by L. Alejandro Molina, National Boricua Human Rights Network On Friday, January 27, 2017, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, and Clarisa López Ramos, daughter of Oscar López Rivera, were accompanied by media teams from Puerto Rico, including TELEMUNDO Puerto Rico, El Nuevo Día and CLARIDAD, on a tour of Oscar Lopez Rivera’s “Legacy Path of Community Building” in Chicago. This tour is part of an effort to discuss and explore the broader community impact of the 50-year living legacy of the recently pardoned Puerto Rican political prisoner in Chicago’s Puerto Rican/Latino community. The tour began at the Rafael Cintrón Ortiz Latino Cultural Center (LCC) with the participation of Prof. López’s “Introduction to Puerto Rican Studies” class, as well as other professors and students, Dr. Rosa Cabrera, the Director of the LCC gave welcoming remarks contextualizing Oscar’s legacy with the Center. Clarisa López and Melissa Mark Viverito then addressed the gathering.
From the LCC, the group met at the Latino- Latin American Studies conference room at University Hall, where the press exchanged questions and comments with Director Amalia Palleres. Dr. Pallares spoke about the important role the unity of the Puerto Rican and Mexican communities played in opening the academic program, and Oscar’s leadership in that effort. From LAst, they moved to the LARES offices, where they met with staff and Director Hugo Teruel. The three sites visited (the Rafael Cintrón Ortiz Latino Cultural Center, the Department of Latin American and Latino Studies and the LARES program) all came into being as a result of the organizing efforts, which included sit-ins, confrontations and arrests, by Oscar, other students, sympathetic staff and faculty, and community activists. It was also the beginning of what was to become a model for Latino solidarity, which would come to bear fruit on a number of different fronts. Ateach site, the staff and department heads spoke about the founding of the program and the experience serving the communities, as well as specifically tracing the impact of Oscar and others organizing efforts. Then, the group traveled to Humboldt Park’s Paseo Boricua where they visited programs, agencies, and institutions that were part of Oscar’s legacy of community building. Among those was The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. Billy Ocasio, CEO, spoke about the environment created by the impact of Oscar’s organizing that led to the development of a vision that struggles to unite, creativity and aesthetics with education and culture. Other stops included the Paseo Boricua “Flags of Steel”, where the Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s Executive Director, José E. López, spoke about the construction and erection of the flags, from conception to actualization. Other institutions that were highlighted during the visit were: • Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School • Murals • Vida/SIDA – AIDS Program • The Puerto Rican Cultural Center • Teresa Roldán Apartments where Paul Roldán, Executive Director of Hispanic Housing, gave an impassioned speech abut Oscar as a veteran and as an organizer. At Roberto Clemente Community Academy, Principal Marcey Sorensen led the participants on a short tour of the school, including a stop at a mural students painted of Oscar. A special stop was made at Ald. Roberto Maldonado’s office, who made a surprise announcement. He submitted a resolution to the Chicago City Council to have a street in the West Side of Humboldt Park re-named Oscar López Rivera. Approval has already been reached for the East Side of the Boulevard to be renamed Javy Baez, after the Chicago Cubs player. The visit culminated with a wonderful Puerto Rican lunch at Nellie’s Restaurant. Later, during the weekend of Jan. 28-29, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Clarisa López, José E. López, and Oscar’s attorney Jan Susler, along with Cong. Luis Gutiérrez, visited Oscar at the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, IN.
All photos credit ©Claridad newspaper.