Archive | June, 2013

Panelists speak about Cuban 5 and Oscar López Rivera Freedom Now!

Posted on 28 June 2013 by alejandro

Over 30 people said ¡Presente! to one of the closing events of the art exhibit featuring Antonio Hernández, one of the Cuban 5, and Oscar López Rivera, Puerto Rican political prisoner’s artwork.

The panel, composed of José E. López (Director, Puerto Rican Cultural Center, brother of Oscar López Rivera), Felix Masud-Piloto (Cuban-American and DePaul professor), Mark Clements (Campaign to End Torture & Chicago Alliance against Racist and Political Repression, tortured and unjustly imprisoned for 26 years),and Mary L. Johnson (mother of Michael Johnson, Burge torture survivor) spoke eloquently about the importance of the struggle for different communities across the world. The Network was able to sell 5 Oscar books and 2 CDs. To order yours, email alejandrom@boricuahumanrights.org.

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A Historical Reflection and Critique on the Puerto Rican Parade

Posted on 28 June 2013 by alejandro

In 1969 a group of young Puerto Ricans approached the Puerto Rican Parade Committee and tried to suggest some changes regarding the content of the Parade and its governing structure.  Among the changes suggested were the following: 1) Celebrating the Parade in the Humboldt Park community, 2) Changing it from Saturday to Sunday in order to get more people in the community involved, 3) Making sure the floats were representative of our culture and not advertising boards for the companies that were sucking the blood of our people, 4) Making sure that all the Parade transactions were transparent in order to prevent the corruption that was being practiced and to stop using the parade for a few people to make profits, 5) To have both a queen and a king, that the persons chosen were future assets of the community and not just chosen because of physical attraction, and that everything promised to them was met, and 6) Holding real elections to select the members of the Parade Committee in order to eliminate the corrupt and opportunists elements.  We wanted the Parade in the community because it was for the community’s enjoyment and so that it would not be seen as a “folly” like the Chicago media described it. We also wanted the Parade in the community in order to ensure that the small businesses in the community profited from the event and not the Downtown establishments.  In addition, if the parade was celebrated in the community, community members would not have to spend money parking in the Downtown parking lots.

When we approached the Puerto Rican Parade Committee with our suggestions we were treated as if we were trying to destroy the parade.  We made it abundantly clear that that was not our intention.  We were there to make the Parade something the community would be proud of, to celebrate our culture and our true national identity, and to not be the laughing stock of people who saw us downtown.

The corruption was so entrenched in the Parade Committee that a few years later its members were in such heated disputes that one of the Parade Committee members killed Marcelino Diaz, the only Puerto Rican realtor in Chicago, who had his office on Division Street.  It is impossible to measure how big of a disgrace and shame such an act produced.  But we were certain back in 1969 that the corruption was so deep that eventually such a disgrace would occur.

When anyone talks about the history of the Parade they should never forget that what we were trying to do back in 1969 was celebrate our culture and not what some opportunists were doing in the name of the Puerto Rican community.  Yet because we were young and because we were radicals we were chased away.  I’m fairly certain that the entrenched opportunists in the community are still thinking that a “folly” is a celebration of our culture and national identity.  By 1969 there were only two members of the Caballeros de San Juan in the Parade Committee.  The overwhelming majority were, what we called back then, “poverty pimps” and their lackeys.  Who are the community leaders who are voicing their anger for not having the parade in Grant Park?  Are they the same opportunists, their lackeys, or their scions?  I wish I knew.

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Exclusive La Voz Interview Humboldt Park’s “Choco” featured in TIME magazine

Posted on 28 June 2013 by alejandro

The following interview was conducted by Militza M. Pagán for La Voz del Paseo Boricua with Pastor Wilfredo “Choco” DeJesús. Pastor DeJesús, who was born and raised in Humboldt Park and whose life has been dedicated to building a church for the hurting, was featured in the cover story of TIME Magazine April 5th, 2013 issue. The article described how Latino evangélicos are transforming religion in the United States. Pastor DeJesús leads the 17,000-strong New Life Covenant Church. It is one of the largest Latino Congregations in the United States. The main church is in Humboldt Park but includes churches in Pilsen, Rogers Park and Oakwood neighborhoods. Four services are held on Sundays at Clemente High School. In his recently published book Amazing Faith, Pastor DeJesús writes about his upbringing in Humboldt Park. His book is available for purchase at major bookstores and online.

 

How does it feel to be in the featured article of TIME Magazine on the growing presence of Latino evangelicals?

Wilfredo DeJesus: I consider it humbling. I feel honored that God would choose me to represent Latino Evangelicals. We are 8 million people and 15-18% of the population in the United States. I didn’t expect to be featured on TIME magazine. It was not what I was desiring. It just came. I was very surprised.

 

Why do you think the growing presence of evangelicals is framed as a Latino Reformation?

Wilfredo DeJesus: In America and Central and South America the reformation that is happening as it pertains to Hispanics is that they are migrating from Catholicism to Evangelism. In 1996 81% of people in Central and South America were Catholic. In 2000, it went down to 70%. That’s the reformation that is being talked about.

 

Without a doubt Latino evangelicals are changing the face of Latino Christianity, but how do you see it changing the United States’ landscape?

Wilfredo DeJesus: In the political landscape, this new generation of Latino evangelicals is more vocal, progressive and politically savvy. Our new generation is a group of people that need to be reckoned with by both the Democrats and the Republicans. Someone once asked me if we are Democrats or Republicans and I told him we don’t represent the elephant or the donkey. We represent the lion. The lion of Juda. We bring with us social justice. We want to address the issues of immigration, poverty and housing.  We are also very family oriented. We are the type of people that would die for our beliefs. We believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. We believe in life.

The Latino evangelical voice can speak prophetically in the both political and social environments. On the one hand we have Dr. Martin Luther King and on the other hand we have Reverend Billy Graham. We represent both. Dr. King representing social justice and Billy Graham representing righteousness. We believe these two things go together. That’s the Latino Reformation. You can’t box us into a category. We are a voice that addresses both the political and social landscape. We defend those that are in our churches and the ones that are not even in our churches.

 

Despite the large growth of your church, you’ve selected to be rooted in Humboldt Park. Why?

Wilfredo DeJesus: Humboldt Park is where I was born and raised. I’m a firm believer that you live where you worship and where the people you’re ministering are. They are tangible things you see when you live here. You see the suffering. You are able to relate to the struggles people have. Three years ago, we decided to build a new church in Humboldt Park to show that Latinos could move forward.  Not only Latino evangelicals but all Latinos. We wanted to show that this is our community.

 

Where are you in terms of the construction of the new church building on Kimball and Division?

Wilfredo DeJesus: At this stage, we are just waiting for permits. We have already been approved by the zoning board and the planning commission. We are expecting to get the permits in a week or two. We hope to be in construction at the end of April, beginning of May and to be in the building within 6 or 7 months

 

How do you feel your new church building being built on Kimball and Division will impact Humboldt Park especially the Latino/Puerto Rican community?

Wilfredo DeJesus: Building the church gives the community another anchor. We look at the flags on Division Street and those are anchors. They make a statement. The church also makes a statement: one of hope and stability. The church represents that the God we serve and preach about is alive and the new church building will serve as a testimony of what we preach about. We also hope that it would lead to greater economic investment in the community. We are going to invest millions of dollars in our community. We hope new business open up along with our new building.

People often ask, “Can anything good come out of Humboldt Park?” We’ve always been stigmatized by crime and violence. Yet God in his infinite wisdom saw it fit for me to play this role in our community. I hope that the TIME magazine article, my book Amazing Faith, and our new church building highlight the great success stories coming out of Humboldt Park. I’m just one of those stories. They are so many more the world needs to see.

 

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