The reason i support the campaign for the release of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera is that i firmly believe he is not what the criminal justice system would have us believe he is. He is not a criminal. What makes Oscar special is that not only is he a patriot, he was also a community activist who struggled considerably in Chicago on education, housing, employment, and health care.
Oscar López Rivera struggled for the liberation of the Puerto Rican people. He struggled so that Puerto Ricans can emerge from the social-political-economic constraints imposed on them by U.S. colonialism, both in the Diaspora and on the island.
Students continue to graduate from the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School that Oscar co-founded in 1972. The Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center – another institution he co-founded in 1972 – still exists. On another occasion in that era, he even helped bring radical educator Paulo Freire for a community dialogue.
Nevertheless, my reasons for supporting his release go beyond who he was. My support for his release is also based on who he is: a man of integrity, of commitment to principles founded in freedom and liberation, who became a prolific artist after being incarcerated. To suddenly become a prolific painter under any circumstances is remarkable. To do so while going through 12 years of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, prison transfers, arbitrary searches, and other extremely difficult circumstances, is simply outstanding.
The Governor and mayors in Puerto Rico support his release, as do Members of Congress, Nobel Laureates, governments in Latin America, and a United Nations special committee on decolonization. Oscar has become the rallying point for the entire Puerto Rican people, both on the island and in the Diaspora, creating a real expression of national unity. For natives of the Boricua Diaspora like myself, Oscar provides a significant example and lesson of struggle. He is a patriot who committed wholeheartedly to grassroots community struggle, and an activist who connected his local work to the struggle against colonialism.Recently, i took part in a march over the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn in support of Oscar’s release. An initiative led by 33 Mujeres NYC x Oscar has also sprung up through solidarity with a similar women’s group in Puerto Rico. Also, a 33 Man March has been called for May 3, adding to the existing demonstrations of support for Oscar in NYC.
Here is a man, a community activist and revolutionary nationalist, who struggled with courage and sacrifice so that i may live in a better, more just world. All without knowing me, before i was even born. It is with firm resolution that i support the release of Oscar López Rivera.