How arts and organizing helped defeat Alabama’s anti-immigrant law.

This article originally appeared at Waging Nonviolence.

When passed by the Alabama Legislature in 2011, HB 56 was considered the most egregious and far reaching of the state anti-immigration laws in the country — more harsh than even Arizona’s much derided SB 1070. Recently most of the worst pieces of HB 56 were finally undone.

While much of the media coverage has focused on the work of large legal aid groups, I saw firsthand the power and impact that community and arts organizing played in turning the tide in Alabama and making these victories possible. At a Ruckus Society camp at the Highlander Center in 2012, I met many members of the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, or ACIJ, who were organizing community members to creatively rise up, create art, march, lobby and deploy nonviolent direct action tactics.

Gwendolyn Ferreti Manjarrez is a leader within Somos Tuscaloosa, one of the many local groups that are a part of ACIJ. I had the pleasure of working with Gwen at the Highlander camp and again in Birmingham at an arts camp for people mobilizing for immigrant justice in Georgia and Alabama. Here’s an excerpt of our recent conversation, focusing on her analysis of the recent organizing victories in Alabama.

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