The first of a series of letters from political prisoner Oscar López Rivera to La Respuesta on the topics relevant to our community.
Bronze star awarded Vietnam veteran; Chicago community activist and institution builder; advocate for the independence of Puerto Rico; U.S.-held political prisoner for over thirty years. These are the most common cited facts given about Oscar López Rivera. They are reasons many, including La Respuesta, are compelled to join in the demand for his release. In order to bring greater attention to the international campaign supporting his freedom, we’ve decided to produce this new page, titled ‘Oscar’s Corner.’ Here you’ll be directed to our many articles about and by Oscar (including letters to his daughter, Clarisa) and the campaign, as well as ways you can support him and get involved. Even more exciting, which no publication can boast, is that you get to read our direct correspondence with Oscar, facilitated by Editorial Core member Dorian Ortega and National Boricua Human Rights Network. Periodically, Dorian asks the political prisoner a question relevant to our communities across the Puerto Rican Diaspora and Oscar will respond with an essay. You can participate too! If you have a question for Oscar, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and read the conversation, here! With this new initiative, we at La Respuesta hereby reaffirm our commitment to “Bring Oscar Home.”
by Andre Lee Muñiz •
At 9am on June 29, i participated in the Brooklyn Cyclones Take Your Base 5K. The run, or walk, depending on how one entered the charity race, began outside the MCU Park ball field on Surf Avenue, continued on the Coney Island boardwalk down to Brighton Beach, and ended at home plate inside the ball field. Proceeds for the charity race were to go in large part to a summer youth program at the new local YMCA, nearly 7-months old now.
Deciding to enter the race as a personal fitness challenge, i made the added decision to dedicate my run to Oscar López Rivera. Having written so much on events held in New York in support of the demand for his release from prison, i thought it would be fun to do something different on my personal time. Family and friends supported me as well – one friend even helped me achieve a small goal by giving me the very shirt off his back at a recent demonstration for Oscar outside the UN so i could wear it at the race.
It all started when, upon registering, i was asked for a club name. Not having one, i thought for a moment, and almost immediately the idea of using “Free Oscar Lopez” presented itself. It was a done deal!
As the results show, i finished the 5K, my first ever, with a time of 22:22, which put my pace at about 7:13/Mile. This put me in 62nd place overall out of 860 finishers, and 15th place out of 107 within the Male 20-29 age group. Not being a jogger, and it being my first ever 5K race, i was absolutely ecstatic with my results. With only some treadmill training in the weeks prior, my performance was where it should have been – it was not a walk in the park. But by pacing myself, calmly focusing on each step and breath, i did it.
It meant a lot completing the race in dedication to the demand for Oscar’s release. What made it even more special was that my mother, along with her sister, also went to cheer me on. While i am grateful for the pictures they took of me, i only wish i could have photographed the look of joy and surprise they gave me later when speaking about how i ended the race, with a Puerto Rican flag i had hid in my shorts before we left the house proudly in my hand.
by Andre Lee Muñiz •
On June 23, as the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United Nations was holding its day of hearings on Puerto Rico, a demonstration for Oscar López Rivera was being held in Ralph Bunche Park just across the street.
Literature and petitions on Oscar’s case were made available beginning at 9am, and a rally was held at 1pm with a number of petitioners from the UN hearings, as well as diplomats from other Puerto Rican organizations, both island and Diaspora-based. The demonstration lasted into the evening, coinciding with the hearings taking place within the UN.
The Special Committee on Decolonization has addressed Puerto Rico’s colonial situation annually since it took up the issue in 1972, eleven years after its founding in 1961. A recognized part of this colonial issue is the political imprisonment of independence supporters like Oscar López Rivera. At this year’s hearings, a number of petitioners made statements in support of Oscar’s release, some asking for 33 seconds of silence for his now 33-year incarceration. The Special Committee itself, in a resolution, committed to seeking the General Assembly’s reiteration of its own request for his release.
While the decision by the UN Special Committee to support the request for Oscar’s release – a decision it also made in recent years – is a considerable and important part in influencing U.S. President Barack Obama to effect such, continued protest by people all the way down to the grassroots will remain key. Unfortunately, the resolutions made by this Special Committee in recent years in support of Oscar, as well as its now thirty-three resolutions since 1972 calling for the U.S. to initiate a process of decolonization, is not enough for President Obama to set him free just yet.
by Andre Lee Muñiz •
Puerto Rico nació en mi (Puerto Rico was born in me)! Set Oscar López Rivera free! Such was the call-and-response ending a night at the Nuyorican Poets Café. The event, which took place June 18, was presented by poet/ educator Mariposa Fernández, co-hosted by fellow Nuyorican poet Frank Pérez, and dedicated to Oscar López Rivera.
More than a dozen poets recited their work, some in the spoken word style common to the Café, others in song and rap, and yet others over beats played on drums. With music courtesy of DJ MarYSOUL filling the brief gaps between performers, the program fully engaged the audience. In attendance was Café founder Miguel Algarín and Nuyorican poetry movement pioneer Jesús ‘Papoleto’ Meléndez. Many of the poems shared were specifically written as a reflection on or protest of Oscar’s political imprisonment.
As the poets took the stage in turn, artist Xen Medina sat nearby performing a live art exhibition. The finished piece, a portrait of Oscar, was then put up for silent auction, all proceeds going to the National Boricua Human Rights Network-New York Chapter. At least two other items, including a 3-dimensional Puerto Rican flag and photograph of Nuyorican movement pioneer Jorge Brandon, were also put up for silent auction as a way of raising funds for the release campaign.
To provide information on Oscar’s case and the campaign to secure his release, a table was also managed with a number of leaflets, in addition to copies of a petition that those in attendance were asked to sign. The petition is part of a specific initiative of the campaign seeking 100,000 signatures to be sent to the White House and President Obama so he may be influenced to use his presidential powers of pardon and immediately release Oscar.
A heartfelt night of music, poetry, national affirmation, and resistance, the event added further energy into the ongoing campaign for Oscar’s release. Bringing together community members, artists, activists, poets, Nuyorican movement pioneers, as well as members of labor unions like 1199SEIU, it was yet another manifestation of the continued diverse support Oscar has received. And by taking place in New York City’s Lower East Side neighborhood, it reaffirmed the City’s role as a site of protest in favor of the Puerto Rican patriot’s release.
For video of the event, taken by Virtual Boricua, click here.
by Andre Lee Muñiz •
On Thursday June 5, 2014, the City of New York once again saw a growth in support for the release of Chicago community organizer, Puerto Rican patriot, and U.S.-held political prisoner Oscar López Rivera.
In the morning, some 30 people attended an 11a.m. press conference in East Harlem’s Julia de Burgos Cultural Center on the National Puerto Rican Day Parade Board’s decision to officially honor Oscar López Rivera this year. Speakers included Clarisa and José López, the daughter and brother of Oscar, and NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Click here for the video we captured of Speaker Mark-Viverito’s statement.
Later in the afternoon, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, jointly with Speaker Mark-Viverito, hosted the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade reception at Gracie Mansion. At the reception, Puerto Rico-based music group Calle 13 was awarded a proclamation by the City of New York and recognized for their activist work in addition to the social content of their music.
Calle 13 lead singer René Pérez Joglar, known as Residente, has also been officially named King of this Sunday’s parade up 5th Avenue. We were able to record his address to the audience, which included words of appreciation for the strong national identity of the Boricua Diaspora, and a call for the freedom of Oscar López Rivera.
The evening ended back in the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center with the second day of an art exhibition and fundraiser titled ‘postcards4oscar.’ Bringing together 25+ artists, the project saw the creation of original artwork on 4×6 postcards that were sold anonymously for $50 each, with the artist being revealed upon purchase. All proceeds support the campaign for Oscar’s release. We were unable to attend for photo coverage.
by La Respuesta •
On the anniversary of Oscar López Rivera’s capture, Puerto Ricans and allies demonstrate across the “Boricuascape”.
by Andre Lee Muñiz •
On Saturday May 3, 2014, a group of male activists gathered outside Pace University across the street from New York’s City Hall to demand the release of Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican patriot and U.S.-held political prisoner. The group marched through the busy Wall Street sector to a local Vietnam Veteran’s memorial.
Present in support of the group of men were members of 33 Mujeres NYC x Oscar. Having completed two protests as part of their monthly commitment to demand Oscar’s release, the women lent their experience by helping maintain the energy and spirit of the activity.
Once everyone was gathered at the meet-up location, the contingent remained there for some 30 minutes attracting the attention of countless tourists passing by on foot and on sightseeing buses. Arguably the most successful aspect of the demonstration, however, began next: the actual march through Lower Manhattan.
Passing through several busy streets over the course of another 30 or more minutes, hundreds of people became witness to the determined support for Oscar’s release, dozens more briefly joining the march and/ or being handed informational leaflets on his case. The occupants of countless cars, buses, and other vehicles of transportation also witnessed the unified effort — passing by the entrance to the South Ferry gained the attention of many.
The weather being a warm 70 degrees, with a light breeze and mostly sunny skies, Lower Manhattan was sprawling with people. There could have been no better conditions for the march, which went down Broadway, past Bowling Green and Battery Parks. The action ended with a singing of the revolutionary anthem La Borinqueña and participants raising their fists towards Puerto Rico.
New York City continues to be a hotbed of activity around the demand for Oscar López Rivera’s release. Recently, the reorganized National Puerto Rican Day Parade announced it would be naming its 2014 parade in honor of Oscar López Rivera.
NYC “LaRes” staff also participated in the May 3rd demonstration, which was documented by Bronx Assemblyman José Rivera, and will continue to cover events and activities related to the campaign for Oscar’s release.
You can read more of our coverage on the campaign to free Oscar López Rivera, here.
by Andre Lee Muñiz •
On Sunday, April 27, the group 33 Mujeres NYC x Oscar staged their second demonstration in support of the release of Puerto Rican patriot and U.S.-held political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. Taking place on Fordham Road in the Bronx, the event was well attended by upwards of 50 people and was also live streamed by supporters.
The effort by the group of women activists is proving to be a significant development in New York’s support of the campaign for Oscar’s release. Informational leaflets were handed out diligently to countless people passing through the busy Fordham Plaza. The colorful display of pink t-shirts and light blue bandanas wore by the women, together with their consistent chants, also gained the attention of many.
La Respuesta has committed to covering each demonstration in some fashion as a way of supporting the 33 Mujeres NYC x Oscar initiative, as well as the campaign to free Oscar.
The next demonstration is scheduled to take place on May 25 in the Lower East Side at the usual 4 o’clock p.m. Visit their Facebook page for location details as it becomes available, and look out for more original photo and video coverage by us at La Respuesta.
by Andre Lee Muñiz •
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.