By La Capilla del Barrio
CHICAGO- La Capilla del Barrio/The Neighborhood Chapel celebrated Oscar López Rivera’s 72nd Birthday during its “Three Kings Day/Día de Los Reyes Magos Worship Celebration on Sunday, January 4th, 2015. This year’s theme was “Bring Our 4th King Home.” “Celebrating Oscar’s birthday has become a tradition for the members of La Capilla,” according to the Pastor, Rev. Dr. Pedro J. Windsor. Highlights included a father and son recitation of a poem titled “Puerto Rico,” written by Ruben “Cito” Escobar, Jr., a seventh grader. This year, the members of La Capilla and the National Boricua Human Rights Network recognized Attorney Jan Susler for her dedicated service to the movement to free Oscar. A letter of appreciation to Jan written by Oscar Lopez-Rivera was read to the audience and can be found below. The service culminated with the presentation of Oscar’s birthday cake to the López family and of course a spirited rendition by the audience of “Cumpleaño Feliz.”
Letter to Jan Susler from Oscar López Rivera
In 1981, while awaiting trial in MCC, I was told I had a legal visit. I was in the hole and after the strip search the jailers put me in an office. There was a young woman waiting. She introduced herself as a lawyer from Southern Illinois and told me she had visited Elizam and Ricardo. She was very good looking, long hair and sounded shy and like a white liberal. Because I always had conflicts with white liberals and she looked so young I wasn’t impressed by her. I thought I would never see her again. But when I was brought back to MCC in 1986, for the trial of an alleged escape conspiracy, she became my lawyer. I asked the people I trusted most if she was reliable and trust worthy. And the answer was that she was – she worked at PLO. In one of our first meetings I asked her what winning a case meant to her and what was she willing to do to win a case. She said she was willing to whatever it took because winning meant everything to her. She gave me the wrong answer, but since she was well recommended I started opening myself to her.
There were many meetings of the lawyers and the defendants. Those meetings were very trying and hard for me so I tried to make them as lite as possible. It was a period of time I was experiencing a lot of guilt. Every time I would see Dora and Jaime the guilt would prick my conscience and I never felt comfortable. But Jan became closer to me and her visits would help me to think clearer. The hardest day for me was sentencing day. I was walking behind Jaime and it was the first time I would see a compañero walked with leg irons and handcuffed, and that broke my heart.
When Jan tried to visit me in Marion I told her I didn’t want any visits. I wanted to spend time putting things in perspective and doing my introspection exercises. For a period of two years I refused her visits. Finally, when I was ready, I told her she could visit me. When I was being accused of possessing a weapon and escape paraphernalia she came to my rescue. I was profoundly grateful to her for taking interest and trying to help.
In 1992, when the Freedom Campaign got started, she became the main lawyer for all of the Puerto Rican political prisoners. And she didn’t stop working extremely hard until Clinton gave 13 of us clemency. There were many issues and differences among the political prisoner’s that started to surface. She was the go-between person. And she did a great job keeping us informed and doing all she could do to achieve the goal of our excarceration. Finally Clinton made the decision. She moved to Puerto Rico to be with Elizam, and I was extremely happy for both. She had adopted our beloved homeland and was making it her home with Elizam. I started telling her she had a boricua soul. And I was being very serious.
But when I really discovered how great a person she was was when she told me she was giving one of her kidneys to her father. She moved me so much that during the days of the operation when I couldn’t communicate with her I could hardly sleep. Every time I would go running I would run for her and send her positive energies. I wanted and needed to hear her voice. And when she visited me she asked me if I wanted to see the scar. I thought she had lost it for asking such a question. Had she shown me her scar that would have been enough for the jailers to permanently terminate her legal visits. From that moment on my admiration, my respect and my love for her have grown exponentially. For me she is more than a lawyer and a friend. She is an extraordinary woman with a heart full of love and compassion. For me she is another compañera in the struggle for a better and more just world, and she is in my heart and mind every day. And the best part is that she is loved and respected by all of us. So Jan, make sure never to lose your boricua soul. EN RESISTENCIA Y LUCHA, olr.