El Barrio’ movement speaker discusses social justice

Stephanie Haines

Movement for Justice in El Barrio spokesperson Juan Haro visited Northwestern on Wednesday to discuss East Harlem’s urban and social issues.

Two students, a sociology professor and a friend of Haro’s attended the event at University Hall. A short film screening and a discussion followed. Teacher Assistant Ricardo Sanchez invited Haro to NU as part of his Chicagoland tour to other forums and universities. Haro also spoke earlier Wendnesday to assistant professor John Marquez’s Introduction to Latino Studies class.

“Undergraduate students are generally eager to gain experience with social issues,” Marquez said. “Hearing speakers from different movements helps them apply what they learn to what they see in Chicagoan communities.”

Haro said Movement is based in East Harlem, called “El Barrio,” which is a neighborhood predominantly composed of Hispanic immigrants. Fifteen immigrant mothers started Movement in 2004 to fight against large corporations that bought out parts of East Harlem and forced the immigrant tenants to move. Since then, Movement has won a case against corporation Dawnay Day Group, which owned 47 buildings in East Harlem and tried to displace its tenants.

“If you live in a building, and you are willing to organize, then you are a part of our community, our movement,” Haro said.

Haro said Movement has expanded to support many marginalized groups such as blacks, women and the LGBT community. He also said Movement deals with the broad crises of neoliberal capitalism, colonialism and racism.

“This is not a Mexican struggle,” Marquez said. “This is a social justice struggle.”

Marquez said Movement collaborates with the Zapatista Movement, started by indigenous Mayans in 1994 to critique North American capitalism at the expense of central Americans. He also said the El Barrio Movement has adopted some Zapatista activist strategies and likened both to the Occupy Movement that has spread across the country.

“The Movement for Justice in El Barrio and the Zapatista Movement fight against neoliberal capitalism, like Occupy Wall Street does today, ” Marquez said. “It’s just that these movements have been around longer.”

SESP junior Thaddaeus Elliott said he wanted to hear Haro speak because he is interested in social justice issues.

“It was especially important when Haro discussed how the movement unifies different marginalized groups to work toward a common goal,” Elliott said. “It’s a good model for us to build bridges across different parts of the NU community.”

Sanchez said he thinks it is important that NU students transcend traditional learning spheres and face social problems in Chicago and the world.

“The Movement is an inspiration to people globally,” Ricardo said. “I hope it is an inspiration to NU students, too.”

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