Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Paula Crisostomo's Work Continues

My padre is one of those archetypal people who despises politics to his core. He has never voted, has no intentions of voting, and, unless one of my cousins who's politically active ever decides to get off her duff and run for office [hint, hint], won't be voting anytime soon. He's a victim of the "what's the point?" virus, one that I feel surging through my veins every now and then.

It was last summer while I was visiting for a weekend and, to my surprise, my dad stopped the channel on HBO. Edward James Olmos' presentation Walk Out was on.
A film with a powerful message that resonates 38 years after the events it depicts occurred, Walkout is the stirring true story of the Chicano students of East LA, who in 1968 staged several dramatic walkouts in their high schools to protest academic prejudice and dire school conditions. Aided by a popular and progressive young teacher, Sal Castro, Paula Crisostomo and a group of young Chicano activists battle parents, teachers, bureaucrats, the police and public opinion to make their point. Along the way, the students learn profound lessons about embracing their own identity and standing up for what they believe in. Set in 1968, a tumultuous year that shook America to its foundation, Walkout is a vivid reminder that people can change the world.
Man Eegee, Sr.: "Hey, have you seen this yet?"

Man Eegee, Jr.: "Nope, have you?"

Sr.: "We caught it the other day. It's a good movie...I remember those days."

Jr.: "We're living in them again."

Sr.: "Yeah..."

Keep in mind the context of this conversation. We were coming off the spring solidarity marches across the country that denounced HR4437 and called for a comprehensive reform of the immigration system that included a path to citizenship for millions that are living in a shadow economy. Immigration politics is not a latino issue, contrary to the constant drumbeat you'll read here and at other latino/latina blogs, but it is certainly one that is affecting our people in a meaningful way.

An overhaul of the immigration system (that is done humanely), will address educational deficiencies, health care snowjobs, mixed-status families, and trade policies with other nations that are exporting human beings instead of inventories due to the dire straits we've saddled their economies with, all in the name of the Almighty Dollar. These are worthy causes to fight for, and in order to cause a strong enough reaction to create meaningful change, we must learn how to reach people like my dad who have solidarity with our worldview but don't see the political system as a means to uprooting the rot of inequality and injustice.

The title of this post is "Paula Crisostomo's Work Continues", but really, it is our work; and I'm inspired to know that she hasn't given up. This past weekend she was the keynote speaker at the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference, sponsored by Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne.
"Education is extremely important for their future. It is up to them to prepare themselves for a brighter future, but they must know there are lots of us who believe in them and are willing to do whatever we can to help them succeed," she said.

Even now, Crisostomo believes the system is still broken, especially when it comes to educating the Latin American community.

"I think it's a shameful state of affairs ... In 1968 we saw some gains, but I've seen it being chipped away both nationally and locally by legislation. Primarily by administrations that have challenged a lot of policies that do outreach and provide education opportunity and finances for students," she said.

Ann Esquibel Redman organized the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference and invited Crisostomo because she was inspired by her story.

"I felt she has the message to persevere to move forward in spite of negative things that happen in our lives," Redman said.

An important message to take to heart as the bad news continues to flow. We mustn't give up. Our very lives are livelihood are worth the fight.

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