500 attend SWOP’s holiday party at Maria High School

In what has become an annual tradition on the Southwest side, more than 500 people joined together on December 13th at Maria High School to celebrate the holidays together as members of the Southwest Organizing Project.

As people began arriving at 6pm they were welcomed by youth leaders from Morrill Elementary School and Gage Park High schools who gave everyone a “Human Bingo” card. The bingo cards had a series of statements like “I have lived in a foreign country” and “I have been to Springfield, IL,” and people were encouraged to find someone at the party for whom each statement was true. The first to ask enough people to fill the card out successfully were a parent and two students.

The short program began at 6:30 and was co-chaired by David Castro, who leads the TeenReach program at Morrill School and Mayra Sarabia, SWOP Strategy Team member and Parent Mentor Coordinator at Eberhart School. Father Tony Pizzo of St. Rita of Cascia Catholic Church, Rabbi Joshua Salter, a member of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, and Gemali Ibrahim from the Inner-city Muslim Action Network opened the festivities with prayers from their various faith traditions.

Betty Gutierrez, SWOP Strategy Team member and St Mary Star of the Sea parishioner led the room in recognition of Maureen Fitzpatrick. Maureen worked as an organizer with SWOP on immigration and education issues since 2006 and left us this year to complete her studies for her Masters of Public Policy at The University of Chicago. The program ended with the Talman Elementary School Mariachi Band in only their second public performance serenading the enthusiastic crowd with versions of Las Mañanitas and Feliz Navidad.

After the program, everyone dove into the chicken and fish provided by Holy Cross Hospital and IMAN and the many side dishes and deserts brought by other member institutions and individual leaders.

All in all it was a very successful action.