Academia is Getting Hard

Intellectual masturbation. I first heard this phrase from a student who spoke at a demonstration against police brutality at Meyerhoff Park in UCLA. The student who spoke these words expressed that the gathering would only be productive if the work against these injustices committed on People of Color continued outside that immediate space.  He described the gathering of students as an “intellectual masterbation,” because it revolved around discussion and not enough long-term action. This was some months ago, yet these words stayed with me ever since.

This winter quarter I attended a lecture titled “On the move: The Changing Dynamics of Mexico-U.S. Migration” by Professor Filiz Garip from Harvard University. Her new book addresses the question of why Mexicans migrate to the United States. Professor Garip argues against the heterogeneity placed upon migrants and their reasons for migration.

Her lecture was interesting but the scholars from the audience began to ask many questions pertaining to her data and her methods. This back and forth of question and answer felt so useless. Intellectual jargon kept being thrown around and I began to feel like I was wasting my time.

What is the point of all your criticism, suggestions, and overall discussion? How is this even going to connect back to the people you are actually talking about? What does all this even mean to them?

Intellectual masturbation.

I left that lecture as soon as it was over and felt like I wasted an entire hour and a half of my life.  I proceeded to the Chicana/o Studies Research Center for a Nahuatl Studies workshop that was part of a two-day program. The workshop was hosted by the UCLA Nahuatl Studies group composed of graduate students and faculty. Many of the students and faculty leaders were white, with a couple of male Latinos in attendance.

One graduate student began the workshop by very briefly introducing the document we looked at. She failed to introduce the other students and faculty that belonged to the group, nor the purpose of the group itself. She handed out copies of the document, which the group expressed was not worked on for 6 months. As soon as everyone had a copy of the document, the graduate students and faculty went straight to work. Instead of a workshop I felt like I had intruded into a group working party. I was completely excluded. The group went straight into trying to figure out specific lines and words by using technical methods that I was completely unfamiliar with. So I just sat there, trying to listen and observe their processes.

I felt like everything was their interpretation. Thus, I did not fully trust these sources because they are being translated by outsiders. The irony: here we have a bunch of white people trying to figure out what their ancestors purposely destroyed some hundred years ago.

Intellectual masturbation.

All this Ivy tower privilege disgusts me. I do not want to remain in this space.  Most of the time this knowledge is kept here and not relayed back to the communities it belongs to.

Educational beacon of light in Boyle Heights

People United to Enrich our Neighborhood Through Education (PUENTE) learning center is a not-for-profit organization located in Boyle Heights that focuses on the improvement of its community by providing educational resources to predominantly first-generation students and immigrants.

Sister Jennie Lechtenberg was the pioneer of the organization. Sister Jennie began her mission when she discovered that the students who struggled most in school came from households that lacked English proficiency, which resulted in “establishing the foundation for PUENTE as a family-oriented, multi-generational educational organization.” ­

I took a first-hand look at PUENTE as an organization where I was able to interact with the multi-surface composure of the learning facility. PUENTE underlines the organization’s goal of providing primary or supplementary educational program to improve graduation, literacy and employment rates of their students. Boyle Heights is predominantly composed of Latino residents, where the average median household income is about $33,325, which is low for the city of Los Angeles and the county. The low-income has a lot to do with the minimal educational attainment of constituents in Boyle Heights. In a community where less than 5% of its residents who are of the age 25 and older have a four year degree, and less than 33,620 out of 99,243 have a high school diploma there is a representation of how learning facilities like PUENTE serve to combat against the alarming statistics.

The first day I stepped into PUENTE, I was marveled by the architecture of the building, which stands out compared to the surrounding buildings. The crisp glass-like building is two-stories tall with several classrooms and a charter kindergarten. The structure of the learning center’s program is tailored to help families by allowing them to leave their children downstairs in school, while they participate in the English Second Language (ESL) classes upstairs. I was able to alternate between both groups and I found that they both embraced the opportunity of education, regardless of their age. I interacted with students who were only four years of age but they demonstrated a sense of willingness to learn.

Upstairs there were retired people learning English. One of the students was a retired cafeteria worker, who worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District for about thirty years. She told me that all her life she wanted to learn English but since she had to provide for her family she never had the opportunity, and now that her kids were all grown up she finally pursued her dream.

PUENTE also incorporates other programs to their facility such as after-school enrichment programs, high-school tutoring, SAT preparation, adult high school diploma preparation, job training preparation, job referrals, computer repair A+ certification and even programs to help veterans.

In total, they have served over 85,000 students since their inception in 1985. The administrative staff that runs the organization are all dedicated to serve others through education, which highlights a principal problem in the Boyle Heights area. Puente in the Puente in spanish means bridge in English which is exactly what the learning center is doing, slowly diminishing the gap between the lack of education in low-income communities and the achievement of students.

To find out more about the PUENTE learning center and their mission to help students, feel free to check out their website:


Boyle Heights Dia de los Muertos Festivities

On November 2, 2014, the community of Boyle Heights honored those who have passed in spaces like Espacio 1839, Mariachi Plaza and Self Help Graphics.

At the store and autonomous radio station, Espacio 1839, various altars decorated its sidewalk, giving life to the street as the dead were commemorated.   One of the altars was set up by students of Roosevelt High School and their teacher, Jorge Lopez.  The students decided to honor various revolutionaries who have died fighting for justice.

Inside the store there were performances by various artists, such as Son de Centro and El-Haru Kuroi, to name a few.  In addition, there was a space dedicated for an altar that displayed the faces of the 43 students who were disappeared in Guerrero, Mexico.  On the wall right from the altar, a row of posters with Black and Brown faces whose lives were taken by police brutality, were lined up across the room.

At Mariachi Plaza, there were vendors and cumbia that made a large crowd dance.  And just down that same street, Self Help Graphics was hosting their 41st annual Dia de los Muertos celebration at their neighboring Mendez High School.  The area was filled with more vendors, altars, photo booths, food, and a stage for performances by artists such as Las Cafeteras.

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Dia de los Muertos at Grand Park, Los Angeles

On November 1, 2014 Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles hosted a free Dia de los Muertos celebration, with live music, art and food!  An entire space was dedicated for the display of various community altars, with participating organizations such as Inner-City Struggle.  Some performances included Los Angeles-based band, La Chamba and from Colombia, Palenke Soultribe.  This event was extremely family-friendly and it gave people a space to gather and celebrate those who have passed.

Created with flickr slideshow.

We are all Ferguson. We are all Ayotzinapa.

On October 22, 2014 Black and Brown UCLA students joined forces to stand against police brutality and to demand justice for the 43 disappeared students of Mexico.

The students met in Meyerhoff Park in front of Kerckhoff Hall at around noon.  The rally began with a brief introduction to the issues being discussed and was followed by a moment of silence for those who have died at the hands of the authorities.  Then various participants took turns reading the names of those who have been killed by police in the United States as well as the names of the 43 missing Mexican students.

The demonstration consisted of displaying artistic representations of tombstones with pictures of Black and Brown youth who have been killed by police.  The students also placed photos of the students from the Escuela Normal Rural of Ayotzinapa in Guerrero, Mexico next to the tombstones.

In addition, other participants took the initiative of writing chalkboard messages on the walls of Kerckhoff Hall in solidarity with the protest.  However, UCLA administration immediately requested a cleaning service to wash out the messages, even before the students finished writing them.  Out of consideration for the worker, the students decided to help him clean the walls and wash out the messages they had themselves written.

At the end of the demonstration, everyone was invited to join the march in Downtown Los Angeles for the National Day Against Police Brutality.  Meanwhile in Mexico, thousands of people around the entire nation marched for the students of Ayotzinapa.

Here are pictures from yesterday’s demonstration at UCLA.

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October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality

On October 22, 2014,  the Stop Mass Incarceration Network from Southern California led a march against police brutality from Olympic and Broadway to the Los Angeles Police Department in Downtown Los Angeles.  The Stop Mass Incarceration Network is a project of the Alliance for Global Justice and is a registered non-profit organization.  However, the origin of the fight for a “National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation” dates back to 1996 with the October 22 Coalition.

This march took place at 2 pm on Olympic and Broadway.  Once at the Los Angeles Police Department in front of the City Hall, various people articulated their demands and frustrations along with their sorrow for those who have been killed at the hands of the authorities.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Pintas: Breeding Ground for the New Chicano Movement

Today California prisons hold the largest prison population in the U.S. and when it comes to the S.H.U. i.e; torture kamps, Chicanos are the largest population being targeted by the state to be sent to the SHU’s.  This means that within prisons, ground zero for repression and the front line for the offensive that is aimed at Chican@, can be found in California’s pintas.  Anyone who has ever studied the natural laws of development will know that wherever you find the most injustice you will find the most resistance, for this reason I believe that the New Chicano Movement will find it’s fiercest fighters within these torture kamps.

It was no surprise to anyone who is in the pinta or who has ever been to the pinta, that the largest hunger strike in U.S. history would be spearheaded from the SHU’s in Califas.  These are the laws of dialectics.  These SHU’s and particularly the torture kamp at Pelican Bay is designed in my opinion to dehumanize us and to destroy our ability of Chicanos to not just endure these horrific conditions and specifically solitary confinement, but go on to struggle and rise up.  There is no denying the fact that the SHU has done damage to Chican@s, but something else began to happen that even surprised me, people began to develop under this repression like a nopal growing through concrete.

What destroyed the Chicano Movement of the 1970’s was the state’s COINTELPRO and other methods which sought to neutralize our Movimiento.  Chican@ organizations were infiltrated and undermined by agent provocateurs, Tio Tacos (Chicano uncle Toms) and the Feds.  Revolutionary groups like the Brown Berets, Black Panthers and the Young Lords were seen as a threat to the oppressor nation and were destroyed.  But this destruction had another effect on Aztlan where Chican@ revolutionaries no longer showed the path to liberation for the barrios of Aztlan and as a result survival groups “gangs” grew and the barrios which at one time were seen as our base areas for the Chicano Movement were now engulfed in inter conflict and self-destruction.

Chican@s in prisons have begun to see and understand that there is an offensive aimed at Aztlan and we see it because when it comes to the Chicano nation, it is imprisoned Chican@s who are feeling that bald oppression of life in Amerika.  Those of us in SHU fully understand that our oppressor has two choices for us, attempt to assimilate or die.  But only those who taste the least bribes in a society are ready to resist at all costs, just look to the Palestinians resisting to get a contemporary example of this.

What is being forged in today’s pintas is the backbone of the New Chicano Movement.  People are studying and learning from the past in order for us to change our future.  We know that Aztlan is in trouble but many out in society are caught up in the struggle to live and do not really look the repression in the eye like prisoners.  Ex prisoners will take on a more active role in us re-building Aztlan.  These pintas are transforming and Chican@s being released will do in so many cases fully conscious, therefore these pintas are breeding resistance.

What is occurring to Raza (Latin@s) who are migrating to the U.S. is disgusting.  Children being thrown in rooms stacked on top of each other, it all smacks of what the Japanese went through with the internment kamps.  Having a strong and mobilized Aztlan will fight off these attacks.  But like what the SHU is doing to the imprisoned Chican@, so too is the hunting of Brown skins by Migra and their affiliates doing for Chican@s and Raza in general, it is breeding resistance.

Our jale is not done on both sides if the prison walls.  Our lucha will continue in so many forms which will at times overlap and ebb and flow, but it will continue until Chican@s obtain self -determination.

Aztlan Libre!

-Jose H. Villarreal

michael reyes

Chicano Batman at the Getty

It’s been a month and I can still hear Bardo’s Yamaha YC-30 humming inside my ears. I get chills as I reminisce about the electric set that had everyone dancing at the Museum Courtyard of the Getty Center on July 12th. Chicano Batman performed for free as part of the Saturdays of the 405 concert series, held every summer by the Getty Center.

Chicano Batman entered the stage with smiles and waves for the audience. “We are Chicano Batman,” uttered Brado Martínez as they began the performance, after a quick set up. They then began the set with the instrumental sounds of “La Tigresa.”

The spiritual, mysticism and charged energy flowed throughout the four members, all dressed in their signature, matching sky blue dress shirts. Throughout an instrumental piece in the middle of the set, Bardo took the time to be thankful for everything important and even swayed the crowd towards the ocean to thank it.

The sweet rhythms that flow from the rhythm guitar of Carlos Arévalo, the energetic underlining bass that jumped out from Eduardo Arena, and the unforgiving liveliness of rhythm from Gabriel Villa create the danceable atmosphere that infected everyone on the floor. Bardo Martinez’s enchanting, transcendent voice also shrouded the Courtyard throughout the deep, soulful journey.

My soul felt cleansed. The humming hasn’t stopped.

Get Cycles of Existential Rhyme. Out now! Chicano Batman will also be playing at FigAt7th in Downtown Los Angeles with Las Cafeteras, Friday August 1st. Free!


Bell to Open Shelter for Central American Refugees

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More than 100 Los Angeles and City of Bell residents packed the City of Bell Community Center Wednesday evening to discuss a letter from the Salvation Army proposing to open a 30 day shelter for 137 Central American children. Thousands of children from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have recently made the dangerous journey from Central America to the U.S to flee gore and corruption that has plagued their countries.

Though the Salvation Army’s proposal is humanitarian at heart, many residents at the meeting argued against it.

A Bell community member remarked during public comment, “These people coming into our country are breaking the law. I am totally in disagreement of having these children here. These parents should have the responsibility of protecting their children. What they did is kick them out to the streets like dogs. I am in total disagreement of that.”

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Some residents spoke up in favor of housing the children in the currently abandoned warehouse that is owned by the Salvation Army. One speaker commented, “We are all products of immigration. Each and every one of us. When Murrieta residents spoke with xenophobic attitudes against these children, who have been redirected to a Detention Center where they sleep sitting up, 30-40 in a room, they do not understand the traumatizing experience of being an immigrant. Of being new again in the U.S.”

After three hours of public comment, the City Council unanimously voted on supporting the effort to turn an abandoned building into a temporary refuge.

Like many cities and neighborhoods in Southeast Los Angeles, the City of Bell is a city of immigrants, primarily Mexican and Lebanese.

This decision does not automatically mean that the warehouse will be turned into a shelter just yet.The vote was to support a letter the Salvation Army drafted to receive federal funds in order to build and upkeep the shelter. The shelter will be built once those funds are received. Bell residents will not be paying a dime.

“I think the community of Bell is a compassionate community, full of kindness and understanding,” Mayor Nestor E. Valencia said. “While not wealthy, we can come together in this humanitarian effort and be a fine example of ‘America the Beautiful.’ ”

Mayra Jones

Brown Berets visit UCLA

Professor Milo Alvarez moderated a discussion that revolved around the founding of the Brown Beret organization. The panel was composed of founding fathers and members of the Brown Berets David Sanchez and Ralph Ramirez along with Rona Fields.  The discussion took place on May 21, 2014 from 3p.m.-5p.m. in the Chicano Studies Research Library located inside the Haines Hall in the UCLA campus.

In the 1960s, in the midst of the emergence of revolutionary movements across the nation, the Brown Beret organization established itself as the vanguard of La Raza.  The organization was founded by young Chicano militants who wanted to join the social justice causas that were taking place at that moment. Their main focus was cultural nationalism, so they saw any Mexican-American as a potential Chicano. Their main purpose was to stand against institutionalized violence and discrimination, particularly within the educational system.

The Brown Berets gained popularity among the barrio youth throughout the United States, primarily because they promoted the causa Chicana of bringing equality in education. They can be credited with the East Los Angeles walkouts (also known as Chicano Blowouts) that occurred in 1968 as consequence of unequal conditions in Los Angeles Unified School District high schools, particularly those with students of color. By extension, they are also credited for the establishment of the Chicano Studies programs across the nation.

Mayra Jones


The organization also expanded from its demands for educational reform to anti-war demonstrations. By creating a movement within the movement, the Brown Berets’ Chicano Moratorium, was able to educate Chicano communities from 1969 through 1971, about the dangers of the Vietnam War for Chicanos serving in the Armed Forces.

During the Brown Berets movement, members focused on the issue of educational reform and anti-war sentiment. Even though the organization was composed of a diverse body of Chicanos and non-Chicanos, they often faced oppression and infiltrations by government agencies not only for their racial and ethnic background but also for their political views. During the discussion, some of the members stressed that not all of them were socialists, and differences of political views were present, but despite those differences, they always prioritized their focus to the issues of inequality.

The members in the panel were able to discuss several issues and influences. Among those influences, many expressed that the African-American movements of the time were very crucial in their organization. In particularly, the Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as the Black Panther movement proved to be inspirational and also cautionary tales to the Brown Berets.

Women’s roles were also addressed during the discussion, leading to different perspective from an all-male panel (with the exception of a female professor who was participating via Skype but who was not a member of the Brown Berets). Ultimately, after Professor Alvarez addressed the sexism that many women members expressed they experienced, a member in the panel attributed the success of the movement to the work of women from free clinics to the front lines. They were described as being the “brick and mortar” of the organization.

The panelist and Brown Beret member, David Sanchez, stated that he is running for the 40th Congressional District that encompasses East Los Angeles along other adjacent cities. He asked for the support of the audience in his new endeavor. Sanchez also stated that his main focus was the promotion and continuity of Chicano Studies programs in Los Angeles County.

Mayra Jones