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Solidarity is a Process: Talking with Kelly Lytle Hernandez, Josh Kun, and Destin Jenkins

The basic idea behind this conversation is that solidarity is a very, very long-standing concept within and between communities of color—or all communities, really. It’s a conversation that’s central in all of American history and the history of the Americas. But it gained increasing urgency this summer, as we all watched the events unfold from June forward, following George Floyd’s murder.

That sparked a growing conversation about solidarity between African Americans and Latinos here in Chicago as well. In early June there were events where Puerto Ricans and African Americans marched together chanting, “Tu lucha es mi lucha”; but just a couple of days later, during the same time period, there were tensions between Puerto Ricans and African Americans in the city.

But these instances didn’t encapsulate everything that’s behind calls for solidarity or insistence on difference. Sometimes solidarity is taken for granted as the natural outcome of the shared circumstances of our communities. Sometimes it’s seen as an impossibility because of deep cultural and historical rifts. And we also know that solidarity can mean something entirely different for Afro Latinos, who make up a sizable share of the Latino and African American populations.

This conversation seeks to talk about solidarity in a more nuanced way, with three fabulous speakers. The first is Kelly Lytle Hernandez, the Thomas E. Lifka Chair of History at UCLA and the author of Migra! A History of the US Border Patrol and City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles. She’s also the director and principal investigator for Million Dollar Hoods, a university-based, community-driven research project that maps the fiscal and human cost of mass incarceration in Los Angeles.

Our second speaker is Destin Jenkins. He is the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of US History at the University of Chicago. His first book is just about to come out. It’s going to be terrific, so look out for it. It’s called The Bonds of Inequality: Debt and the Making of the American City, and will be published by the University of Chicago Press. He’s also a coeditor of a forthcoming collection called Histories of Racial Capitalism. I should also mention that he is a former editor of the Capitalism section of the magazine Public Books.

And our third speaker is Josh Kun. He is a professor in the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and holds the inaugural Chair in Cross-Cultural Communication. He’s the author of Audiotopia: Music, Race, and AmericaSongs in the Key of Los AngelesTo Live and Dine in LADouble Vision: The Photography of George Rodriguez; and The Autograph Book of LA: Improvements on the Page of the City. He’s also editor of The Tide Was Always High: The Music of Latin America in Los Angeles and coeditor of Tijuana Dreaming: Life and Art at the Global Border and Black and Brown in Los Angeles beyond Conflict and Coalition.

Our cosponsors are Public Books and, at Northwestern University, the Latina and Latino Studies Program, Department of African American Studies, and One Book One Northwestern.

—Geraldo Cadava


  1. Biographies and Beginnings
  2. Scaling Up Solidarity
  3. Risking for Solidarity
  4. Teaching Solidarity
  5. Broadening Solidarity
Read entire article at Public Books