The Philadelphia chapter of the National Boricua Human Rights Network proudly celebrated Grito de Lares this past Saturday, October 29th, 2011 at Tierra Colombiana restaurant. The event boasted over 300 people who support la “Puertorriqueñidad” and the spirit of resistance against colonial oppression demonstrated by those men and women who struggled and died in Lares 144 years in the birth of the nation of Puerto Rico. The event proudly honored Reverend Roger Zeppernick of Christ and Saint Ambrose Episcopal Church who has graciously given over 40 years of service for the advancement of the Puerto Rican/Latino community, including his commitment to address the problem of US colonialism in Puerto Rico and the release of Puerto Rican political prisoners. Roger was bestowed awards and accolades by many groups and individuals, including the Philadelphia Hispanic Clergy, Reverend Luis Cortes of Esperanza USA, State Senator Tina Tartaglione, and Philadelphia Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez.
In his thankful remarks, Roger made a call to the crowd to support the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera, the longest held and last remaining Puerto Rican political prisoner. The evening gala event was dedicated to Oscar Lopez Rivera whose presence was felt throughout the event with a powerful image of him, painted by Puerto Rican artist Danny Torres, which adorned the center stage. Roger expressed his commitment to the Puerto Rican struggle and the need to educate the community, especially youth, around the history of anti-colonial struggle in Puerto Rico. Roger reminded everyone that Oscar comes from a long line of Puerto Ricans who have struggled since el Grito de Lares, that his refusal of the 1999 offer of release by former President Clinton was done for noble and honorable reasons, and that after 31 years of incarceration it is time for folks to get up and let President Obama know that it is time to bring Oscar home. Roger’s speech was followed by music performances by Antonio Caban Valle “El Topo,” and salsero Luis Ayala who entertained the crowd with a patriotic “Verde Luz,” and free style salsa lyrics calling for the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera. The Philadelphia Grito de Lares gala was testimony that the spirit of Lares is alive and strong in Philadelphia, in the work of the Boricua Human Rights Network, and its leadership, Luis Sanabria, Roger Zeppernick, and Inez Ramos who continue to push for the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera.