In Civic Space Park, an evening of fun, fellowship

Watch Community celebration with partners from UU World on Vimeo.

Friday night was an evening of fun and fellowship in Phoenix. Unitarian Universalists and members of the partner groups that have been so central to the Justice General Assembly gathered in Civic Space Park for food and music on a warm Arizona night.

The folk duo emma’s revolution was a crowd favorite as they played under the amphitheater. More than 1,000 people cheered and sang along, some seated under the pavilion, many others sprawled across the green lawn. Between musical sets, the local New Carpa Theatre performed skits about justice, some in English, some in Spanish. In one, Superman was stopped at the U.S.-Mexican border by a Customs agent. Unable to produce a birth certificate, the superhero was placed in detention.

U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva, who represents the Southern Arizona Congressional District 7 that includes parts of Tucson, addressed the gathered, thanking the UUA for choosing to come to Arizona. “Arizona has earned a reputation,” he said. But meeting in Arizona shows that “clear-thinking human beings have faith this state will turn around…Arizona has the opportunity to be a state that embraces rather than marginalizes.”

Grijalva’s visit was arranged by members of the Mountain Vista UU Congregation of Northwest Tucson. A Democrat and longtime proponent of meaningful immigration reform, Grijalva has held the office since 2002.

The crowd was also addressed by Mario Chijaujau, a local man who took the stage with his wife and young children to tell the story of how he was stopped at a checkpoint by officers of the Maricopa Count Sherriff’s Office, who demanded to see his driver’s license. When he couldn’t produce one, he was thrown in jail and turned over to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Chijaujau said that he was fortunate in having attended many community meetings by Tonatierra and Los Comites de Defensa del Barrio, where he learned that he had civil rights, that he did not have to answer the officers’ questions, and that he was entitled to a lawyer. “They teach us rights. That’s how we learned to live in Arizona,” he said. In English and Spanish, he expressed his tremendous gratitude and being able to return to his family.

Against the backdrop of the musicians, actors, and speakers, children danced in a lighted fountain on the plaza and people purchased food from the park’s Fair Trade Café.

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