Lessons on the Power of Collaboration from the Urban League-UnidosUS Documentary ‘Gumbo Coalition’

What can we learn from the unity of Black and Latinx leaders fighting for social justice? This film mixed up the perfect gumbo of ideas.
Contributed by Martin Ricard—May 13, 2024
Lessons on the Power of Collaboration from the Urban League-UnidosUS Documentary ‘Gumbo Coalition’

What can we learn from the unity of Black and Latinx leaders fighting for social justice?

Gumbo Coalition, a powerful documentary directed by Barbara Kopple, dives deep into this question.

It followed the National Urban League’s Marc Morial and UnidosUS’s Janet Murguía as they championed the rights of their communities through a time of intense social and political turmoil.

I recently had the chance to catch the film, and let me tell you, it wasn’t just another documentary rehashing the struggles that people of color endure in today’s America. This film offered up a rich mix of strategies and resilience in the face of adversity.

In it, the civil rights leaders didn’t just serve up ideas — they were cooking up a storm.

The result? They were able to stir up a metaphorical gumbo pot filled with initiatives that promise not just to season the pot, but to transform the whole kitchen.

Morial, with his roots as a former mayor of New Orleans, and Murguía, a steadfast advocate for Latino rights, used their platforms to tackle systemic issues exacerbated during the tempestuous Trump era.

It was a story of unity, with their leadership transcending individual struggles to address the collective hurdles that were facing their communities, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustices, and political upheavals surrounding the 2020 elections.

What I enjoyed most was seeing how their collaboration was not just about shared goals but about shared humanity.

Several moments stood out to me for their raw emotion and pivotal significance in the struggle for social justice. These scenes shed light on the deep-seated issues that Morial and Murguía have dedicated themselves to combatting.

One such moment was the Save Our Sons program in St. Louis, where Morial engaged directly with participants at the launch of the pilot program in that city.

In an intimate setting surrounded by a group of Black and Brown men who were on the brink of being released from prison, Morial asked what the participants believed was the cure for their pain.

One participant’s response cut right to the heart of what I would say is a universal quest for acknowledgment and support.

“Love,” the man said. “You just want to know that somebody gives a damn,”

Morial’s reply resonated with me because it was an example of the encouragement and solidarity we need to see more often.

“Everybody’s not against you. Make no mistake — some people are,” he said. “All I can promise you is we’re for you. Most importantly, you can be there for yourself.”

This exchange not only highlighted the emotional core of the program but also showed the broader mission of the National Urban League: to empower and uplift.

Another gripping scene unfolded during an UnidosUS event where a woman recounted the harrowing day she and her husband were torn apart by immigration enforcement.

After a routine appointment at ICE, her life changed drastically when her husband was detained and later deported.

Her story was a poignant reminder of the human cost of stringent immigration policies — serving as a powerful testimony to the challenges faced by immigrant families under the shifting political landscape during the Trump presidency.

Murguía’s reflections during that moment revealed her disillusionment with the nation’s progress on racial and social issues.

“Little did I know,” she said, “there was still a lot of unresolved issues and deep divisions.”

Read more on Medium.

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