Rallying for Education

By Samantha Lim and Esmeralda Alvarez

LOS ANGELES – The two day protest at the University of California Regents (UC Regents) meeting demonstrated a state-wide solidarity against fee hikes in California’s universities. Zealous students and staff stood together outside Covel Commons holding signs with expressions such as “Bail Out Education” and “Regents: Happy Thanks-Taking.” Students in all black held banners with “Mourn the Death of Public Education” painted in red as well as cardboard tombstones saying “RIP Public Education.”

The passion of UCLA fifth-year physics and Asian-American studies student, Pao, was particularly remarkable, especially in the morning hours. Calling out “who’s university?” Pao rallied protesters to “take that one little step” in voicing their opinion. Nearing the end of his career as an undergrad, Pao commented that these fee hikes were not going to affect him as much as others he knew who can barely survive as it is. He protested for them and for future generations asking, “If we don’t do this now, who’s gonna fight for them?”

Just to the side of the noisy, sign-holding crowd, was an advanced modern/postmodern dance class practicing Tai Chi. Ian Isles, a senior worlds arts and cultures (WAC) student at UCLA explained the WAC department’s decision to close the building and hold classes outside “so everyone comes to support [the protest and] so people can see what we’re doing.” Though silent, the class’ display was one way of showing the Board of Regents precisely who and what their decision affects.

UCLA students made up only part of protesters, with students and faculty from every UC campus arriving throughout the day and sleeping overnight in an on-campus “tent city” in order to protest the Nov. 19 vote. UC Santa Cruz Political Science student Reymundo Sauceda expressed a sense of loss of our public institutions that resonates across UC campuses. “Every year their proposed increases makes [the UC system] more privatized. Can we still call ourselves public?” Sauceda asked. Further, he expressed the sense of despair and abandonment that students so furiously felt and continue to feel, remarking, “The Regents are supposed to be the gate keepers…they should be taking a step with us…they should unite with students. They can’t see that they’re going against us by just having the vote on the table.”

The 20-1 vote passed an increase in fees from $7,788 to $10,302 beginning next fall, as well as a 15% fee increase this January.

Click here to read UC President Yudof’s letter concerning fee-increases.

Footage of the protest is also available here.

Update: Nov. 30, 2009

The UC Academic Senate issued this statement in regards to the protests held Nov. 18-19.

El Salvador: Healing wounds, new and old

Earlier this month, El Salvador suffered heavy rains and landslides resulting from Hurricane Ida. According to the National Police, the death toll is almost 200, many more are without homes. Most of the damage occurred in the eastern San Vicente region where many crops were destroyed. President Mauricio Funes declared a national emergency and seeks to deliver aid as fast as possible. According to Funes, lack of risk prevention and disregard for the deteriorating environment are partly to blame for the crisis.

In other news, Nov. 16 marked the 20th anniversary of the murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter while they slept, a brutal attack by members of the army during the height of the country’s civil war. President Funes presented the victims’ families with the country’s highest honor attempting to atone for past governments who historically downplayed or denied its suspected connections to the killings.

For more information on El Salvador’s current weather crisis, see the link below:

http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/World/Story/A1Story20091116-180190.html

For more information on the anniversary of those murdered on Nov. 16, 1989 see the link below:

http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=347484&CategoryId=23558

Highlights of Nov. 19 UC Protest

LOS ANGELES – Over a two day period, UC students came to UCLA to protest at the UC Regents meeting which took place at Covel Commons.  The protest started as early as midnight and ended as late as 7p.m., with the release of Campbell Hall.  UC Regents approved the tuition and fees increase, but protests continued in order to demonstrate to The Regents that both students and workers will not stop with their struggle.

Video Footage: Maria Renteria.

UC Protest Day 2 from LaGente.org on Vimeo.

Organizing to Keep a UC System

Liat Krawczyk – New America Media; Video Post: Nov 14, 2009

The University of California is proposing fee increases of 32 percent, enrollment cuts for in-state students, layoffs, furloughs and increased class sizes. Many critics see a dangerous trend in these changes, one that is turning the public university system into a more private and exclusive one. This privatization, as they call it, leads to commodification of higher education, inequality in access to the university, funding disparities among departments, and a union-hostile environment. Students, faculty, and workers are now coming together in a struggle to save California’s public higher-education system. Be part of the action, join the CALL TO ACTION at UCLA on Wednesday November 18 to Thursday November 19.

Reconnecting Broken Links

Entering a concentration camp at 13, Benjamin Waserman, a Holocaust survivor, moved to the United States in hopes of starting a new life, yet a big chunk of his past was missing. His daughter, Kastle, with the intent of learning more about her ancestry decided to do something about it.

She proceeded to contact the Red Cross of Los Angeles and submitted a Family Tracing Services request. Family Tracing Services is provided by the Red Cross free of charge to anybody in the U.S. looking for a close relative in another country. In order to qualify, separation or loss of contact needs to have occurred because of armed conflict or a natural disaster.

Kastle’s efforts proved fruitful as her father was reconnected with his long-lost cousin who relocated in Paris, restoring a link within the family history.*

Now imagine similar success stories from the countries devastated by blood-thirsty civil wars such as the guerrilla filled mountainous regions of El Salvador or the grim jungles of Guatemala.

*The Wasermans’ full story and more information can be found at www.redcrossla.org

Repainting History at the Los Angeles River

LOS ANGELES – History can be taught in many ways, from lectures and textbooks, to videos and murals.  Founder of Social Public Art Resource Center, Judy Baca, taught Los Angeles County the history of its own people through the creation of the Great Wall of Los Angeles mural in 1974. Throughout the years, Judy, fellow muralists, and at risk youth expanded the mural to it’s current state of 2,754 feet. Now the Great Wall is losing it brilliant colors, bringing Judy, new, and past muralist – including UCLA students – to the restoration of what is now part of the history of Los Angeles. The October restoration is just the beginning of this process, which will continue until next year. These photos follow the restoration, which Judy says, “is healing the wound of the river.”

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Grupo Folklorico de UCLA: Becoming a reality

Every Tuesday and Thursday night, Grupo Folklorico de UCLA practices on the Bruin Plaza stage. From bailes folkloric del Norte to bailes de Veracruz, Grupo Folklorico performs regional dances to tell the stories of Mexico’s past. Grupo Folkorico attracts students who wish to express their love for Mexican traditional culture.

Beginning in 1966, Grupo Folklorico was originally housed in the UCLA Dance Department. Due to budget cuts in the 1980s, the group lost its place but was rescued by alumni and community members. However, under new overseers, student members had little influence in decision-making. With cabinet meetings held in East Los Angeles and lasting up to four hours, students went out of their way to participate in the organization that supposedly served their demographic. “They were using student registration fees to fund [the group] when students were not getting some of the privileges of being in [it],” said Rosemarie Molina, a fourth-year sociology and global studies student.

Student members took action, developing a student constitution to consolidate the non-student membership into one vote. In 2007, with the help of mentors, the student members transformed Grupo Folkorico into student-run organization. With a new administration, Grupo Folklorico wrote proposals to USAC and held fundraisers to revive the organization.

With less than 10 students members in 2006-2007, Groupo Folklorico tripled in size by the end of 2008. Grupo Folklorico further expanded its horizons by reaching out to the community. “We have a program at Freemont High, which is a Title I school in South Central,” said Jearelly Pinedo, third-year sociology and public health minor and the 2008-2009 assistant coordinator. “We teach the students dances and hold workshops on nutrition and overall health. It’s a fun experience and you feel good doing it.”

“Grupo Folklorico promotes culture and diversity. No experience is necessary, and it helps students do something outside of school,” said Ruby Rivera, fourth-year Spanish & Community & Culture and Chicano/a studies student. Grupo Folklorico is a home-away for its members.

Grupo Folklorico has flourished into a strong, unified dance troupe. With its madrino and padrino buddy systems, current members reach out to new members to make them feel welcomed into the familia. Futhermore, Grupo Folklorico has also built networks with other Latino/a clubs on the UCLA campus.

Grupo Folklorico has endured successes and losses in the past 40 years, but the group maintains an inexhaustible enthusiasm and dedication to its art.

Printed Winter 2009

Mariachi and More: Mariachi Uclatán

The legacy of Mariachi Uclatlán is deeply rooted in the cultural history of UCLA and is currently under the artistic direction of Jesus “Chuy” Guzman, Grammy-Award winning artistic director of the renowned Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano. Leticia Soto, an Ethnomusicology Ph.D. student and assistant coordinator for the Mariachi Uclatlán explains that the organization name is rooted in Nahuatl, an indigenous language from Mexico. “Tlan” means land; adhering it to the name of the university in Mariachi Uclatlán literally means “Mariachi Land of UCLA.” The group has solidified a union between the musical and cultural history of Mexico and the academic expansion of UCLA.

The group’s development began in the 1960s when UCLA granted ethnomusicologists with academic space to form an ensemble in exploration of the Mexican culture outside of Mexico. The current ensemble consists of 13 musicians, all of whom are trained in at least one instrument and vocally.

In the past two years, they’ve managed to assert themselves as an integral part of the Ethnomusicology Department. Guitarist Mary Alfaro explains, “UCLA is the first university to have a mariachi class in the country. So I believe that this group should always be strong. We strengthen what UCLA has to offer.”

Last year, the group was invited to perform at the Mexican Embassy in Los Angeles in honor of anthropologist Jesus Jauregui’s new book “El Mariachi: Símbolo Musical de México,” which chronicles the origins and the evolution of this music. The group also seeks to fuse the aspects of education and artistic performance in an academic setting. “We can educate our audience through music. In educating our audiences, structures, ideologies, and stereotypes can change,” Soto said.

The group draws strength from its historical significance to this university and also their dynamic as an ensemble. I asked them to choose a song that they felt was definitive of the group. Soto, along with several others commented, “When I think of Mariachi Uclatlán, I think of “Fiesta en el Corazón.” Violinist Vanessa Sanchez added, “Yeah, it’s what we’re all about. A party in the heart.” The success that Mariachi Uclatlán has obtained in such a short time can directly be attributed to their collaborative efforts to expand the influence of their music beyond an artistic level; they seek to jointly fuse love and expand their audience’s scope of appreciation for mariachi music.

El Vuh

El Vuh, comprised of Victor E, E-rise, and Zero, is an independent hip-hop group based in Los Angeles, California.  Their sophomore release, “Elvuhlution,” brings illuminating rhymes based on the philosophy of the Mexica and Maya people prior the Conquest. Named after the post-classic Mayan “Book of the Community,” thePopol Vuh, El Vuh, believes in passing history and knowledge to future generations through their music, releasing wisdom and consciousness that is rarely heard in mainstream hip-hop music today.

El Vuh uses hip-hop to inspire and educate while challenging us to live up to our responsibilities to family and community. Combining English, Spanish, and Nahualt, their powerful music reminds us that the culture and history of Chicanos goes beyond the hostile takeover of Mexican lands and the imposition of foreign languages like English or Spanish.Nahualt words and concepts remind today’s generation of a philosophy that dates back centuries, and of traditions that need to preserved.

For example, in “Red Road Warriors,” El Vuh urges us to “stay moving, like ollin, flowing. My soul sings with life and light, which sol brings. I know things ain’t right throughout these countries: corrupted officials killing young seeds. But we, the people, outnumber their guns.” Additionally, the track encourages a shift from “street pandilleros” to “eagle guerreros”—as a denouncement of gang violence—while also urging us to retain our language and customs, declaring that our lengua “is the gold and that the Spanish never stole.” style=”margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; “>

In “Native Sisters,” El Vuh pays tribute to the women in our community, expressing respect while apologizing for prior transgressions. The song is particularly extended to las madres solteras and the guerrilleras who persevere and struggle for wellbeing of their family.

Armed with the triumphs, accomplishments, and crimes that surround the centuries, El Vuh lays out what we all should know. Are you listening?

For more information, and to watch the video codex, visit www.elvuh.com and myspace.com/elvuh.