The Immigrant Workers Union (IWU) will be hosting the 11th Annual Black/Latino Unity Picnic on Sunday, Aug. 25, 1-5 p.m., at Penn Park, 2101 Fisher St., on Madison’s south side.
“This will be our 11th year hosting the Black/Latino Unity Picnic. I can’t believe it has been 11 years already,” organizer Clarissa Pearson tells Madison365.
The Annual Black/Latino Unity Picnic is part of an overall grassroots effort to promote unity and collaboration between the black and Latino communities here in Madison. Every summer, Pearson has coordinated the Black & Latino Unity Picnic with Alex Gillis since it first started in Madison in 2009.
“Back in 2008, Alex [Gillis] went out to California for a black and Latino summit. He was out there with a lot of progressive people like [actor] Danny Glover who were very active in the black and brown movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s,” Pearson says, remembering the origins of the Black/Latino Unity Picnic. “They ended up getting a lot of people from all over at this summit to talk about issues that each group was facing and to figure out ways to work together to improve their community.”
Gillis brought some of those ideas and the concept of a Black/Latino Unity Picnic back to Madison where there wasn’t much going on between the black and brown communities in terms of forging a united front.
“Madison is growing a lot and I think in some ways the city gets taken off-guard when the growth and social issues/problems are so fast and they can’t keep up and they are not sure how to deal with that,” Pearson says. “I think that’s one area where black and Latino unity is important.
“However, I think we’re in a system that divides us at times and will throw the bone over here to somebody and throw the bone over there and you have everybody going after that bone,” she adds. “It creates conflict and issues among our community as a whole.”
The national climate, that has seen a rise in white supremacy groups and hate crimes against people of color, has been disheartening and shows the need for greater black and Latino unity in America.
“Unfortunately, because of the climate here in the U.S., we want to address incarceration and deportation and to talk about how it affects black and brown people and families – especially in education and school,” Pearson says. “I think the more we talk about that, the more both groups will understand each other more that it’s not just one person or one group that is struggling, but all of us.”
The Black/Latino Unity Picnic focuses on the common struggle of black and Latino workers for better working, housing, employment and living conditions in Madison neighborhoods. Pearson says that these are challenges that many Americans of all colors and ethnicities currently face.
“We want to talk about all of these issues that we face at the picnic, but not just about all of the negative things … we also want to have conversations on how we can make things better,” she says. “How can we start to empower ourselves, our community, and our neighbors?”
The event is open to all communities and will have free food and kids activities. The picnic will also feature folk dances, DJ Latino Fresh, spoken-word poetry by Damion, and live performances by local artists.
“We will have face-paintings, martial arts demonstrations, dances, a dee-jay, a bouncy house, activties, a cupid dance shuffle, a dance-off,” Pearson says.
The Immigrant Workers Union is also organizing a video contest where people can submit a 30-second video on why black-Latino unity is so important. There will be different prizes, and one special category for students between 12 and 17 years old with a 1st prize of a $150 gift card.
“The video contest is ongoing and the prize will be awarded at the end of the year. We are going to take time at the Black/Latino Unity Picnic to explain the contest more,” Pearson says.
“We are really looking forward to the Black/Latino Unity Picnic; it’s going to be a whole lot of fun. Everybody is welcome to come. This is an event that is 100 percent free,” Pearson adds. “We are just going to look forward to hanging out and dialoguing as a community and getting to know each other some more.”