Welcome for Oscar Lopez Rivera
Taina Asili will be performing at Our Hero Is Free: Let’s Give Oscar a Warm Worcester Welcome! I will be an evening of music and poetry, celebrating Oscar López-Rivera, with performances by Taina Asili and Gaetano Vacarro of la Banda Rebelde and Sergio Moraes and Martin Silva-Panizza of Dioniso. Keynote address by Oscar López Rivera.
$10 per ticket. Purchase your ticket – Call 978 728 3696 or Email WelcomeOscar17@gmail.com. Children are free. Doors open at 6:15. All proceeds will go to the Oscar Lopez-Rivera Foundation, so that he can continue to travel the world bringing light to current humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico and to evoke activism toward addressing the failure of colonialism in the Island. This event also includes a silent auction, so bring your check books if you’d like to contribute more.
Sponsored by National Boricua Human Rights Network, New England.
Who is Oscar López Rivera?
Now age 74, Oscar López Rivera was the longest held political prisoner in Puerto Rican history. He was charged with seditious conspiracy 35 years ago for his participation in the Puerto Rican independence movement – the same charge that former South African President Nelson Mandela spent 25 years in prison for, before being elected president. Oscar was never accused of hurting anyone or participating in any violent crime – only for fighting for his country to be free.
López-Rivera is hailed as a pillar of community organizing in Chicago and a leading voice of Puerto Rican nationalism and anti-colonialism. He was a community organizer in Chicago’s Puerto Rican community from late 1960s through the 1970s.
His footprint can be felt on just about every intersection of Paseo Boricua, the section of Division Street on Chicago’s west side bookmarked by two 59-foot-tall Puerto Rican flags. His legacies include the creation of the Dr. Pedro Albizu-Campos High School, formed in 1972 in the basement of a church to address overcrowding and racism in the public schools. Puerto Rican students were wrongly designated as “mentally handicapped”, the dropout rate for Puerto Ricans was near 60%, and the school system lacked bilingual teachers. This high school is now a part of a Puerto Rican cultural district which includes the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture; La Estancia, an affordable housing complex; Vida/SIDA, an HIV/AIDS clinic and prevention center; El Rescate Transitional Living Program, which helps homeless LGBTQ youth; the Puerto Rican Cultural Center; the Division Street Business Development Association, and dozens of Puerto Rican-owned businesses.
Oscar was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War in 1961. After being honorably discharged in 1967 and receiving a bronze star for his bravery, Oscar enrolled in the University of Illinois at Chicago. As a student, he and others demanded the creation of programs aimed at recruiting and retaining Latino students. He also fought for affordable housing and helped to found a free half-way house for convicted drug addicts, and an educational program for Latino prisoners.
In 1999, President Bill Clinton commuted Oscar López-Rivera’s 70-year sentence, but he refused the commutation because two of his co-defendants remained imprisoned. Oscar was offered clemency once again in January 2016 by then President Barack Obama, in response to a worldwide campaign. Oscar López-Rivera spent 35 years in prison, 12 in solitary confinement. His release came at a time of tremendous turmoil for Puerto Rico, which filed for bankruptcy in May.
Who called on Obama for his release?
Lin Manuel Miranda, Director of the Broadway play Hamilton, Rene Perez of Calle Trece; singers Ricky Martin, Eddie Palmieri, Andy Montañez, Tito Auger, Roy Brown and Christian Castro; actors Luis Guzman, Rosie Perez and Angela Meyer; boxing champions Miguel Cotto and Jose Pedraza; Major League Baseball player Carlos Delgado; Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton; Senators Bernie Sanders and Lourdes Santiago; Congressmen Luis Gutierrez, Jose Serrano and Nydia Velazquez; Nobel Peace Prize winners Coretta Scott King, Archbishop Tutu, Rigoberta Menchu, Adolfo Perez-Esquivel, Jose Horta, and Mairead Corrigan-Maguire; the Mayors of Ponce and San Juan; Puerto Rico’s Governor; Resident Commissioner of PR Pedro Pierluisi; every city council in Puerto Rico; the City Councils of New York City, Holyoke, Springfield, Hartford, Philadelphia and Orlando; Dr. Cornell West; the United Council of Churches of Christ, United Methodist Church, Baptist Peace Fellowship, Episcopal Church of Puerto Rico, and the Catholic Archbishop of San Juan, as well as hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans across the political spectrum.