For the first time since 2006, new federal immigration legislation is on the agenda. Everyone’s talking about it, but we have the chance to shape it: to make it into what we need and deserve. The politicians want us to stay out of this debate and watch the first to final drafts of the new law unfold on TV. But there is no reason we should allow a bunch of suits in the capital to dictate, subjugate and limit the futures of our friends families neighbors and ourselves. Our young movement must determine the outcome of the immigration reform debate. And Detroit has made clear we CAN.
The following is an open letter from one of the BAMN leaders of the new movement on why this is Detroit’s long-awaited, hard fought-for moment to come out of the trenches and go on the offensive by leading the nation:
I never thought that it would be Detroit. I was born here, grew up here, went to school here. As many places as I am likely to call home in my lifetime in the movement, Detroit will always be mine, because it is the place that made me ME.
Detroit: Our Time Is Now! Our Movement Can Win!
But I didn’t think it would be us. All my life Detroit has been under attack and I have been a part of defending it. Our schools, our neighborhoods, the racist things people on the news and white people from the suburbs say about us. They’ve segregated the hell out of our city and nobody needs me to tell them that it sure ain’t equal, what we got here.
But even so we’ve been a strong place. A place where people are tough as nails, and kind if you know how to ask. A poor place with a proud, long history as a black city that fights and never gives ups. Even when we never quite seem to win, we also manage not to lose.
Even though everybody knows about the 1967 riot and I don’t think anybody doubts thats it’s gonna happen again, thats not the same as thinking we’re going to win.
An endless war of attrition: that’s been our lives. We aren’t winning but we wont stand for losing: that’s who we are. Who we’ve been for a long time now. So I always thought our role in the new movement we’re building would be to hold the line. And don’t get me wrong- thats important.
During the battle of Gettysburg during the civil war, if not for a small cavalry dismounting and holding the line the North would have lost. Slavery would have prevailed. I’m sure all over the world great wars have been won because somebody held the line by any means necessary. So I thought we would hold the line until reinforcements come from L.A. or maybe New York or Chicago- big cities with huge immigrant communities that would spark the rebirth of our generations civil rights and immigrant rights movement.
We Have The Chance To Make History And Lead The Nation!
But now I know I was wrong. I think we’ve got the chance to do way, way more than hold the damn line. I realized that it can be US. Detroit can be the one- the place that goes down in history as the city that the movement was reborn in. We can be this generation’s Birmingham 1963, where Dr. King and the black youth broke the back of the old Jim Crow segregation. We can be Gettysburg where the Union army turned the tide of the war to end slavery. We can be Pluebla, Mexico where 500 out numbered, out-gunned and untrained Mexican farmers-turned-soldiers beat the French, ensuring the Confederate South was cut off from supplies. That battle inspired former slaves and abolitionists alike to fight side-by-side with Mexican soldiers after slavery was defeated to win Mexico’s independence for good. That battle at Puebla is what we now celebrate as Cinco De Mayo: a celebration of unity, defiance and victory: black and Latino united. We can take action now that becomes the occasion for holidays on the anniversary of our marches for future generations, like Cinco De Mayo is for us today.
We can finally do more than hold the line. We can lead! We can show everybody how it’s done! We can be the place, that when you say you’re from Detroit people go “oh wow” and “were you there when it happened?” And just saying where you’re from gives you respect and pride. Just that alone.
What Greater Gift Can We Give All That We Love?
And it just feels so good to be that! To be leading the nation by example. To take our embattled, rough, crumbling city, the most segregated place in the nation, and to show everyone who we really are: a place with a fundamental commitment to integration, equality and freedom, even if we’ve never once experienced those things ourselves. We can be the ones to show everyone how to win those great ideals.
When me and my comrades and the young leaders of this city organized 300 people from Detroit to march in Washington D.C. for full citizenship rights for all immigrants on April 10th 2013, nobody expected that from us. Detroit is known as a black city. We have a small but rapidly growing Latino community but nobody expected us to march 300 strong in D.C. Latino, black, Arab, Asian and white together, immigrants with and without papers. Poor and working class young people, many of whom had never even left Michigan before, came and brought their families, led the older generation by their own example.
Our city can be the birthplace of our generation’s movement for immigrant and civil rights.
Then, when we got home and did our first march through southwest Detroit’s Latino community on that May 1st we were joined by mothers and fathers, their children and babies and students of all ages. They remembered the marches we did every Saturday to stop deportations in the fall of 2012, come snow or rain, with 60 people or 15, and now they knew, yes, that was right! They knew we were a new and better leadership and that we could win! So they joined us.
We marched through the streets of our city- black and Latino and white together, documented and undocumented, and everybody said afterwards that it felt like home, even those who weren’t raised here, even those who are from Detroit’s segregated black east side- they said they were home.
People greeted us with overflowing joy and relief. Finally! The marches of last fall have returned! The movement is alive again! And it’s here! Here in Detroit! We’re the ones!
People cheered us from second story windows, climbed, whooping with emotion, onto ledges. People honked from cars, fists in the air, the flyers students had given them held aloft like banners! People in muscle cars revved their engines and men waved Mexican flags from car windows and all cops fled from our sight! Black youth chanted in broken Spanish, learning as they went, side by side with Latino students and young mothers. Young white anarchists and elderly leftists followed our lead and marched beside us into the heart of Detroit’s Latino community.
And thats when I knew: I have the greatest gift in all the world to give my home, the city I grew up in, the people all around me. My comrades and I, we can give THIS. The opportunity for Detroit to make history. We can give Detroit the chance to make a day to be celebrated in history as the day when we showed the world just how it’s done. That there is a method to win, and we have it, and if everyone uses it, we are gonna win this fight. Not just this battle but the whole damn war. We can make this city, this state and this nation ours. Make it into the kind of place it claims to be. A beacon of hope and freedom to the world.
We have the power to give people that pride, that, “I was there”, that hope and optimism and freedom and joy. We can give Detroit the power to shatter the years of despair and pessimism and demoralization and sweep aside the detritus of the old sell-out leaderships for a new, integrated youth-led one, dedicated to building this movement- restoring Detroit’s dignity and putting us back on the map in a way we haven’t been for over 50 years. We can make Detroit the place young radicals and revolutionaries want to move to and every step we take has people everywhere watching us with baited breath- what will they do next? And how can we follow their lead?
It makes me so happy I want to cry. There is nothing- absolutely nothing greater I can give to express my love of Detroit than that. Who wouldn’t want such a gift? Who wouldn’t want to give such a gift to every friend, every family member and neighbor you know?
All that is required is that we lead.
Hard as that may be at times- with a gift like that- something so uniquely yours to have and to give- does it not lighten the weight from your shoulders? Does it not make you straighten your back and raise your head high? Does it not fill you with indescribable joy and pride and the certainty of victory that makes all mighty fears seem small and all troubles mere stones on the path to freedom?
That makes it all so much easier. I feel like I am flying, or running or fighting. I want to shout, except I don’t know quite what to say. I want to tell everyone “It’s here! It’s finally here!” and for them to tell everyone else.
Our long winter of defensive war is ending! Our long years of holding the line in the trenches is over. Every inch of ground defended and every slow step taken, as we chaffed with impatience for the fruits of our labors to be made real, has paid off.
Now, finally the day has come when Detroit has been called into battle, because the first shot’s been fired- we fired it- and its time to get out of those tired old trenches and charge! Behind us will come jostling all the others who’ve been waiting and waiting for somebody to do what everybody knew must be done. And we will have done it!
Everybody will know the name of our city- it will be on the lips of all those who yearn to breath free.
Detroit: this is our moment! Let no one miss it! All those who yearn to breath free: rise from your defensive crouch, stand tall and join BAMN.
We started this, May 5th at Cinco De Mayo when we marched like no other year to celebrate the history we intended to make! Now we must build on that and spread our methods, leadership and action across the nation starting June 1st, in a national day of action, with the people we met from Philadelphia, Chicago, DC, Baltimore, New York and our chapters in Detroit, Oakland and LA and continuing in our second march in DC for full citizenship for all on the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s march on Washington in 1963 for civil rights this August 28th. No day could be better to declare our intentions to the world, on the anniversary of Dr. King’s march for freedom.
When you march with us, you will be free for the first time in your life and all the nation will know Detroit and face the challenge we’ve put before them: march with us in this charge! Make 2013 the year that goes down in history as the great rebirth of our movement. Our time is finally, finally NOW.
–Liana Mulholland, a Detroit BAMN leader
Full citizenship rights for all people who live here, go to school here, work here, and otherwise contribute to this society. Latina/o, black, Asian, Arab, Native American, white, immigrants with and without papers–we are ALL Americans.
Open the borders—give people the same rights that NAFTA provides to the corporations for unrestricted passage across borders.
No more deportations.
Make all young people brought by their parents full citizens now.
No fines for the millions of people without papers who are here now.
Stop long probationary periods for people to gain citizenship. Create a quick and cheap pathway to citizenship for all undocumented people.
Pass the federal DREAM Act Now!
Stand up for Detroit: No School closings or “reconstitutions”! Save Oakman Elemtary!
Stop the police harrassment in Southwest Detroit! No cooperations with “Secure Communities” or I.C.E.
National March on Washington D.C. August 28th
Join the march for full citizenship rights for all immigrants on the 50-year anniversy of Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 march for civil rights and freedom!
BAMN is a mass, democratic, integrated, national organization dedicated to building a new mass civil rights movement to defend affirmative action,integration, and the other gains of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and to advance the struggle for equality in American society by any means necessary.