Valiente DFW president fears worse when crowd grows silent during rally
Gay Latino leaders reached out to their straight counterparts at the immigrants rights rally at City Hall Plaza last weekend.
Fernie Sanchez, president of Valiente DFW, said he was unsure what to expect when he took the stage at the rally on Sunday, April 1, to address the crowd. He followed speakers such as Texas Rep. Rafael Anchia and City Councilman Don Hill, who is running for mayor.
“I was really nervous about being there with a totally straight crowd,” Sanchez said.
Jesse Garcia, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said he was also uneasy as he watched Sanchez approach the podium. Only a handful of gay and lesbian people stood in the audience that was estimated at about 5,000.
The audience included many members of religious groups, such as the Catholic Church, Garcia noted.
“The words gay and lesbian came out of his mouth and the crowd just got quiet,” Garcia said.
Sanchez said he also realized how quiet the crowd had become during his speech while he was advocating for fair and just immigration reform.
“I talked about if anyone knows what it is like to experience rejection and discrimination and hate and ignorance, it’s the gay community,” Sanchez said. “We’re all there supporting you. We’re part of your families. I told them, “‘You know it. You have gay relatives.'”
Garcia said the silence erupted in applause when Sanchez finished speaking.
“They let him speak,” Garcia said. “He said it in perfect Spanish and repeated it in English. Everybody cheered and clapped as he was leaving the stage.”
Sanchez said his unease did not subside until he heard the applause.
“It had gotten really quiet,” Sanchez said. “I thought they were going to throw eggs at me or something. Everybody started clapping, so I felt a little better after that. It was a good experience for us.”
Garcia said he remembers the day as a great success.
“I think it went fabulous,” Garcia said. “It was good to see the community coming together. There was inclusiveness people actually embracing each American that day. It was so beautiful to witness.”
Valiente set up a table at the rally and distributed literature to people.
“We made some good contacts,” Sanchez said. “People were coming up to us and saying they were glad we were there.”
Sanchez acknowledged the rally this year was only a fraction of the one seen last year when the U.S. Congress was considering a harsh immigration reform bill.
“Last year it was a big rally because the community was on the defensive,” Sanchez said. “This time around they are on the offensive.”
Sanchez said Latino leaders’ main objectives now are to encourage immigrants to become legal citizens so they can vote.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 6, 2007