Posted on August 11, 2005

L.A.’s Blacks, Latinos See Answers in Alliance

Daniel B. Wood, Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 11

LOS ANGELES — National activists hope it’s the beginning of a new era in black-Latino unity.

Some city officials see merely a promising — but yet unproven — possibility in ways for the two groups to find common ground over a host of issues that have found them directly at odds in recent years: jobs, housing, education, healthcare, and gangs.

Either way, say observers, the formation here of a new Latino & African American Leadership Alliance is a development more and more US cities are likely to see with the rise of Hispanic politicians like Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Mr. Villaraigosa, the first Hispanic mayor here in 125 years, took the reins last month buoyed by the overwhelming support of the black community.

With the increase of the US Hispanic population, surpassing blacks in 2000 as the nation’s largest minority, the alliance is a logical next step in the marriage of minority interests in gaining economic, social and political clout from inner city neighborhoods to Congress, analysts say.

“These are two American ethnic and racial communities who have a long history of fighting social injustice and racial oppression in this country,” says Najee Ali, a Los Angeles and Chicago-based cleric and activist. “Blacks have felt threatened and marginalized with the growth of the Latino vote, and Latinos know what it is like to be stuck outside the corridors of power. We want to create a model of how these two groups can work together from South Central [L.A.] to Washington D.C.”

Well-known locally, Mr. Ali once brokered a historic truce between two of this city’s most notorious gangs, the Bloods and the Crips. Working with him as cochairs in the alliance are the Rev. Al Sharpton — head of the New York City-based National Action Network — and Christine Chavez, political director of United Farm Workers.