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LOCAL News :: Civil & Human Rights

Solidarity Runs Deep at People of Color Caucus

Grassroots activists gathered to share stories and promote solidarity at People of Color Caucus last Saturday.
“The government is trying to legalize exclusion.? Tom, a participant in last Saturday’s People of Color Caucus, bemoaned our country’s anti-immigration policies during an afternoon panel discussion at St. Luke’s Church. The panel of Native American, African American and Latino community leaders was part of the afternoon session of the second meeting of the newly forming People of Color Caucus. About 35 people from Richmond, King William’s, Charlottesville and Tidewater gathered to discuss issues of oppression and how participants could work together to create positive change.

Panelists and other caucus attendees shared stories of the struggles of their people. Alberto, who works with a Hispanic newspaper, spoke of the challenges illegal immigrants face, first at the border, then with social security, the law, the language and the class system. Carolina, who works with unaccompanied minors who enter the country illegally, described the legal catch-22 for young people detained by INS. These kids, if they can convince INS psychologists they’ve been traumatized, are put in foster care instead of being deported. They are often placed with families who speak no Spanish and spend several years learning to overcome their trauma, speak English and fit into the culture. Then, on their 18th birthday, INS arrives, handcuffs them, and takes them to jail to await deportation. There is one legal loophole they can hope for, but that involves finding a family willing to host them for free once they are 18, while they await legal processing.

Chief Ken of the Mattaponi tribe explained that his people are still not officially recognized by the federal government, and therefore have no representation in the VA general assembly. “I, too, am an illegal,? he said.

Cathy, a dismantling racism trainer, spoke about the connection between poverty and injustice. When people don’t have affordable housing, it affects their families, and spills over into schools and communities. People don’t know what to do, and “we stay victims?.

Carolina spoke of need to find ways to include more people in our movement for justice. “What about the woman at home with four children whose husband has been detained by ICE? She needs a meaningful way to be a part of the struggle.?

Time ran out on Saturday afternoon long before the group had finished sharing stories, or solidified next steps. There is a lobby day planned for January 21st at the VA General Assembly, when members of the Caucus will meet with representatives to share the perspective of the multicultural grassroots group they are becoming together.

Kudos to all who planned and attended this example of the people’s refusal to be divided by the powers that be.

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