Uniting to change the world Latinos and Blacks in Monterey County look for common ground in struggles for justice

Participant at a march on Seaside on May 30, 2020 | Photo by Jesús Valenzuela, Building Healthy Communities


By Claudia Meléndez Salinas

The conversation about race and power that began after the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor continues unabated on California’s Central Coast, with scholars and activists eager to continue pushing for change.

One way to move forward would be for Latinx, people who are also often called “Brown,” to recognize the ways in which we have been taught to be anti-Black. This week, two activities are taking place aimed at helping Black and Brown people find common ground in the ongoing conversation.

“We have been taught anti-Blackness from the very first interaction with the Spanish and Indigenous people of Americas,” said Carla Gonzalez, who teaches ethnic studies at Alisal High. “The Spanish brought slaves from Africa and killed the Taino Indigenous people,” on the island of Hispaniola, where Haiti and the Dominican Republic are situated. “We have been socialized and conditioned to see Black and Blackness as inferior. It was always meant to divide us.”

On Tuesday, Gonzalez and Tamisha Smith, also an Alisal High teacher, led a “Black & Brown Solidarity and Anti-Racism Training” via Zoom. The two-hour workshop was attended by about 120 people and covered themes such as the types of racism that exist (individual, systematic, interpersonal and structural) and how a racist system benefits from having different groups divided among themselves.

The workshop was intended as an appetizer before the main course: a march of “Black and Brown Solidarity” on Friday. Two separate contingents, one from Salinas and one from Seaside, will meet at CSUMB at 3 p.m. in a symbolic gesture of unity. The Salinas group will depart at 10 a.m., and the Seaside group will leave at noon from Seaside High. The route from Salinas will be about 13 miles, with stops at the new Salinas Police station and the Monterey County District Attorney’s office.

“It’s about building solidarity,” Gonzalez said. “We understand how monumental and how impossible the walk may seem. But we wanted it to be a symbolic gesture. More than the Latino community saying ‘We support you’ but by taking action ‘we are walking towards you.’”

Conversations about anti-Blackness and “colorism” in the Latino community are also taking place at the national level.

“We have failed to grapple with anti-Blackness that exists in our own community,” wrote Somos for Black Lives, a national coalition of Latino leaders that include Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union; Ana Marie Argilagos, president of Hispanics in Philanthropy; and Sindy Benavides, chief executive officer of the League of United Latin American Citizens, among many others. “As Latinx, we are descendants of many countries.  According to the Pew Research Center, one quarter of U.S. Latinos identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or of African descent with roots in Latin America. Many in our community benefit from the privilege or illusion of proximity to whiteness, without acknowledging the depth of our own African diaspora.”

Jasmine Wood, an Afro Latina researcher with the Lumina Foundation, told NBC Latino that “Latinos need to realize is that our oppression is bound up and intertwined with the oppression of the Black community. Until they are liberated, until they are free from injustices and oppression, we will never be liberated.” 

Canela López of Business Insider, is urging Latino families to watch Ava DuVernay’s “13th” on Netflix, or “When They See Us.”

For Smith, it’s important for Black and Brown people to understand “our commonalities,” she said. “We all have our struggles, if we compare our struggles here to learn solidarity, we build our unity.”

The struggles Smith and Gonzalez refer to relate to the arrival of the Europeans to this continent, with their slavement of Africans and slaughter of the Indians. African slaves often ran away to Mexico, where they would find refuge, Smith said. Before the United States declared its independence from England, Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 sealed the division between ethnicities. When wealthy Virginia planters discovered how powerful white and Black servants could become when united, they gave poor white indentured servants more power and increased their reliance on Black slaves.

“We need to speak up as a collective. They’ve tried to divide us, but our struggles mirror each other. When we come together together to demand policies for both our needs and necessities of the whole community,” we are more powerful, Smith said.


WHAT: The Eastside and Seaside Solidarity March

WHEN: Friday, July 3, 2020. From Salinas, starting at 9 a.m. at Foods Co Parking Lot in Salinas, corner of East Alisal and S. Sanborn streets.

From Seaside, the group will meet at 11:30 a.m. at Seaside High School. There will be three stops along the way, and food, water, and toilets will be provided. Both groups of marchers will be converging at CSUMB at 3 p.m..

Dress in layers. Masks required. Bring water and snacks.

Also on Saturday:

Black Lives Matter Peaceful Protest

Saturday, July 4, noon

Vince DiMaggio Park

3200 Del Monte Blvd., Marina

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Claudia Meléndez Salinas

About Claudia Meléndez Salinas

Claudia Meléndez Salinas is an author, journalist, open water swimmer, and cat lover. | Claudia Meléndez Salinas es autora, periodista, nadadora de aguas abiertas, y aficionada a los gatos.