The workers prepared to cross on foot from eastern Louisiana to Mississippi Wednesday morning. After an afternoon walking through Mississippi, they will arrive in Jackson, MS, for an evening meeting with civil rights legend Hollis Watkins.Check out the flickr page of our good friend and ally Ted Quant for more photos from the start of the satyagraha and march through New Orleans:
Tonight the workers met civil rights legend Hollis Watkins in Jackson, MS.
Watkins, whose marvelous voice is as well-known as his passionate commitment to civil rights, taught the workers a freedom song he sang with anti-segregationists in the 1960s: “Ain’t Scared of Nobody.” Listen to them sing it together here.
The workers repaid the favor by teaching Watkins a Malyali song. Listen to him sing it with them here.
“The non-violent philosophy we used in our civil rights work we picked up from reading and studying Mahatma Gandhi,” Watkins said.
Watkins and the workers discussed how immigrants and African-Americans are taught to hate and fear each other in order to stop them from understanding their common fight against racism and exploitation and uniting in a common struggle.
One worker told Watkins: “When we arrived in the US, the [Signal] camp managers said: ‘Stay inside the labor camp, there are black people outside, they’re doing drugs, they’re going to rob you and shoot you.’ For a while we actually stayed put because they taught us to hate black people.”
Watkins said: “When you look at the Mississippi psychology they used 40 years ago, they said to poor whites here and all over the South: ‘See, all the black folks, they’re your problem. If they weren’t raising hell, we’d be able to really do something for you.’ Today they’re saying the same thing to black folks, especially in the South, about immigrants. ‘That’s what your problem is, it’s those immigrants crawling over the border. If it weren’t for them we could do so much for you.’”
“That’s why it’s so important for us to come together and share our different struggles directly with one another. If we do that, we realize that we’re two legs on the same body, facing the same puddle of earth.”
Sabulal Vijayan said of his fellow satyagrahis: “I am very proud of these workers for putting aside their jobs and coming out to tell the world the truth: the same experience black people in the US went through with slavery is going on in a modern form with the guest worker program.”
Additional pictures up at http://www.flickr.com/nolaworkerscenter.
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