Fil-Ams join march for civil rights on 50th anniversary of King’s speech


Filipino-Americans join other Asian-American activists march from the Lincoln Memorial (in the background) to the Washington Monument. PHOTO BY JON MELEGRITO

WASHINGTON, DC—As tens of thousands marched and rallied here in the nation’s capital on Saturday, Aug. 24 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Filipino-Americans used the occasion to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, restore voting rights, support equality for gays and provide services to the disabled.

“As Filipinos, we benefited from the struggles of African-Americans who demanded equality and fair treatment,” says Marites Cardenas Branigin, a national director of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).

“Many Filipino professionals were able to come to the US and enjoy equal employment opportunities and affirmative action. But we still have a long way to go, especially in improving race relations, equality for gays and raising the living standards of the poor.”

The event, billed as “Realize the Dream March and Rally,” was a tribute to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which led to landmark civil rights legislation. Among the speakers was Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of the slain civil rights leader, who said that more needed to be done to complete the journey that his father began.
Message still resonates

Recalling that the 1963 March on Washington was about jobs, freedom and justice, Filipino American activists also declared that the message then still resonates today, notably in the fight for immigration reform.

“We cannot allow the House to slow down a legislative process on a bill that had momentum earlier in the year,” says Joe Montano of Arlington, Virginia. “We have to step up our efforts to mobilize public opinion and press Congress to act now.”

Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian-Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) and a speaker at the rally, said that “now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. We march today to remind our policy makers of the urgency of fulfilling these promises to realize our collective dream.”

The diversity of march participants, Moua added, “underscores the urgency and important work that needs to be done. But only in coalition can we achieve these goals.”

Among the 18 million Asian -mericans who believe in a greater America, she also pointed, are “three and a half million Filipino-Americans whose community began as a settlement in Louisiana 1973 and from which hundreds of thousands were only recently recognized for fighting bravely for the ideals of a Greater America in World War II.”

AAJC is among NaFFAA’s coalition partners that successfully lobbied in Congress in April. Among the amendments included in the Senate bill is a provision which would facilitate family reunification of Filipino World War II veterans’ families.

Pre-march rally

FilAm activists join march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument in Washington DC. PHOTO BY JON MELEGRITO

Members and supporters of NaFFAA, AAJC and dozens of other Asian Pacific Islander American organizations gathered early Saturday and held a pre-march rally in front of the Washington Monument.

Marisol Angala, a Washington DC public school teacher, took time out from work to join the marchers. “Listening and reflecting on the legacy of racial progress over the last half-century, I know that we are still in pursuit of the dream,” she said. “We reclaim the promise by working hard each day, in classrooms and in our communities. I feel great.”

Ben de Guzman, a Filipino-American LGBT activist, applauded loudly after hearing Attorney General Eric Holder say, “As we gather today, 50 years later, their march—now our march—goes on. And our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of Latinos, of Asian Americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with disabilities, and of countless others across this country who still yearn for equality, opportunity and fair treatment.”

Reiner and Marisol Angala vow to keep fighting for Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. PHOTO BY JON MELEGRITO

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Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • walaywalay

    >>Many Filipino professionals were able to STAY IN the PHILIPPINES and enjoy equal employment opportunities and affirmative action…YET NO Filipino professionals were able to come to the US and enjoy equal employment opportunities and affirmative action…FOR NOT 1 OF THESE FILIPINOS WHERE BRAVE ENOUGH STRONG ENOUGH DETERMINED ENOUGH TO FOLLOW THE BLACK AMERICANS LEAD WHILE STAYING IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY—INSTEAD they came to the US to benefit from those who found the courage and determination to die for change—while they sat back and did nothing–NO TO THE IMMIGRATION BILL NO AMNESTY FOR CRIMMINALS

    • blue_lights

      Illegal immigrants should be thrown out. Absolutely.

      If you want to live in a country, do it the legal way or don’t do it at all. Stupid squatters should stay in the hell-hole countries they created for themselves.

  • blue_lights

    …”and raising the living standards of the poor”

    How about fixing the economy so they can get jobs and raise their own living standards, instead of using my tax money to give them Obamaphones and other garbage dole-outs?

  • Punyëtero»Ka

    The year was 1763 not 1963 as the article states! Filipinos were with Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, but gradually asimilated into society.

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