PEACE, JOBS, demanded the large signs carried by New York City Councilman Robert Jackson and Barack Obama Democratic Club of Northern Manhattan Treasurer Richard Cipolla at the One Nation rally in Washington, D.C. last Saturday. They were joining 175,000 other marchers supporting progressive policies to address national issues.
The northern Manhattan participation was organized by a coalition including Northern Manhattan Neighbors for Peace and Justice, the Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association, New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodgriguez, the Barack Obama Democratic Club of Northern Manhattan, and buses were provided by local 1199 of the United Health Care Workers East.
Cipolla, a Washington Heights resident, was one of dozens from the area who packed the two buses, along with elected officials, residents, and students enthusiastic about the message they wanted to bring to Washington. Cipolla elaborated when asked about the two signs he made.
"Jobs and peace, these are probably two of the most important things our country needs right now." With the Washington Monument towering behind him, he added, "Because we have higher unemployment rates than other parts of the city, there's lots of young folks from our neighborhood that wind up signing up for the armed forces. Peace would do a lot for them."
The peacemaking efforts weren't only directed at international conflicts. 71st AD Democratic District Leader and former state senate candidate Mark Levine rode the same bus as City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who strongly supported and campaigned for Adriano Espaillat during the state senate primary this summer. Levine made his way to the front of the bus, shook Rodriguez's hand, and the two sat together and chatted during the ride. There were no cameras or press encouraging them to smile; they seemed to be relieved to be talking as just two guys with common enthusiasms about the progressive causes being brought to the table that day.
Later, Levine shared his thoughts on the rally as he was marching towards the Lincoln Memorial. "People on the left are as much, if not more, patriotic as any other Americans.... Being patriotic means wanting a united country, where everyone, regardless of their background, has a fair shot, has opportunities."
Councilman Rodriguez also pointed at the ideological divide. "There's a right wing. This time led by the Tea Party, that wants to impose their agenda. And we have to show that nationwide the progressive force has to be part of the debate [on] the future of this country."
Among those on the buses were high school students from Gregorio Luperon High School at 165th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Many of the students are recent immigrants from the Dominican Republic. As the day was wrapping up David Dubnau, one of the event organizers from the Riverside Edgcombe Neighborhood Association, spoke of what he felt was accomplished. "I think that this huge gathering represents a certain amount of power, potentially."
One needed to look no further than the Luperon students to see that potential power. Clearly the day had an impact on them, a first trip to Washington for some in the group. On the bus ride home some of the boys wanted to come to the front of the bus and freestyle using the bus's microphone/announcement system, something they had likely been eyeing the moment it was first used that morning. While many on the bus were exhausted and wanted to rest, it was not lost on most riders that the excitement of these young people was to be encouraged, that they had asked for opportunity, the patriotic ideal that Levine had spoken of earlier. That, as Dubnau had commented, the accomplishment of the day was potential power, perhaps achieved through the simple empowerment of handing a teenager the microphone. To hand him a voice, an opportunity.
Photos provided by Barack Obama Democratic Club of Northern Manhattan President Nicole Monegro. Video produced by Alex Castex-Porter.