Members of Ozomatli Accept Public Service Award from NCLR
Members of Ozomatli Accept Public Service Award from NCLR
The timing couldn't be better for Los Angeles-based multicultural-fusion band Ozomatli, currently helping out with the National Council of La Raza's "Pledge to Respect" campaign. Officially kicking off last Thursday, the organized effort asks members of Congress to sign a pledge to respect the Latino community and jettison dehumanizing rhetoric. 

As if on cue, Virgil Peck, a Republican legislator from Kansas, drove the point home by making the following controversial public statement yesterday: "It looks like to me if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a [solution] to our illegal-immigration problem."

Ozomatli Takes Part in NCLR's 'Pledge to Respect' Campaign

When asked if such comments underscore the relevancy and importance of the campaign, Ellie Klerlein, NCLR's Associate Director of National Campaigns, responded, "It absolutely does." He adds, "In fact, we will be putting out an action alert later tonight to our network asking them to send letters to Representative Peck and calling on him to apologize for his inflammatory comments." 

As of today, he has not offered any such apology and has instead contended he was just joking and speaking like someone from southeast Kansas. "We need our elected officials to understand that this type of rhetoric has no place in our public discourse," Klerlein emphasizes in response.

Ozomatli, for their part, have recorded a public-service announcement for Pledge to Respect, urging people to contact their members of Congress and sign up. The Grammy Award-winning band's involvement is nothing new; this is just the latest installment of their solidarity with the Latino civil-rights organization. "We have worked with Ozomatli for a while now. They got involved with NCLR after the passage of Senate Bill 1070 in Arizona because they have always been activists for civil rights and they saw the need to get involved," Klerein says. "The Pledge for Respect campaign is a natural next step in our partnership, and we look forward to continuing to work with such an amazing band."

"Historically, in the United States, the most recent immigrant group to come to the states often seems to be the scapegoat for many of the current problems happening," Wil-Dog Abers says reflecting on why his band are once again collaborating with NCLR. "We felt it was important to use the Ozomatli name to fight for respect on immigrants' behalf. Many of the members of Ozomatli are first-generation immigrants in this country, and so in many ways, we're fighting for our parents as well."

The day before the official campaign kickoff, the band were in D.C. to spread the word to many Latino leaders from across the country. "We met with a number of community leaders, as well as youth leaders from all over the country who are standing up for immigration rights," Wil-Dog says. "We told them about the Respect campaign and the things they can do in their area to support it and exchange ideas as well."

To date, the campaign has gained the signatures of seven lawmakers, all Democrats, none of whom are from Orange County. The National Council of La Raza is hoping that will soon change. "We expect politicians from both parties to engage in civil discourse," Klerein adds, "and take a solutions-oriented, fact-based approach to evaluating public-policy options for solving our nation's most pressing problems."


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