The following comes from a November 22 People’s World article by Eric A. Gordon:
Several hundred Angelenos packed the pews and lined the walls in a standing room only turnout Sunday afternoon at Dolores Mission Catholic Church in the working-class Boyle Heights neighborhood close to downtown. They came out despite a steady rain that, if anything, seemed providential after many months of severe drought. The downpour, and the courageous, militant speeches and songs, renewed and refreshed the soul after the electoral trauma of November 8th.
LA Voice teaches people to speak, act, and engage in the public arena, and Sunday’s event — #IamAmerica, Widening the Circle of Belonging — demonstrated its organizing skill, co-sponsoring the afternoon with the Muslim Public Affairs Council as well as 20-plus other partner organizations in an interfaith coalition. Drawing on its connections with a couple of dozen congregations throughout the city, LA Voice presented a wide array of speakers and performers who led the audience from mourning and depression over the impending Trump presidency to a fighting spirit of resistance and love. The entire proceedings were simultaneously translated into Spanish and English, and many in the crowd wore headsets so they could understand every word spoken.
“We are here to lament,” Deacon Jason Welles of the Dolores Mission opened, “and to share our lamentations together.” He moved quickly to reassure that the afternoon would be a vigorous expression of solidarity and related that similar interfaith events were happening this day all over the country.
Ellie Hidalgo, a pastoral associate at the church, called for “perseverance, unity, and creativity” in the coming period, assuring that “We will stand with you in the good times and in the bad times.” A women’s chorus from the church sang the bilingual hymn, “Renew Us, Lord — Renuévanos, Señor.”
Edina Lekovic represented the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “Our common faith calls us to act,” she said, citing the well-known phrase, “the fierce urgency of now.” She based her thinking on a verse from the Quran 94:6: “With every hardship, there is ease.”
Singer-songwriter Craig Taubman introduced a song partly in Hebrew — “We can build this world with love / Long live love, long live the people.” Rabbi Ron Stern from Stephen S. Wise Temple followed, remarking about “a lot of Hebrew being spoken in Boyle Heights,” a reference to the fact that this area was at one time the largest Jewish community west of Chicago, and the epicenter of much social activism.
The Rev. Zach Hoover, executive director of LA Voice, reminded us of a piece of wisdom from the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. “This is not the place we’ve come to,” King said. “This is the place we go from.”
The witnessing continued, with each profession more moving than the last. Father Ted Gabrielli, head pastor of Dolores Mission, told us that each night up to 120 homeless men sleep in this space, while the women’s shelter is just a block or two away. One morning they woke up to find that someone had spray painted “Wetback Church” on its wall. “We kept that graffiti as a badge of honor,” said Gabrielli. “Fear of the stranger — this sickness is taking over the world, but we are the medicine. We need to love our enemy, to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who wish us harm. Here in this church of God, exclusion does not exist.”