The traditional sights and sounds of music, dance and lowrider cars will be missing Saturday in Barrio Logan. The pandemic stalled the 50th annual Chicano Park Day.
But longtime human rights activist Enrique Morones plans his own remembrance of the event.
In his fourth weekly “Buen Hombre/Magnificent Mujer” podcast, Morones plans to air a compilation of recorded messages of people expressing their sentiments about Chicano Park, considered the emotional heart of Barrio Logan.
(An official online commemoration also is planned.)
Morones launched the podcasts March 31 — Cesar Chavez Day. Guests have included Tijuana activist Hugo Castro, Chicana playwright Josefina López and muralist Mario Torero.
Future broadcasts — all at 3 p.m. Tuesdays — are set to include attorney Nicole Ramos, director of the Border Rights Project of Al Otro Lado; Judy Forman of The Big Kitchen; and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The podcasts are posted on his website, genteunida.net. Other sites featuring the podcast are BuenHombre.org and MagnificentMujer.org. (Morones invites people to suggest guests by writing him at email@example.com.)
After retiring as executive director and founder of Border Angels in November, Morones resurrected a faith-based human rights organization that he began in 2005, Gente Unida — a 5013C humanitarian nonprofit.
The podcasts are just one part of a very active agenda of Morones and Gente Unida.
The 63-year-old’s continuation of human rights activities has a three-prong approach: Get out the Latino vote for November’s election, educate people on immigrant rights, and assist migrant groups with an emphasis on children.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez both started their activism with voter drives, he noted.
“This is going to be without a doubt the most important election in a lifetime,” Morones said. “And people are going to ask us down the line: What did you do when all of that was going on?”
In 2016, 100 million Americans didn’t vote, he said.
“We can never do that again,” said Morones, who also plans to do more writing, and work on a movie and TV show projects.
Morones had planned a July 4 caravan from Chicano Park to 10 states in 10 days, including swing states. Morones had arranged for a point person in each city. Then the coronavirus interrupted that mission.
So the appeal will go virtual, with notable people recording messages to get out the vote.
The caravan is modeled after 10 Marcha Migrante caravans he led through 2015 that attracted hundreds of thousands of people hearing calls for humane immigration policies.
Gente Unida’s second priority is immigrant rights — which Morones has preached in all 50 states and internationally, including to elementary through college classes.
“The most important thing to me is to get up in front of the students and tell them the story of Border Angels and let them know that they can do things,” he said. “I always tell them it’s the power of one.”
Third, Gente Unida promotes activism on behalf of immigrants — a familiar goal for Morones.
He said he left Border Angels after 33 years because such organizations aren’t about an individual but about a movement.
So wanting to move on to other endeavors, he reignited Gente Unida, which also has branches in Germany, Spain, Holland, Ireland and France working on border issues worldwide. (Morones in 1995 also founded San Diego’s House of Mexico in Balboa Park.)
Morones began Gente Unida — which stands for the “united people” — April 1, 2005, in response to the Minutemen, a border vigilante group that protested against immigration along the Arizona and Mexico border. He wanted to make the public aware of hate talk and confront the Minutemen in a nonviolent way.
But Gente Unida was on the back burner while he ran Border Angels.
On Jan. 5, members of Gente Unida traveled to San Quintín, Baja California, to distribute 1,000 toys in celebration of El Día de Reyes (Epiphany). And Morones spoke to U.S. school groups in February.
The organization also is helping create a virtual school for children in Tijuana migrant shelters.
“Society is judged on how we treat our children,” Morones said.
Updated at 8:13 p.m. April 20, 2020