Community organizer, Catholic priest, and Georgetown University professor Rev. Raymond B. Kemp, S.J. spoke about the connection between the civil rights movement and current immigration issues last week at USF.
After an introduction by organizer of the event USF Theology Professor, Mark Miller, Kemp spoke about the ways self-sacrificing love can restore the cumulative process of progress. He made reference to his Anglo roots in Virginia and Maryland—states Kemp said have a background of having had enslaved Africans brought to America through the Middle Passage.
Kemp’s said historical consciousness is key to understanding everything in terms of God and all things real to us. He then proceeded to share some of his activism during the Civil Rights movement in the sixties.
He referenced how he and other organizers defended civil liberties through the use of songs. He also spoke about having attended Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the march in Washington on August 28, 1963.
Connecting those events with today’s immigration issues, Kemp said, “Immigration has been the source of our strength in the occasion of some of our greatest failures. In times of economic uncertainty the immigrant gets blamed for the failure of pieces of our economic household.”
Kemp acknowledged California’s progress in passing the California Dream Act. However, the AB131 bill, which would allow undocumented students who receive in-state tuition to apply for state financial aid, is awaiting a trial which would determine whether it will be included in a voter referendum that would overturn the bill.
Referencing a New York Times editorial regarding Alabama’s passing of the anti-immigrant House Bill 56, Kemp said, “Surely no law-enforcement official of [Alabama attorney general’s] stature would have responded to a fact-gathering request by challenging the federal government’s “legal authority” to investigate reports of civil rights abuses. Could there be an attorney general in the South — or anywhere — who is not acutely aware, and mindful, of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?”
Kemp said, “All Americans should feel ashamed.”
He then added, “I don’t think shame is enough! I invite you to work hard, and work smart— give Lady liberty and New York Harbor a reason to keep her torch lit and in the air for at least another 125 years.”
Freshman Amanda Mitchell, who attended the event, said she appreciated hearing about immigration from a priest’s perspective. She said, “It would be beneficial for the youth to get involved because we are the future and these types of forums are a perfect example of how we can participate in our political landscape.”
In a personal interview with the Foghorn after the forum, Kemp said, “Focusing on ethnicity or our ethnic roots, we didn’t want to confront the hostilities of our mental attitudes… it’s rooted in us to have a tendency to be bias towards one another…each individual needs to remember to regain and remain on the right path to social equality. Each day as we wake up we have a choice. Each day brings a new beginning to an end to mental disparity.”