A series of events was organized by the New York Coordinator to Free Oscar Lopez Rivera with former Puerto Rican political prisoners from October 23-27, 2013. It started with a “Conversatorio” a dialogue with former political prisoners: Elizam Escobar, Luis Rosa Perez, Adolfo Matos Antongiorgi and Ricardo Jimenez with students from Hostos Community College sponsored by the Puerto Rican Student Organization. Over 200 Hostos students attended the program and asked many questions regarding their incarceration, violations of human rights, the status of Puerto Rico and the chance of Puerto Rico becoming part of Latin American renaissance happening today. Students, professors and staff then proceeded as a symbolic act to “go to prison” in solidarity with Oscar. Hundreds of students participated each taking turns after the religious convocation of Reverend David Traverso. Hundreds of petitions to President Barack Obama were signed and collected.
On Friday, October 25, the compañeros were warmly received by 45 Puerto Rican elders where they gave a community talk at a senior citizen center in East Harlem with the topic: “Conociendo los pueblos de Puerto Rico y sus luchadores” (Learning about Puerto Rican hometowns and their community fighters).The town showcased were San Sebastian, Lajas, Ponce and Aguadilla. The reception and exchange was filled with flashback journeys of hometowns in Puerto Rico. That was followed with a luncheon and a party. You should have seen how the former political prisoners danced their feet off with seniors to Latin/salsa beats to a room filled with 80 elders.
Later that evening, the compañeros had dinner and gave a presentation at the Militant Labor Forum to a room filled with workers and activists. In their talk, they shared their experience inside the prison walls, but mostly emphasized the need to push forward the campaign to free Oscar López Rivera. And the urgency to have everyone participate in the petition drive (signing of letters) to President Barack Obama.
Before the start of the concert Saturday evening, nearly 500 community members took turns to “go to prison” for Oscar. A special feature was the representatives of the international community also symbolically went to prison for Oscar like honorable Julio Escalante, Permanent Ambassador of Venezuela to the UN and Ariel Hernandez Hernandez from Cuba raised his five fingers representing of the “Cuban Five”heroes still in US prisons today.
On Saturday, October 26 was the big day of the “Cantata Pa’ Oscar”, a unique and interactive concert with 17 performers consisting of artists and musicians of all genres and a 500 people audience. All performers had artistically prepared moving and “escalofriante” lyrics calling for the freedom of OSCAR LOPEZ RIVERA. The master of ceremony Fernando Ponce Laspinas, revealed the program: From the “Cuatristas” to the “jibaro music” to the “hip/hop”, the “bomba y plena” and salsa, the “cry ” for Oscar’s unconditional freedom was the demand. The audience was hyped with maximum participation and interaction with the chant of the hip/hop performers of Seven Thirty-the Problem Child: “When I say FREE, you say OSCAR” and Divine Torres who through the “the spoken word” told the history of Puerto Rico’s struggle for freedom. Salsero Yova Rodriguez sang “accapella” his new song dedicated to Oscar where the audience gave him a vote of confidence with the chant “grabala” ( record it). The audience could not be contained by the bomba and plena rhymes and the dancing of Puerto Rican Folklore. One left with the feeling of hoping that if spirit of the audience in that concert can transcend and reach Oscar who was the only one missing in this great celebration of the honoree himself.
The concert’s highlights were when former Puerto Rican political prisoners, Adolfo Matos Antongiorgi, Elizam Escobar, Luis Rosa Perez and Ricardo Jimenez received the medals of “champions of human rights struggle for Puerto Rico” from Professor Ana M. Lopez, and Lourdes Lugo, Oscar’s niece read Oscar’s letter to the public with the message of his own trajectory of political development and that people need to continue struggling. Others honored at the local level were Wally Edgecombe, a Cuban brother from Hostos and State Assemblyman Jose Rivera for their unconditional support to the Puerto Rican community and freedom.