Calle 13: Música como arma educativa

“Hagan lo que los hace feliz. A veces se tiene que hacer cosas que no nos hace feliz para después poder hacer lo que sí nos hace feliz…pero no se mueran haciendo lo que no los hace feliz.”

Esto dijo el vocalista René Pérez del grupo musical urbano, Calle 13, en su concierto en el observatorio de Santa Ana, California el 22 de mayo.  Este concierto fue parte del mas reciente tour promocionando el nuevo album MultiViral. 

Les voy a confesar que René ha sido indirectamente mi mentor por ya casi nueve anos, desde que sacó su primer disco Calle 13 en el 2005Su primer sencillo fue “Atrévete-te-te,” una canción bailable que incita a la gente a liberarse de las normas sociales.

Esta canción, junto con el resto del album, nos quedó perfecto a mi hermano mayor y a mí, los jóvenes rebeldes del hogar.

Pero poco después de escuchar “Atrévete-te-te,”  me encontré con la canción “Querido FBI.”  René sacó este tema como denuncia contra el FBI por el asesinato de Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, líder del grupo revolucionario Los Macheteros, quienes luchan por la independencia de Puerto Rico.

Así fue como empezó mi educación sobre Latinoamérica por medio de la música de Calle 13.  De ahí entonces me dedique a analizar cada canción que sacaban para descifrar historias sobre una tierra conectada a mi por medio de mis ancestros.  Y es que en la escuela nunca aprendí la historia del país de mis papas.  Además de mi hambre por conocer más sobre Latinoamérica, tenía hambre de aprender historia verdadera, algo que no recibía en la escuela, algo aparte de los “indios y los peregrinos.”

Cuando empecé la facultad, tomé clases que enseñaban sobre temas que yo ya había aprendido por medio de la música de Calle 13.  Me di cuenta de lo importante que es la música y ya nunca mas escuché la radio.  No quería seguir siendo envenenada por letras vendidas e insignificantes de artistas sin aparente substancia.

Toda la música que empecé a escuchar tenía mas propósito que hacer la lista de los Billboard, y usualmente esa música no la tocan en la radio.  Y me dedique a compartir esta música, promocionándola como instrumento educativo.  Por ejemplo, he puesto talleres para jóvenes de secundarias sobre como usar la música para aprender cosas referente a [email protected] mismos, su historia y cultura.  Se que como yo, no están aprendiendo material relevante a [email protected] en la escuela, y si no sabemos de donde venimos, no sabremos hacia donde vamos.

Hoy en día, sigo escuchando a Calle 13 y a [email protected] artistas que usan su talento para ofrecer música con propósito positivo.   También estoy intentando desarrollar maneras de incorporar música dentro del curriculum educativo para escuelas primarias y secundarias.

Esto no se trata de promocionar a Calle 13, se trata de reconocer que la música es poderosa y se tiene que ser mas conciente al escucharla y al hacerla.

The L.A. community mobilizes against Monsanto

On May 24th Los Angeles residents marched against Monsanto, a multinational agricultural and chemical company. Among their main grievances towards the company was the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as food products and the continual resistance from Monsanto to allow GMO products to be labeled as such.

Protestors started to gather at 10 A.M. at Elderberries Cafe on Sunset Boulevard and Sierra Bonita Avenue. The crowded vegan cafe was packed with people moving around to prepare for the march. Some created signs against Monsanto, others distributed non-GMO seedlings among protestors, and a few sat down to sip their last coffee before heading out to the march.

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This family-friendly and peaceful march was composed by family members, children, occupiers (from the Occupy Wall Street movement) , indigenous organizations, other community members, and even dogs.

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At 10: 30 A.M. people started to march on the sidewalks towards Plummer Park, where people gathered around to express their grievances towards Monsanto. A group of Aztec dancers arrived at the rally to perform a dance to the beat of the drums while protestors chanted “No GMOs!”

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An elder of the indigenous dance group directed the dance and spoke of the importance of working together for future generations. “All the energies and elements allow us to be here together . . . we need to continue working together because it’s for our children, all the children of all color, of all languages, of all beliefs. For the children! . . . For mother Earth!”

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A high school junior coming to his first march carried a green flag, which he described as a pro-environmental and equality flag. “I [do] not like how corporations are poisoning our food and monopolizing and buying our politicians,” he said, explaining the reason he decided to come to the march.

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An activist couple fresh from North Carolina, Victoria and Victor, also joined the march. “I didn’t know what GMO’s were for the longest time and then when I found out what they were I eliminated them from my diet. It greatly improved my health . . . I was taking a lot of medications and I was very [sick]. I realized how horrible it affected everybody. I came out because this is the way to speak against [Monsanto],” said Victoria.

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Clinton Clad-Johnson, a History and Political Science UCLA student, came out to the march to demonstrate solidarity with the Los Angeles community and to denounce the “criminality” of Monsanto. “UCLA students need to attend more protests in the L.A. area,” said Clinton.

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The march continue through Sunset Boulevard, stopping at Hollywood High School were elementary age kids spoke against Monsanto. Continuing through Highland Avenue the march arrived at the crowded heart of Hollywood where police officers and pedestrians directed their attention to the march that consisted of 200-250 participants.

The march culminated in the plating of non-GMO seedlings in the Hollywood Gateway Sculpture, where Wolverine assisted the protesters in their efforts.

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This protest was one of many planned in various cities across the world to protest Monsanto and the use of GMOs as food products. Activists claim GMOs cause organ damage, sterility, birth defects, auto-immune conditions, infant mortality and many more diseases. They claim that Monsanto uses harmful practices towards the environment through habitat destruction, mono-cropping, soil infertility,  and by decreasing the world’s bee population. Many activists are skeptical that regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are going to assess the health and environmental damages caused by Monsanto due to a constant revolving door of Monsanto employees into these regulatory agencies. That is why activists have opted to take their concerns to the streets and to their congressional representatives.

Como un filme

Tiempo: El amanecer 

A punto de ser las siete de la mañana, o seis? Alguna hora que ya maquillaba el cielo rosita. Me encuentro en el sexto piso de las viviendas estudiantiles de mi universidad. Con la mirada cansada, me pierdo al ver las mansiones casi idénticas en infraestructura (multi-million worth) que están al otro lado de una ventana enorme enfrente de mí. Volteo a mi alrededor y la güera que siempre va de parranda los jueves y viernes, está de puro milagro estudiando para los exámenes que estan por venir. Mis ojos se atraen hacia mi mesita repleta de hojas con términos que aún no me memorizo, figuras matemáticas y otras lindas cositas que aún no sé de nada, nadita. Un comezón no me dejaba de chingar en mi pierna derecha, lo noté por la punta de mis uñas rojas que ya me había pelado la piel. El brillo de mi vieja laptop Hewlett-Packard, (mi humildisima tía se la ganó en la rifa de los domingos) (no le hace competencia a las “PROS” que todo el mundo tiene) me coqueteaba cada vez que chateaba con la mujer de las nubes por el Skype o el nuevo app del Facebook que era básicamente la misma idea de chatear por video-webcam. A ella la conocí poco después de cruzar por Mexicali en un disco-bar llamado “Tocinos”, que por cierto tiene un sentido musical pésimo, solo para conseguir su nombre. Con su nombre ya es suficiente por la maravilla de la página Feiciana.

Hola mechita”, su saludo siempre me despierta ese hormigueo entre mis piernas. Acepto su chat ya con la lujuria prendida y la brightness de mi pantalla encendida a todo nivel para verle todo. Rápido doy fuga para escapar de este salón incrédulo del estudio y voy en camino a mi cuartito con una sonrisa de oreja a oreja… mi sangre cayendo, acumulando en esta bolsa carnal, latente, creciendo en size que me cargo dentro de los boxer briefs por la gravedad, o tal vez porque me levanté a una velocidad increíble. No sé.

Su carita me rinde, atorada sin ninguna señal de vida por la mendiga señal del wi-fi lento.

[Por medio de los aparatos como el feis o Skype ella siempre me permitía gozar de su imagen reflejada que me permitía jalar toda punta de mi sexualidad.]

Les cuento que a pesar de la distancia, sus promesas de convertir nuestra fantasía cyber-fantástica se convertirían en realidad.

Querer es poder mi amor”, me decía al despedirse. Esas palabritas que regaban en mi teclado de mi H-P blanci-negra por la mugre. Ya con el calcetín pegajoso, olor agrio lo hago puño, lo aviento debajo de la cama junto los demás. Ruge mi pensamiento por apretar su cafecito cuerpo cerca de mi, masajear su cabello negro con highlights claros, morder sus labios (que benditos, que grandes y rositas son), además de obviamente penetrar su muralla tierna y suave con mi engordado locomotor sin freno: dentro-fuera, dentro-fuera, dentro-fuera hasta que, uyyy, hasta atravesar y romper su pared sudada.

Por cierto, yo me encuentro en la esquina de Los Ángeles, me quedan cerca los malecones con cruces verdes que promocionan la marijuana recetada y los puestos llenos de camisas baratas con imagenes del pop-culture. Soy un estudiante, joven, extremadamente alto para ser Latino. Mi voz no se proyecta a largas distancias, tengo una cicatriz en la espalda que mantiene todas de mis inocentes-impenetrables actos sexuales con lo menos ropa posible. No he tenido pareja, siempre lo culparé por ser una persona que acaba de venir del extranjero. (En México aún estaba muy chiquillo para andar en esas cosas pícaras) Soy de esos que se enamoran fácil y muy rápido, pero de cualquier cosa. Lo nuevo es atractivo, intento gozar de muchas cosas nuevas pero es difícil intentar gozarlo todo.

El día que la imagen de la pantalla blanca me mandó un mensaje prometía, “Mechita, ya tengo mi boleto para EL-AY! Nos veremos en dos semanas flamita (:” Ella me dice “mechita” o “flamita” por lo caliente que me hacen sus fotitos desnudas, y por lo fácil que me enciende el mal carácter. Tengo problemas del bravísmo que proviene del bajo estima del Mexicano-machista. Yo por lo menos lo acepto. Pero ella aún así me quiere (yo pienso). Me promete que en dos semanas la tendré vida ante mi.  Pues verás, dos semanas de profundo nerviosismo. Esos nervios inmundos me perseguían en todos rumbos, en todas partes. Las dos semanas me preparé físicamente llendo al gimnasio para tener mejor figura, leí un sin fin de ensayos eróticos, la pornografía reemplazo los materiales didácticos, y las conferencias de los profes se convirtieron en ejercicios con mi mano en el baño. Tenía…            un…            problema. Yo me ficho de ser un galán que había tenido varias experiencias sexuales pero en realidad (no les digas a las güeras) aún no he tenido mi primera COMPLETA experiencia sexual.

Tiempo: El afternoon

Les cuento, me desperté con la imaginación picada al objetivo: tener a esa cafecita de frente de mi desnuda pero esa pintura no me la puedo sacar de la mente ni en pleno almuerzo. Últimamente las ganas por gozarme a una mujer han estado necias corriendo a mis alrededores, en shortcitos sexies. Me dio hambre y se me antojo una orden del mordisco en mi oreja… que me hinche, deseo que ella me chupe mi cuello hasta dejarme la huella morada atravesada. Quiero mi saliva escurriendo en su pecho; siempre me imagino ese último empujón hacia la cintura soltando toda la éxtasis del rechillo de mi alma impura como algo mágico y surreal. [Les digo amigos, es por primera vez que me he soltado libremente sin protección con una linda muchacha, esa del otro estado, la que me visita en Los Ángeles para hacerme suyo, y yo para aprovecharlo todo.]

Las horas no son mis amigas y me tienen esperando una eternidad. La espero ansiosamente, más o menos al medio-día, o poquito después, en lo alto de la montaña huésped de bellezas de todo el mundo de mi escuela. Al invertir en mis deseos por estas dos semanas, me di el lujo de imaginarme acostado con algunas de las cabello amarillo, piernas blanca-transparentes, uñas rosas que caminan simpáticamente a lado de mi mesa. La torta (una pésima torta) que sostengo en mi boca se convierte en el muslo, en la ingle, de la que acaba de pasar en mi lado diestro. Me imagino lo frío de su piel al levantar su pierna para lo abierto de mi boca, me imagino lo salado que sabe después de su ejercicio…rechino dentro de mi mente. Lo salado de la carne caí en mi plato. Sus ojos azules brillosos gozan de mi movimiento furioso, mis manos la abren sin inquietud y siento la abertura carnosa darme la bienvenida: “Welcome home baby” me dicen con toda la fiereza-(güera)rosita depilada-pura posible. El aguacate se escapa de una esquina de mi torta de carnitas. Que mala torta.

Tiempo: La tarde

“Andale, dejame el cuarto, lo necesito por unos dos días.”, le ruego a mi camarada con quien comparto el cuarto que he mantenido super limpio en lo que va del año escolar.

“¿Y a mi que?, llevatela a un hotel, ¡no seas codo!”, me dice que no sea codo y que la lleve a un hotel el muy imbécil que ha tenido novia por tres meses y ya la tiene reservada al matrimonio. A él le gustan las mujeres asiáticas pequeñas. La muchacha, muy americanizada está contenta con lo que le puede ofrecer su galán Latino. Él se llama Gael pero yo le digo“nalgas” porque se afeita todos los días y le queda la cara con un brillo extenso y con unos cachetones gigantescos que hasta calan en la luz. (Es broma Gael)  Pero es verdad que esta cachetón y que tiene un profundo brillo el idiota. Se ha de aplicar mucha crema nivea después de bañarse, o el producto del aftershave ha de ser barato.

“Sabes que se ma va hacer con ella, no seas culero”, lo intento convencer.

“Que venga, y te voy a creer”, (no me cree) “ Y eso que ni me das los thanks ya que te rindo la privacidad de hacer tus cochinadas cada vez que entras como un animal conectado con ella.”, el aborigen tiene razón.

Mi kiko, en cuestión de lealtad como amigo siempre me ha dado las recomendaciones que cualquier ‘uchacho quiere escuchar: ni que no hubieran más. Es obvio que mi compañero nunca se ha enamorado profundamente de una visión perfecta como la que es mi ¿novia? del Skype. Pobre de su novia. Pero el tiempo es oro y mi compatriota me dio la palabra que me dará la noche (solo me costó 35 dolares y unas comidas) ya que éste rey iba cumplir con lo que deseará su reina que en este momento se encuentra en los cielos pensando en mi. Así que con mucho detalles pensé en ella una vez más al bañarme, al acomodar mis calcetines morados, al abrochar mis pantalones negros… ¿la saludó  de beso…de lengua? ¿le agarro la mano, y allá abajito? ¿Y si ya no me encuentra guapo? Tales preguntas como me joden, pero ya que. Ya voy en camino, en el autobús 720 rumbo LAX, miro mi reloj negro con la manchita blanca por el rayón que le di contra la pared y marca las 8: 43 PM. “Vamos bien mechita, tengo tiempo”, reflexiono con las manos temblando en sudor.

Tiempo: La noche

Tengo una presión en el pecho por lo nervios de ver por primera vez en persona a la muchacha de los videochats. No lo puedo creer, es todo como un filme estilo Cuarón, o Iñárritu— increíble. ¡Ella me ha dicho que me quiere! Hace un frío delicioso que acaricia lo rojo de la punta de mi cigarrillo que he jalado con un placer. Ya me calmé. Me fijo en la hora y ya marcan las 10 PM. Ella ya aterrizó con una suavidad en el camino rígido de mi corazón.

Sin parpadear, observó las escaleras electronicas del aeropuerto, analizó cada una de las caras que bajan con destino a su hogar, excepto mi carita que viene por mi. En cámara lenta ella tiene perfectamente colocadas cada una sus facciones. Es perfecta. Es exactamente como la había imaginado, de pies a cabeza tiene lo que las imagenes sexies jamás pudieron ofrecerme: su olor dulce —al abrazar con poca fuerza para que sintiera el amor que tengo por ella. Ella me dice un poco de palabritas que no llegan a mis oídos pero no lo puedo soportar, la tengo que sostener en mis brazos. Después de agarrar su mano durante nuestro infinito ride de regreso al cuarto — morado con la luz de la luna asomándose por la ventana— nos dimos el lujo de darnos unos cuantos besitos mientras yo sostengo su maleta chica en mi mano derecha. I love her for everything, aún no puedo creer que todo esto sea cierto. Se me fue la parada, y terminamos dando una vuelta a Ocean Blvd. en Santa Monica beach.  Vamos de regreso a mi cuarto. Ya con la parada concreta.

“Mamasita”

“Chula”

“Baby”

“Chiquita”

Estas son unas de las pocas palabras forzadas que me da su cintura bailando al encontrar la mía mientras hacemos de nuestro placer un juguete. Lo primero que yo noté es que ella tiene mucha experiencia en este tipo de placeres nocturnos en comparación de mi virginidad. Pero para mi ella aún es perfecta porque es la primera vez para mi engordado penecíl. Ella me dio la dirección en todo sentido de la palabra, como un director de avioneta, ella me dio las señas de luz para estacionar este picudo objeto adentro de su pequeña estación. Chillidos rugen, la sal de su cuerpo poco a poco ejerce hasta llegar a mi lengua dulce. El contraste es perfecto. Es inevitable mi amor que ella ha levantado en mi pecho. Tengo que ignorar todas aquellas estúpidas peleas que tuvimos por su historial. Ahora es mi turno de gozar de su amor.

“Te amo mechita”, me dice. “Te amo mi amor”, le contesto.

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

UCLA’s 29th Annual Pow Wow

Last weekend, the American Indian Student Association (AISA) at UCLA presented their 29th annual Pow Wow. Members from the Los Angeles community and around the country gathered around to celebrate the culture and diversity of nations of native communities. The event included everything from food, vendors, singing and dance competitions.

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Maria Varela

Comunidad Profiles: Community Rights Campagin

Community Rights Campaign, Los Angeles

The Community Rights Campaign tells it like it is and calls out the systematic oppression that tries to hold back our Black and Brown youth.

The Community Rights Campaign is organizing in L.A. high schools and among L.A.’s 500,000 low-income bus riders to build campaigns. The campaigns push back the growing police/prison state and push forward an expanded social welfare state. They also push back the police/prisons/punishment approach to organizing society and push forward a resources/reparations/redistribution approach.

“When I first organized at Roosevelt High School, they caught my attention when they were running a workshop on truancy tickets and started to discuss the school to prison pipeline. After that workshop I kept getting involved because CRC was my first exposure to politics and also to black and brown solidarity.” – Cindy Castro, Community Organizer.

Thestrategycenter.org

FROM PLAYGROUNDS TO PRISON YARDS

Youth of color are targeted and portrayed as misguided youth who need to be under surveillance. The act of criminality is racialized, thus targeting Black and Brown youth. A place where a student’s knowledge and success should be fostered and supported has become a place where students are criminalized and targeted. School districts utilize suspensions, expulsions, and even arrests to reprimand minor misbehavior.

Among the various reasons why Black and Brown youth are being “pushed out” of school are school closings, lack of relevant curriculum, and harsher punishments such as zero tolerance policies. The demographic that is most affected by zero tolerance policies is youth of color.

Zero tolerance discipline policies essentially authorize suspension or expulsion of students for what the school considers misconduct. This policy of zero tolerance that is being implemented in schools is having a direct effect on the students of color. Minor behaviors receive serious consequences. Having a cell phone or dress code violations can lead to suspension or even expulsion. The false idea that harsh discipline makes schools safer is sending youth of color to the criminal justice system. A single suspension increases the risk of the student being pushed out. A school-based arrest can not only cause emotional trauma for youth, but also derail the student’s job opportunities or acceptance to college. Suspensions lead to expulsions and arrests, ultimately sending millions of students to the criminal justice system for minor behavior. This cycle of punishment perpetuates the oppression forced upon communities of color. The zero tolerance discipline policies were implemented to make schools safer. Yet, research shows that after one generation since the first implementation of these policies, schools are not safer and the youth of color in the schools are being put on a path towards the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline is a direct pathway youth of color are forced upon in school districts. Prison-like environments, harsh discipline, and underinvestment are the foundation for the School-to-Prison Pipeline. The police presence on campus, zero tolerance policies, and school closures are the catalyst to why youth of color are being pushed out of schools and into prisons. Annually, more than 3,000,000 students receive an out of school suspension. More than 70% of students who are involved in school arrests are Black and Brown youth.

The Youth Justice Coalition is an organization that strives to battle injustices placed upon youth of color. Alberto Cazarez, a youth organizer for the Youth Justice Coaliton, addresses the epidemic of the School-to-Jail Track that is spreading among youth of color. A member of the Lobos (Leading Out Brothers and sisters Out of the System) Group, Cazarez says Youth Justice Coalition is constantly in the barrios and school systems trying to fix the problem through campaigns and by leading presentations and workshops.

The Youth Justice Coalition refers to this injustice as the “School-to-Jail Track” opposed to the “School-to-Prison Pipeline.” This is because a pipeline only has one way in and one way out. This does not correlate to the experiences of the youth of color. Rather, like a track, there are many ways to get into the justice system.

Cazarez believes the catalyst to the problem is the schools system. The authoritative environment is counterproductive to the progress of students of color. Zero tolerance policies, too, are detrimental to students of color. “The zero tolerance policies are criminalizing young people for being young people,” Cazarez states.

Cazarez believes one way we can overcome the injustices of the School-to-Jail track is through the reconstruction of the school system. He advocates for the removal of barbwire, metal detectors, police on campus and the implementation of on-site counselors and more intervention workers. Intervention workers are counselors who students know and trust. These workers embody the idea of transformative justice. They do not punish the students for misbehavior. The workers sit down with the students and talk about the root of the problem.

Youth Justice Coalition believes in restorative justice. This alternative method gives more support for students of color and rids school systems of policies that criminalize youth.

Despite the cycle of punishment placed upon youth of color, people will continue to put youth where they belong—behind desks, not bars.

DIVERSITY, DIVESTMENT, DISCRIMINATION

No ifs, ands or buts about it. No pretext, no qualifiers, no asterisks. Let us simply acknowledge the fact that UCLA is racist. For anyone who takes issue with this statement, may I remind you of the absolute shit-show we refer to as campus climate at UCLA. In my past four years here, I have experienced and seen racist viral rants, misogynistic and racist letters posted publicly for the world to see, racial discrimination lawsuits filed against UCLA, racist and misogynistic graffiti on the doors of students, reports detailing instances of race-based discrimination against faculty members, daily microaggressions of all sorts, even faculty questioning the merits of students of color.

And those events don’t even address issues of structural racism at UCLA. Retention and access efforts of students of color are ridiculously underfunded, and a diversity requirement is not included in our general education. Students of color, queer students, undocumented students, women, and pretty much anyone who falls outside of the heterosexual white middle class lifestyle are thrown into a culture of constant attack.

Perhaps nowhere is this more relevant than the failed student government resolution to divest from U.S. companies that directly profit from committing lasting and physical harm against Palestinians. A majority of the undergraduate student council members (Avi Oved, Sunny Singh, Darren Ramalho, Armen Hadjimanoukian, Lauren Rogers, Sam Haws, and Jessica Kim) squandered a unique opportunity to stand for human rights. A majority of our student representatives ruled that it was more important to spare the feelings of anti-divestment students than it was to stop investing money in companies that destroy Palestinian homes, deny their freedom of movement and wall them away like animals. A majority of our student representatives decided this and essentially condoned the subtext that Palestinians deserve to live in such conditions. By knowingly financing these atrocities, the pain of Palestinian students’ relatives is disregarded.

At this undergraduate student council meeting (which lasted for over 11 hours) I heard racist, Islamophobic, hateful, and vile speech. I heard students normalize and belittle the violence and human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people. I repeatedly heard students against the divestment bill equate Palestinians to terrorists, claiming that if this resolution were to pass, their families, the state of Israel, and indeed any semblance of democracy in the Middle East would come under immediate bomb threat. I heard over and over and over again that students who supported divestment—including Jewish students— were blatant anti-Semitics.

During this meeting, a friend of mine was cornered in the bathroom and asked to defend her viewpoints as to why the Palestinian and Latina/o struggle are connected. Brushing aside the clear intimidation methods used against her, my friend replied that one of the companies included in the resolution was Cemex—the same corporation which builds the increasingly militarized U.S.-Mexico border. Collectively, Latina/o students voiced support for divestment not only because of the brutal abuse of power executed by military occupation and the application of settlements towards a people, but because our Raza can relate to the concept of invasion, dispossession, occupation, exploitation and discrimination. We stated our unwillingness to contribute to companies that use our money to keep people restricted with arbitrary borders and checkpoints, which is something we are all too familiar with.

The protection of white privilege at this university has never been so obvious to me. UCLA, your message is heard loud and clear. This institution reaffirmed that they don’t care if Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Latina/o, Chicana/o, Indian, Feminist, Pakistani, Indigenous American, Vietnamese, Pilipino, Black, Queer, Afghan, Iranian, Armenian, and Sikh students come together for a just cause. They don’t care that students of color were united in overwhelming support of divestment. They don’t care that human rights violations are being committed with our tuition. When it comes down to it, our lives and our issues are somehow less valuable.

I emphatically reject the claim that UCLA values diversity. It has characterized Palestinians (and many others) as second-class students. I am tired of the empty promises and the patronizing pats on the back. I am tired of the tokenization of students of color whose happy, smiling faces are plastered on every UCLA advertisement. Never have I felt so alienated on this campus.

To the Bruin community and the greater Los Angeles community, I say that the violence, racism, and discrimination against us ends now. It ends now because we say it will end, because we are not being silent any longer. In solidarity y con cariño!

ESCRIBIENDO PA’ LA GENTE DESDE 1971

On January 17, 2014, three members of La Gente’s original staff came to speak to current staff members. Sam Paz, Josie Alavarez, and Laura “Woody” Rangel spoke of the past struggles and accomplishments of La Gente’s inception. Due to a lack of outlets for Latin@ sensitive articles, student activists created their own Latin@ newspaper, La Gente, in February of 1971. Paz, the first editor-in-chief, was surprised that it has lasted this long.

CONFESSIONS OF A MUSLIM LATINA

As a child of Mexican immigrants, I grew up culturally Catholic. But since I couldn’t find Him there, I decided to seek Him for myself. I never lost faith in God and after years of searching, I finally found peace in Islam.

Even though I was extremely content with my new religion I felt lonely at UCLA. I quickly found myself bound between two completely different minority groups in America—Muslims and Latinos. Already a minority on campus as a Latina, I was also a minority in my religious community since the majority of Muslims at UCLA are of Arab or South Asian descent. I felt like an anomaly, so I began to overcompensate my Latina identity by rolling “r’s” in conversation and carrying Tapatio hot sauce everywhere I went. I became known as “The Latina” of the Muslim Students Association (MSA).

After two years, I stumbled on an old issue of the Muslim student newsmagazine, Al-Talib, that discussed the Los Angeles Latino Muslim Association. I soon began inquiring about the stories of other Latino Muslims and found out that a friend of mine named Karla (also a Mexicana) had converted to Islam.

I finally found someone with whom I could share my experience. We exchanged stories about how our families confused Islam for Hinduism, the pain in having to give up chicharrones, and, ultimately, how our friends and loved ones felt about our conversions. Sharing this experience with Karla helped balance my identity as a Mexican and Muslim woman.

I have been a Muslim for over three years and am actively involved in the Muslim community through MSA UCLA and MSA West. Participating in such organizations has allowed my distinct identity to be expressed. It has also provided a channel through which my political drive can be exercised—by educating my two different communities on issues ranging from the DREAM Act to Ramadan.

It was not hard to gain acceptance in the Muslim community since the Muslim brothers and sisters shared similar values towards family as I did and also because they love converts! It was, however, difficult to try to learn new vocabulary. For example, the word for “mijo” in Urdu is “beta” (term of endearment). It was funny.

I connected with my peers in MSA through childhood stories and discussions on food. After bragging rounds, I dispelled rumors that Mexican food didn’t just consist of tacos and burritos. I introduced them to albondigas, ceviche, and authentic tamales. And of course, they had to recognize the superiority of Mexican cuisine.

I represent a growing population of converts in the United States. According to a 2010 report by The Pew Research Center, the Muslim population is around 2.6 million. Although the exact number of Latino Muslims isn’t known, Hjamil A. Martinez-Vazquez, author of Latina/o y Musulmán: The Construction of Latina/o Identity among Latina/o Muslims in the United States, explains that it ranges from 75,000 to 100,000.

To this day, I am still reconciling my identity as a Mexican Muslim woman. I am given the opportunity to shape the narrative of my community in this country. With my strong grounding in my faith, I look forward to contribute to the great legacy of the leaders in the Latino community.