by Inez Ramos, National Boricua Human Rights Network,
Philly Chapter On 01/22/17, the Philadelphia chapter, National Boricua Human Rights Network commemorated President Barack Obama’s presidential commutation of Oscar López Rivera with a victory celebration held at local artist Betsy Casanas’, A Seed on Diamond Gallery in the Puerto Rican barrio. The event was supported by Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and created a space to celebrate the work of so many, which culminated in a historic community victory. The festive atmosphere brought together artists, activists, religious leaders, and community groups throughout the Philadelphia area that campaigned for Oscar’s release. Local press covered the event while music and dance by Los Bomberos de la Calle permeated the event and activists from the Philadelphia Chapter, the Wild Poppies Collective, Pam Africa, and Theresa Shoatz, and others embraced one another and cheered together. Reverend David Franchessi brought a spiritual element to the event, emphasizing the importance of human dignity and justice for all in Oscar’s release. Boricua Human Rights Network coordinator Inez Ramos thanked many people who contributed and gave their part in the freedom of Oscar López Rivera, especially the lifelong dedication of Mr. Luis Sanabria and Reverend Roger Zepernick. For over two decades the Network and it’s allies moved through Philadelphia, the Delaware Valley, the east coast, and surrounding cities galvanizing support for Oscar’s release. An emphasis was placed on the long and hard fought efforts made by so many from Oscar’s arrest until his release 35 years later. From start to finish network coordinators in Philadelphia and throughout the United States built a community movement for his release based on unity and shared human values. Nationally, these efforts brought together Presidents of many nations, heads of state, elected officials of every political party both in Puerto Rico & the United States, religious leaders of every affiliation, educators, students at every level, activists, community leaders, and men, women & children everywhere through the cause of justice and dignity for all! The base of Philadelphia organizing reflected this broad ranging international support Oscar received from various community, artistic, and political leaders, clergy and religious leaders, even Nobel Peace Prize Winners. Philadelphia Network organizers consistently represented that quality of support for Oscar in Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican and Latino community, even at times, in the face of controversy and confrontation. Organizers expressed that once Oscar actually sets foot outside prison walls, he would join Philadelphia in a celebration. They also emphasized that the work goes on, as there is still a nation to free. Among the most pivotal were Councilwoman Maria D Quinones Sanchez, several current and former State Representatives such as Leslie Acosta and Angel Cruz, many religious leaders especially Rev. Carlos Torres, Rev. Luis Cortes of Esperanza USA, and Rev. Luis Lugo of the Philadelphia Hispanic Clergy, the Episcopal Church, the Philadelphia Society of Friends, and the United Church of Christ. Community leaders, organizations & institutions, newspapers, media outlets, & news reporters including the Centro Pedro Claver, Puerto Rican Panorama, L.A.C.E.O., El Taller Puertorriqueño, El Concilio, Hispanic Bar Association, Norris Square Civic Association, ASPIRA, HACE, AMLA, Centro Musical, La Casa Latina, Youth United for Change, the Philadelphia Student Union, Camden San Juan Bautista parade, Philareyto, Raices de Borinquen Los Bomberos de la Calle, the Wild Poppies Collective, & Friends & family of Mumia, Impacto newspaper, Motivos Magazine, Telemundo, Univision, NBC 10, Enfoque, El Sol, and AL Dia. A seemingly endless list of many artists activists, educators, students & grassroots leaders, as well as many who have already passed from this life, such as Joaquin Rivera and Emanuel “Manny” Ortiz who are a testimony to the relentless dedication & solidarity that brought Oscar home.