Last Tuesday morning while we were up on the sixth floor of City Hall meeting with the Dallas City Council about City Walk @ Akard, our downtown housing development, hundreds of area Hispanic/Latino students marched into the lobby of the building to protest the recent immigration reform bill sent over to the U. S. Senate by the House of Representatives.
The noise filled the entire building. From our vantage point inside the council chambers, things sounded like a pep rally in a charged up high school gymnasium.
The fact that the two events were occurring simultaneously struck me as quite remarkable.
Following the council meeting, everyone walked out into the "flag room" just outside the council chambers. Thanks to a glass wall, we enjoyed a perfect view of the large plaza and giant reflection pool just outside the front door. As security personnel and police ushered the students out of the building, they continued their peaceful, now joyous protest on the plaza.
Soon several decided to take a dip in the fountain!
It was a sight to behold.
News reports carried a few stories and letters to the editor regarding the protest and the students, some not so flattering. Most folks think these kids needed to stay in school. Their action on Tuesday was the second day this week that hundreds refused to attend classes.
I know the students need to be in class. And by today it seems that everyone is back where they need to be. I also realize that not every student involved fully understood the issues involved with the current immigration debate.
That said, I guess I have a slightly different take on it overall.
The students I observed were orderly, polite and determined, it seemed to me.
It also seemed clear that they understood at least something of what had been happening in our Congress and across the nation and how it all might affect them and their parents.
Mainly, they were involved.
I couldn't help but smile.
Interestingly, on Monday the U. S. Senate passed out of committee the McCain-Kennedy proposal that effectively negates the extremely strident legislation the U. S. House of Representatives came up with. The national debate is joined again on this crucial matter.
In the days ahead I'll probably have more to say about the issue, including some thoughts on the nature and necessity, at times, of civil disobedience; the need to take a fresh look at the wages paid working people in our nation; the place of history, culture and race in the current conversation; and how all of this affects urban life.
For now it is enough to confess that I left City Hall on Tuesday just thankful to see the children involved in the civic discussion.