with an online connection so come back and be prepared to go and i don't have a schedule. 1:15, yes, correct. so 45 minutes, be back and we'll start on time. thank you so much. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. the c-span cities tour takes cspan's-3-american history tv on
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the road. here's a feature from one offous recent trips across the country. >> delores huerta is a civil rights activist who along with cesar chavez co-founded the national farm workers association in 1962 which became the united farm workers of america. in 2012 president obama awarded miss huerta the medal of freedom for her life's work. >> i was born in dawson, new mexico, and moved to california when i was 6 years old. my parents divorce and my brother brought myself and my two brothers to california. as a teenager we were always harassed by the police, a lot of discrimination in high school against all of the kids of color and not only kids of color but the very poor kids, kids who were the okey kid, as they called them and also quited quite a bit of discrimination and you always had a sense of injustice happening all around you. stockton, california, i was raised as another agricultural
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community just like bakersfield is so you had a lot of the same dynamics going on there. a lot of people of color did warm work and so it was always like trying to denigrate the people who did farm work and making them feel like they were lesser individuals and that kind of dynamic sort of permeated the whole community. started in 1942 i believe when we went into the car and they brought in many people from mexico to fulfill the needs of farm labor, and what happened is after the war ended, they kept bringing more and more people in and the local workers and domestic workers just dropped to 50 cents an hour and they would bring in others and not hire the local workers. i grew up in stockton, california. i grew up organizing farmers. i formed an association of local
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workers association as part of the afl-cio, but i left that organization because i felt that they were not doing the kind of organizing that was really going to be successful and then -- and that's when i started the united farm workers. i moved to delaino when i started the united farm workers association. we organized from 1965 to 1968 for three years and we had thousands of workers that came out on strike. >> striking work vicars from delano began a 100-mile pilgrimage northward. >> that strike went on for five years. the strike started in 1965 and it didn't end until 1970. we don't win the strike because it kept arresting us and kept bringing in more and more strike breakers so what we did is started a national boycott of california table grapes and when the employers, saw that they can't sell their grey-bruce and they weren't making a profit anymore and that's when they decided that they would sign contracts with the union. basically what you learned and
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what you teach is that people have power, that you don't have to be rich or speak the english language or don't even have to be a u.s. citizen, that you do have power and you can make changes. one of the big provisions we got for farm workers was the right to have toilets in the field and people don't realize that the drops that are picked in the fields go into the box and they go to the supermarket and they don't go through the car wash, right, so the way that those fruits and vegetables are put into that box as it goes to the supermarket, it's horrifying to think that farm workers didn't even have toilets in the field or cold drinking water or soap and handwashing facilities and yet all of that produce is going directly to the supermarket, so we were able -- we got that into our contracts with 1966. we finally got it as a state law, again, in 1975. did not become a national law until 1985 and so now we do have
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a national law that says employers have to have toilets in the field for their workers, separate, one more men and one for women and supposed to keep them clean and when you think of all of the great things that came out of farmer movement in terms of legislation and in terms of leadership, i think that it's probably very few regrets but there's a lot of gains and a lot of wins. >> from day one when we started the community service organization and the united farm workers, we've always been engaged in helping people immigrate to the united states. it 1986 we were able to pass legislation where we got legalization for 1.4 million farm workers and our partner in the senate was ted kennedy who helped us get that long, along with peter rodina from new jersey, so immigrant rights have always been at top and we're still continuing that struggle right now because we have the immigrants rights legislation that's going through the congress. i don't believe that the guest worker program should be implemented at all when you have
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high unemployment, for instance, in kern county, 30% unemployment right now. we have a lot of people who don't have work and yet employers continue to bring in people from other countries to do the work, and they keep saying, you know, ordinary people won't do this work. well, that's not true. that's not true at all. i mean, we look at "the grapes of wrath" you know when that was going on, people who came in here from other places. many people here in kern county many individuals in office and hold different positions in government. they were once farm workers. it isn't that people won't do farm would. it's that the employers don't want to pay enough money for them to do farm work and don't want to give them the kind of health benefits that they need. farm workers see their work as something that they do. they consider themselves professionals and they should be treated with dignity, and if you're not going to treat people with dignity and that's why they bring in people from other countries who don't know the labor laws and who are afraid to
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speak up because they are afraid they will be deported or sent out or that their contracts will be, you know, cut off if they speak out and fight for their rights and so we should develop a local farm labor force like we had before. i get medal of freedom, but it actually represents the work of thousands of people that have worked, you know, to make a better life, for the farm workers and the farm workers movement and five farm workers that are killed and i get the medal of freedom but it comes on the backs of many other people that have fought for the rights of farm workers and women, you know, in the world. although we were able to make a lot of gains in northern california, we know there's pockets of california especially when they bring new immigrants and don't know their rights where farm workers are being mistreated and where employers are not following the laws in terms of providing them with the
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clean toilets or the drinking water or respirators or safety conditions, right, and that they are entitled to and theic rights we got for farm workers, farm workers throughout the country still don't have the basic rights, and that's a tragedy. >> on the next "washington journal" dr. ron waldman of the group "save the children looks at how nonprofit groups are helping to fight the ebola outbreak in west africa. rob barnett of bloomberg discusses the recent decline in gas, oil and energy. plus your calls and facebook comments and tweets. that's all on "washington journal" at 7:00 a.m. eastern. this weekend on the c-span networks, saturday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern, a town hall meeting on the media's coverage of events in ferguson, missouri, as harris stow state university in st. louis and sunday night on "q&a" historian richard norton
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smith on his biography of nelson rockefeller. saturday night at 10:00 on book tv's "afterwards," author and xhep tator jake halperin on the collection industry and the 2014 southern festival of books and saturday night at 8:00 on american history tv on c-span 3, the life and legacy of booker t. washington and sunday afternoon at 4:00 on real america from 1964 exercise delawar, a joint operation between u.s. and iran when the two countries were allies. find our television schedule at c-span.org and let us know what you think about the programs that you're watching. call us at 202-626-3400 and e-mail us at comment comments @c-span.org or send us a tweet at #c-spancomments. join the c-span conversation. like us on facebook and follow us on twitter.
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c-span campaign 2014 is bringing more than 100 debates for the control of congress. watch our coverage and join the conversation. follow us on twitter and like us on facebook. american history tv continues with remarks from bill jennings, a former member of the black panther party on multi-racial coalitions during the civil rights coalition. we'll hear about why black activists worked with cesar chavez and the united farm workers union during the 1960s and '70s, american center hosted the symposium to mark national heritage month. it's about half an hour. good afternoon, and welcome back. this is our next panel in the afternoon session of this symposium organizing across the boundaries, strategies and coalitions and the struggle for the civil rights and social justice.
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before we get started, i just wanted to explain a little bit about the genesis of this panel or whole symposium and how it came about. like a lot of great ideas that come about the library, came across this book just doing a search in the catalog, and this is many months ago. we were kind of thinking about what do we want to do for this public program series, and there's so many books that come out on the civil rights movement every year. we thought, well, let's focus on some that are kind of different and interesting that kind of change how we think about the movement, kind of upend our understanding of it, and so when we came across this one by lorne ariza we got excited, not just because it had such great cover art. we loved she was looking at these two different groups in an area that we don't often think about the civil rights movement, california, and how these two groups came together in their
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struggles. so the doctor will be our first speaker. she earned her phd from the university of california at berkeley, and she's now an associate professor of history at denisson university in granville, ohio. she's taught there since 2007. this is her first book, "to march for others, the black freedom struggle and the united farm workers" and it was published just last year by the university of pennsylvania press. and our next speaker after her will be bill x. jennings who grew up in san diego, and he was just telling us this story earlier today which i thought was great which was his pe coach in middle school was tommy smith, and he had this wonderful inspiring moment when he saw him on tv at the 196 olympics after he had won the gold medal raising his fist up in the air, and that kind of inspired him to become an activist. also in 1968, he moved to oakland, and he joined the
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plaque panther party, and he helped out with a lot of programs for many years with the panthers, with free breakfast programs and also uniting with mexican-american farm workers and canary workers and doing similar programs with them, too. and he's currently now the archivist and historian of the black panther program and started a website it's about time, that includes tons of images, manuscript items from the party that you can peruse online at home. after both of them speak we'll do a q&a up on the stage and the moderator for that will be catalina gomez who is a program coordinator in the hispanic division here who grew up in bogota, colombia, and she earned her b.a. from uc san diego and masters grow grow from the university of barcelona in spain. join me in welcoming our
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panelists starting with lauren ariza, thank you. thank you. thank you for that kind introduction. i actually wondered how i came to be invited. i had no idea, so -- thank you all for coming. i also want to thank -- forward, okay? so i also want to thank the like riff congress for organize today's symposium on coalitions and the struggle for civil rights and justice part of their year long series on what's been termed the long self rights movement. today's symposium rectifies one of my major critiques of the study of social movements which is that each movement is usually studied in isolation, as if each move president was an island with no connection to other movements or as maria said
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earlier as a beach was a silo unto itself. examining coalitions between movements provides us with a more nuanced, more complex and ultimately i argue more accurate depiction of social movements and the people and organizations that fought for social justice. quite simply, activists of this period didn't think of themselves as being part of individual move president. they didn't describe themselves as being part of the civil rights movement or the chicano movement or the red power movement. instead they envisioned themself and the struggles were part of the movement. the umbrella term for the various struggles for equality and social justice that unfolded in the 1960s and 1970s. so accordingly these movements were marked by continuous interaction and dynamic exchange between activists. sometimes the strategies, philosophies and accomplishments of up movement merely influenced
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others, but another instances movements physically intersected. participants overland and resources were shared and efforts were merged to more effectively combat a shared enemy, but how do coalitions happen? how do we even get to this point? how do activists and organizations divided by race, ethnicity, geography, religion or language come together to fight for social justice when they each have their own struggles, they each have their own concerns? and what determines whether these coalitions will be successful? where do we get to the point people aren't just coming together but are actually accomplishing something so in my book "to march for others, the black freedom struggle and the united farm workers" i attempt to answer these questions by use the united farm workers as a
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lens to explore attitudes and multi-core racial building within the black struggle. cesar chavez founded the dwf in 1962, then called the national farm workers association in order to organizing a cultural workers in california's central valley, many of whom were mexican-american. chavez and the other members of the ufw leadership believed that unionization would offer the best protection for workers who suffered from back-breaking labor, exposure to exteam temperatures and dangerous pesticides and low pay. farm workers were also vulnerable to such exploitive practices as child labor and sexual harassment. so in their struggles against the powerful forces behind california agribusiness, these were not just -- these were not family farms that these farm workers were engaged. in these were massive corporations that operated huge
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farms that were then backed by california politicians and law enforcement, and so in their struggles against this powerful system, the ufw engaged in nonviolent direct tactic actions such as picket lines, marches and boycotts. all of which were rooted in labor activism but were also inspired by the civil rights move president. these protests attracted media attention, and eventually garner the farm worker's support from a wide array of swensies including members of other organizations, students, activists from the left, housewives, politician and celebrities. so among the ufw supporters were five major organizations of the black freedom struggle of the 1960s and 1970s. my book explores these relationships. i look at the student on violent coordinating committee, the
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naacp, the urban league, southern christian leadership conference an black panther party. what i wanted to know is why such a diverse array of civil rights and black power organizations that really capture the scope of civil rights okaying during the era, from the very radical to the very conservative, i want to know why such an array of organizations chose to work with a union of mexican american farm workers in rural california. i also want to analyze the trajectories of these alliances, the level and type of support that each of these organizations gave the ufw varied, and so my book is a study of the factors that determine the viability of multi-racial coalition building. now in social movements, forming a coalition can make practical strategic sense. when you're fighting overall
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forces such as racism, poverty, exploit politation, disenfranzment, police brutality, one needs all the help you can get. but even when working with an ally makes sense, coalition-building is a complicated undertaking, and it involves several factors. the inner play of these factors is really what determines whether an alliance is even possible. and so the coalitions that were formed between the black freedom struggle and the ufw were shaped by key facets of personal and group identity, race, class, region, gender, and by then aspects of each organization's organizational oitd, ideology, tactic, the historical context in which it operated, its leadership, all of these things were also instrumental in the development and outcome of coalitions. so for the purposes of today's symposium, i'm going to focus on the relationship between the ufw
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and black panther party which for some probably the most surprising aspect of my -- of my book. so huey newton and bobby seal founded the plaque panther party in oakland, california in 1986 in response to overwhelming police brutality in that city. on the surface, as i said, this alliance surprises a lot of people because on the surface the ufw and the black panther party seem to be unlikely allies. panthers were african-american, militant, urban, socialist and therefore different in nearly every way from the largely mexican american, none violent, rural and catholic farm workers, but despite their differences, the ufw and the black panther party formed a highly successful coalition beginning in 1978
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during the california boy crot of grapes. previously in the union's earlier strikes they would target one grower at a time, and they would boycott that grower's contracts and when they got a union contract they would move on to the next buher. in 1967 they came up against one grower who was very stubborn and to undermine the boycott of its progress they convinced other grape growers in california to give other labels. so you might think you were buying grapes from a different grower but you were actually buying the grimara grapes and they put someone else's label on box. when it was discovered this was happening they went to chavez and said this is not going to work. we cannot do this boycott unless we boycott all california
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grapes. and i was like we're going. it was easier and take the boycott nationwide. people are boycotting california groups so it's this moment that black panther party along with self other people in the country take notice of what the farm workers are doing and the panthers come to the union state immediately participate in rallies in support. the black panther newspaper regularly pushed articles explaining the great boycott and calling for its readers to join in the -- various members of the vfw told me was very effective
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because not only did they need bodies on the picket line -- panthers on picket line made it less like hi that they would be harassed by the police. so -- and the panthers and the ufw -- the panthers weren't just helping the ufw. they were helping each other. they joined forces and this happens during the great boycott when both groups align against safeway grocery stores. safeway grocery stores, i believe they still are, but certainly they were at the time the largest grocery store change on west, and they refused to remove california grapes from the shelves. they also refused to donate to the black panther parties free breakfast for children program. the party ran this program to help underprivileged children of all races succeed in school by serving them a hot nutritious breakfast every morning and relied on locke rall businesses to make this happen and the
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panthers and the farm washingers join forces. not only did they picket together. the panthers brought their particular know how. many of the panthers, including the panther leadership were veterans. a motor pool was formed for the black panther party to use, and he implemented that during the safeway boycott, so what happened was that in the evening when people get off work and go growsry shopping on their way home, panthers would recruit local children from the find to come man the picket line out in front of safeway, and then motor pool would be there, and the panthers would say to shoppers trying to come into the safeway store, please don't shop here.
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safeway is telling greats, dore participate. and so we'll drive you in this car right here to lucky's. we'll right you while you shop and you don't have to carry those bags and chauffeur to the grocery store and by doing this the panthers are able to assist the farm workers in the star and the store meanwhile was shout dunn because of lack of customers because this motor pool was so successful. so following the uaw winning the first agricultural contract for farmers in the united states. the panthers and farmers continue to work together and their relationship grows and evolves. the panthers supported the ufw's
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production of iceberg lettuce. the ufw spoke out in defense of the black panther party when it was subjected to violent repression by law enforcement and then -- an bill will be talking about this as well. their political interests coalesce, when california growers sponsor proposition 22 in 19727 where this proposition, had it pass, would have outlawed boycotts against agricultural products so it would have crippled bfw's organizing off the. this coincide when bobby seal was running for mayor of oakland. chavez and bfw endorse bobby seal's mayoral campaign. chavez goes door to door in oakland xanks on seal's behalf
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so this -- their we like evolves and grows and their interest, as i said, continued to dovetail. what brought these organizations together in the first place and what made them look at each other against these gulfs of culture, of play, of identity, and reach out to each other? what makes this happen? so the first is a sense of cross-racial solidarity. there was a recommend in addition among both the panthers and the farm workers that both african-americans and mexican-americans suffered from similar patterns of racial discrimination, and this recognition of the shared -- the share repression is really the foundation for this -- for this alliance, and this is something that's misunderstood about the black panther party. while the black panther party
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certainly advocated for self-determination and black power, it also called for self-determination, political power, racial pride, economic justice on behalf of all oppressed groups. not just african-americans, and it advocated multi-racial solidarity, and this is evidence in their slogan of all power to the people, right, so whereas other black power groups were wanting black acpower, black panthers did, that they also chanted all power to the people emphasizing this inclusiveness, this shared sense of power. this is later articulated by huey newton when he develops this philosophy of revolutionary incommunalism, this idea that oppressed people worldwide are united, that the national borders are inconsequential in the face of capitalism, but as i said, even before he articulates, that because he doesn't articulate that until
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'71, there's -- that foundation, that shared recognition of the plight of peoples of color is really foundational to the black panther party ethos so they formed alliances with several organizations regardless of race, including the brown berets as carlos mentioned but also the young lords, the red guard, a radical chinese organization based in san francisco's chinatown, the young patriots, a group of young white afternoppan migrants in chicago. so in my book this is also very similar to what's happening with snic. snic also reached out to the farm workers on this recognition that mexican-american farm workers in california and african-american sharecroppers in the south were experiencing the same types of exploitation. and so there's this recognition
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of this cross-racial solidarity. so thiis also by place. the unique, one of the reasons the party imbrace this is multiracial solidarity is because of where it is. the unique of the american west often prompted, not just in the 1960s but earlier, we see in the 1940s where the naacp is working with latino and asian american organizations. and part of this is the diversity of california but then also part is because of the way segregation happens in the west. carlos alluded to this earlier where yes there was residential segregation but african
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americans and latinos were segregated to the same neighborhoods, especially in los angeles but also in oakland as well. so panthers in oakland, or in los angeles as well, had grown up with latinos, with american indians, with asian americans. and so they shared the same experiences of residential segregation, inadequate education, police brutality. and so this shapes the party's development. and again, this is also characteristic of civil rights organizations in the west. civil rights organizations in the west tended to be more supportive of the ufw because they already have knowledge of mexican americans and their issues. so for example snic field secretaries in california, who were originally from california persuaded the rest of the organization to support the farm
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workers before the farm workers even national ly. snic was working with the farm workers before even their first strike. this is how aware of whether the mexican american farm workers were experiencing in california. similar think naacp in the west had to fight new york to support the farm workers. so the contrasts are the southern based organization. in the 1960s and 1970s the south was still very much black and white. this changes in the 1980s with immigration reform. but in the south, as i said in the 60s and 70s, latino population was never more than about 4% of the population. so southern christian leadership conference for example wasn't
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aware of the struggles of latinos until the poor people's campaign in 1968 because they just weren't privy to it. it wasn't what was happening in alabama and georgia and what have you. and so also later as black power organizations start to form in the south, again this makes sense. because it is coming from a place of strict black/white segregation. whereas the multiracial milieu of the san francisco bay area makes coalition building a more practical strategy for civil rights organizations. but also this relates to the -- the idea of place is not just about the regions of the count bry, it is also going back to rural versus urban, which the last panel addressed as well. the u of w is addressing not
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just farm workers but the system of inequality in rural agricultural areas. so civil rights activists who had experience with agricultural labor, rural environments tended to be more supportive of the ufw. the black panther party, even though it was an urban organization, was largely composed even the leadership southern migrates themselves so or descended from the southern migrants. so the leadership of the party particularly had historical knowledge, they had family experience with rural inequality with agricultural labor. similarly snic conducted most of its organizing in rural areas. so they also -- oh really? see this is what happens when i try to like talk instead of [ laughter ] >> i was just telling somebody
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that if i don't just read i go over. so okay. so briefly, so two more points. another thing that brings them together that enable this is coalition to form is class. again talking about this intersection of race and class and gender and place. panthers were the leadership e smeshl were socialist. so they saw the farm workers as fellow exploited workers. they believed that multi-racial cooperation against capitalism was more important than racial differences. and they were able to unite across race because they had this sense of class solidarity. snic also wiz was able to work with the panthers in this way. because again although not explicitly socialist, working with african american
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sharecroppers in the south gave them that experience of the ties between economic exploitation and racial discrimination. and then finally leadership. even if an organization or even if two organizations have everything in common. they are in the same place. working at the same goals. the backgrounds of the members are similar, an alliance might not happen. because a coalition really is a relationship between individuals. so it takes someone to say hey this is important. i know we have this great big thing we're doing but what this other group is doing is really important and we need to work with them. so it takes a leader to make that step and make it happen. so the panthers that was bobby seal. bobby seal really spear head this is alliance that the rest of the part fully embraces. and he does so because his father had been a labor
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contractor. one of the things that farm workers were fighting against. he had an old school bus and he would take farm workers out to the fields in california and then drive them home in the evening and he would charge the farm workers for the ride but then he would charge the farmers for bringing the workers. and bobby seal even as a child was outraged by this. he thought it was terrible. he wasn't comfortable wit. he would argue with his father about it. so when the government campaigns the use of labor contractors he's on board and says this is who we're going to work. same for snic, mike miller, head of the san francisco office, makes that relationship happen. leonard carter spear heads that alliance. so it takes a leader to say we're going to have this relationship. we're going to bridge these divides. so i'll just conclude by saying
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this relationship between the black panther party and the united farm workers are an example of the possibilities inherent in coalition building. that such divergent organizations as the ufw and the black panther party can come together and in an alliance that is truly productive -- you know, the farm workers win labor contracts or union contacts. they give visibility from the panthers giving them a platform in their newspaper in bobby seal's campaign. the panthers also benefit. they get help with the safeway boycott but they are also -- their image among latinos greatly improves because chavez is endorsing him. and thinking maybe they are reluctant about the panthers but when chavez gives the okay then all of a sudden they are embraced by more conservative elements of the latino community. so this shows what can happen
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when organizations look beyond their differences to find their commonalities. thank you. [ applause ] >> bilinogenings. bi bill jennings. >> greetings everyone. my name is billy x. jennings. i'm glad to be here. former member of the black panther party. joined in 1968 and i stayed in the organization till 1974. the first person -- i'd like to
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give like a photo essay of my involvement in the black panther party and community work. because so many people have talked about the black panther party today. so i was born in the south in anderson, alabama. we call it the scene of the crime. and my mother was very instrumental many my political consciousness. we were from alabama. my dad was in the service. he left -- my dad was in the military. so i'm from alabama and we was transferred to san diego, california. we made that journey in 1955 just as the montgomery boycott was starting in alabama. and so one of the first things we did when we got to

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