Posts

Diversify Our Narrative: Social Activism in the Digital Age

Illustration by Sofia Rizkkhalil

When I was in the tenth grade, my Honors English teacher assigned Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It was the first time that a book written by a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) author was used in my instruction, and more to the point, the first time anti-racist literature was used educationally to further my understanding of the Black experience in America. 

While some high schools incorporate BIPOC authors into their curricula and place the same emphasis on the educational value of their corresponding texts as those penned by white authors, the harsh reality is exposure to these narratives can often be limited for students before they get to college. The Diversify Our Narrative campaign hopes to rectify that.

Co-founded this past June by two Stanford rising sophomores, Katelin Zhou and Jasmine Nguyen, the DON campaign fights for the inclusion and integration of “anti-racist and diverse texts in English and Literature classes” within the United States. Galvanized by the nationwide protests that arose in response to recent waves of racial injustice, Zhou and Nguyen questioned where they learned about racial intolerance and the systems that are in place that perpetuate these inequities. They soon realized that it was not until they reached college that their education touched on these topics. From there, the idea for Diversify Our Narrative was born. 

The DON campaign is student-led and hopes to target school boards across the nation by mobilizing organizers and facilitating the lobbying process by providing the blueprint to take action. Regardless of whether a student attends a public, charter, or private school, those looking to get involved will find everything they need to get started on the Diversify Our Narrative website. The site features various resources ranging from action guides that carefully array every crucial step in organizing district appeals, to their recommended reading list, and all necessary templates for a myriad of petitions. 

Conducive to their chief objective, the first proposition that the group makes in their primary petition to diversify curricula mandates that “a minimum of at least one book in every English/Literature and Comprehension class be by a person of color AND about a person/people of color’s experience(s).” Not stopping there, the petition reinforces DON’s cognizance of the anti-Blackness rhetoric and sentiment within our nation and desire to address the ever-present racism through education by advocating for “at least one of the mandated books [to] be about the Black experience.” 

In addition to the strategies the DON executive team employs to simplify petitioning school boards, a lot of their success in organizing can be traced to their social media presence. In just under three months, their Instagram page alone has reached over 108K followers. While Zhou feels that part of the reason they have gained such traction is due to the sharable nature of their calls to action and the accessible language used in the educational posts, she attributes a lot of their success to the “momentum created by all the Black activists.” Correspondingly, Nguyen notes that “now that there’s all this conversation, we can take this power and change our school systems thanks to the Black and Brown organizers that have paved the way for this to happen.”

When asked about the posts on the page, Zhou explained the aim of their graphics extends past simply trying to get people involved in DON’s mission; they try to “create any sort of educational content that relates to something in the education system… and to race.” From their debriefs on certain books to their posts about specified microaggressions, this practice is exemplified by the diverse topic sets featured on their account. 

Now, as with any large social media presence, the group has also faced backlash in the comments section from students and adults not in favor of the proposed changes. Opponents often contend that the books read in classrooms should not be about the race of the author, rather the quality of the writing and that the “classics are classics for a reason.” Some even assert that the initiative is attacking white authors.

However, in response to those critics, Zhou wants them to know that DON is “not trying to eliminate authors because they’re white, we’re trying to expand the scope of what we’re reading in the classroom.” Failure to incorporate texts written by BIPOC into our education means that “we’re missing a fundamental component of our understanding of the world we live in,” Zhou elaborated. 

“Failure to incorporate texts written by BIPOC into our education means that ‘we’re missing a fundamental component of our understanding of the world we live in.'”

Addressing the classics argument, DON’s Co-Director of Communications and Yale rising sophomore—Katherine Matsukawa—wants people to consider that “who defined them as classics in the first place has a lot to do with white normativity… we’ve been trained by the systems in place that white equals normal, but there are books that are equally good and insightful that offer a different perspective.” Ultimately, the team is incredibly intentional about the language they use to avoid misconceptions. Even so, to help dispel these errors, they often further clarify their position by interacting with followers on Instagram live, answering direct messages and producing more educational content.  

With the campaign gaining so much traction, it is unsurprising that DON has already seen some of the fruits of its labor. This past July, organizers were able to get on the official board meeting agenda of the Manteca Unified School District. Moreover, there have been a “handful of districts speak at their board meetings during the general public comment section and a lot of them have hit 1,000 signatures” on their petitions, said Matsukawa. Nevertheless, the initiative is still well on its way to accomplishing its primary directive.

As the implementation of this initiative ultimately happens in the classroom, support from educators is pivotal. Fortunately, Zhou notes that “for the most part, a lot of the teachers the school districts have reached out to have been supportive,” even going so far as to sign the petitions themselves. 

While DON has yet to get a school board to approve its proposed changes, its reach, solidified in such a short period, represents the importance of timing and intersectionality when it comes to racial issues. Sandy Nguyenphuoc, DON’s Director of Design and incoming UCSD freshman, was one of the people “inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement… it helped [her] see that [she] needed to step up and take action,” sparking her involvement with the campaign. 

Beyond that, Diversify Our Narrative represents a victory for mobilization in the digital era. In an age where social media activism is quickly gaining momentum, ensuring the success of any given cause requires easing the burden for those looking to get involved. Getting people to take that initial action can be heavily dependent on steps like reducing the time constraint or creating a link tree for easy access.

For some, sharing an educational post might be the extent of their advocacy. Others might want to become further involved but are not necessarily equipped with the knowledge on how to go about doing so. That is where Diversify Our Narrative truly shines; it encourages activism on all levels and lays the roadmap to serve as a guide. Skarlette Castejon, Co-Director of Communications and UCLA rising sophomore, explained that “many students of color experience real life issues within the education system, but don’t know what measures to take to change them, and this campaign gives them a way to do that.” 

Moving forward, Zhou stressed that organized efforts to combat racism through education bring us “just one step closer to having more empathy and understanding for different groups of people.”

Fortunately for me, my teachers in high school were always extremely cognizant of that. They knew that knowledge is not limited to a single source; they could give us John Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald while also exposing our minds to the works of Zora Neale Hurston and Isabel Allende. Learning from one text was never mutually exclusive to learning from another. 

As a biracial student, I knew the world looked different than the one painted solely by the classics, but analyzing the work of BIPOC authors helped contextualize that reality. More importantly, it made me feel grounded in the realm of academia, where often so many students of color can be made to feel as if they are on the outside looking in. It was a bridge between my education and my ethnic background, one where I felt the pages of my narrative represented. 

While there is an inherent power in that, there is also no denying the general benefits of being exposed to anti-racist and diverse texts early on in your education. It will indisputably focus the lens through which you view the world, make you more receptive to perspectives that differ from your own, and shed light on realities that you might have otherwise been oblivious to. We should all want a future where the way people think of racism has nothing to do with where they fall on a political spectrum, where a history of oppression is not something to be debated or simply acknowledged, but remedied. Although calling for the inclusion of these texts is still ways away from the finish line, it is a necessary step in the right direction. 

If you are looking to get involved with Diversify Our Narrative, I encourage you to visit their website to learn more about how you can help change the literature curriculum in your district.

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: http://www.PUENTE.org

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.


Created with flickr slideshow.

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 [email protected], 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 [email protected], 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.  [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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.

[email protected] 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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] being released will do in so many cases fully conscious, therefore these pintas are breeding resistance.

What is occurring to Raza ([email protected]) 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 [email protected], so too is the hunting of Brown skins by Migra and their affiliates doing for [email protected] 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 [email protected] obtain self -determination.

Aztlan Libre!

-Jose H. Villarreal

Outraged Demonstrators Demand the Return of Ayotzinapa Students

On October 9th, about 35 demonstrators met in front of the Los Angeles Mexican Consulate, located near Macarthur Park, demanding justice for the 43 disappeared Mexican students in the state of Guerrero. These students were taken by the municipal police of Iguala and members of the criminal organization, Guerreros Unidos.

On September 26th, students from the Normal Rural School from Ayotzinapa were assaulted by municipal police officers. The students were headed to the city of Iguala in public buses to raise funds for their school until they were intercepted. In the assault, police killed 6 students and wounded at least 25.

Days later, some burned and dismembered bodies were found in various pits located in the hills of Iguala. Guerrero’s chief prosecutor stated that at least 17 of the 28 bodies in the pits pertain to the normalista students that disappeared, but there are reports that more tests are being ran to identify the bodies. Still, the 43 students are currently missing. The school is known for being an educational institution whose students actively organize manifestations against unjust policies and corrupt governments.

1

The collective of activists from various organizations in Los Angeles began the demonstration at 11:00 am. With a microphone in hand, speakers expressed their grievances toward the Mexican authorities for their negligence and complicity in the disappearance of the students.

“This is not the first time that the government attacks its own people and kills our own sons, our students. Have we forgotten? Have we forgotten the year 68? Who remembers it?” said Lilia Trujillo to the crowd of protesters.

Lilia Trujillo lived in Guerrero for 25 years. While studying in the University of Chilpancingo as a biology major, she met “estudiantes normalistas” from the Normal Rural School from Ayotzinapa and described them as prominent social fighters.

“They have fought, they have manifested, and they fund their own education because the government does not cover their educational expenses,” she said.

2

After several protesters spoke, Assigned Counsel Juan Carlos Mendoza Sánchez came out to address the protesters. The crowd argued with Sánchez about his responsibilities to the events in Iguala until he agreed to sign a letter addressed to Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto that repudiates the crimes of the state and municipal government in Guerrero against the normalista students. The letter also made a list of demands, among them the resignation of current governor of Guerrero, Ángel Heladio Aguirre Rivero, thorough investigation of the assassination of the students, and punishment towards the culpable.

Jali Mejia, a member of the student activist group Yo Soy 132 from Los Angeles (which originated in Mexico as a result of student’s inconformity to the Mexican political system) and a native to the state of Veracruz, retrieved the letter signed by Sánchez. She hopes that the protest will bring attention the repression that is happening in Mexico.

“If the government will not change current situation, then the people have to take responsibility to make these changes,” she said.

3

After the signing of the letter, Ana Quintero, named all the missing students. Each time a student was named the crowd lifted their fist and chanted “En pie de lucha!”

This demonstration was one of many others that spread throughout various cities in the world including Barcelona, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Bogota, and London. There has also been protests and indignation in Mexico, including San Cristobal de las Casas, where Zapatistas mobilized in a silent march.

My takeaway from The Great Wall of L.A. tour: Ethnic Studies now!

The Great Wall of Los Angeles is a half-mile mural in the Tujunga Flood Control Channel of the San Fernando Valley that reveals the underrepresented histories of ethnic California. Though the mural shows moments between the Pre-Historic Era and the 1950s—years beyond my birth date—its message remains relevant to me: Ethnic peoples’ voices matter.

The content I learned during the Discover L.A. Bike Tour of The Great Wall of L.A. made me reflect on my K-12 California public school education, and what I was not taught about California’s history.

The reality is I was exposed to more ethnic history during this tour than I ever was in my time in public schooling.

IMG_5477

Often this mural is acknowledged as a monument to inter-racial harmony, both in how it was developed and in its aesthetic. However, I think it’s also a monument for what it can spark. For me it reinforced my passion for Ethnic Studies–the interdisciplinary study of ethnic groups. I grew eager to learn more and at the same time I thought how incredibly empowering it would’ve been for me to have Ethnic Studies in my public high school.

Middle school and high school were composed of me hating reading. Instead I wrote stories that were relatable to me. I didn’t read any ethnic literature. I didn’t even know that such writers of color existed. If I did read about ethnic groups, it was written from the perspective of a white male.

In essence, The Great Wall of L.A. is a claim for ethnic existence. The perspectives afforded to me throughout this mural made me think about how painful it is to reimagine these histories, but at the same time how necessary it is to learn them.

DSC_0713

In California, where about three-quarters of students in K-12 public schools are non-White, Ethnic Studies are rare. I can attest to that. I never came across history from the perspective of ethnic groups and neither has my younger sister nor my cousins.

The National Education Association, in its research review “ The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies,” reports that an overwhelming dominance of Euro-American perspectives lead many students to disengage from academic learning.

The NEA adds that since the 1960s, educators, scholars, and activists have pressed schools, districts, and textbook companies to produce curricula that is representative of the U.S.’s diversity. In the 1970s and 1980s, when The Great Wall of L.A. was completed, textbook publishers addressed Euro-American biases and ethnic group stereotypes that were being perpetuated in their textbooks.

However, the NEA reports that although some progress has been made in adding ethnic history into school curricula, “Whites continue to receive the most attention and appear in the widest variety of roles, dominating story lines and lists of accomplishments.”

The U.S. has a history of censorship. Moreover, Ethnic Studies bans have not been uncommon and legislative pushes for Ethnic Studies in public schools have not been too successful. But in California, Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) is currently gaining support from lawmakers for his new Ethnic Studies bill. Alejo has not received the same clash that has been seen in other states.

AB 1750 will require California to form a task force that will study how to best implement a standardized Ethnic Studies program for high school students. I believe that the bill can begin to address the important gaps in students’ knowledge and serve as a model for the rest of the country.

“Rather than being divisive, ethnic studies helps students to bridge differences that already exist in experiences and perspectives,” the NEA reports. “In these ways, ethnic studies plays an important role in building a truly inclusive multicultural democracy and system of education.”

Research shows that both students of color and White students have benefited academically and socially from Ethnic Studies. In fact, students of color are more engaged academically, with graduation rates for students of color increasing significantly. But opponents argue that Ethnic Studies is divisive and that it fosters anti-American perspectives.

DSC_0744

The Great Wall of L.A. illustrates the purpose of ethnic studies perfectly. It’s about understanding our past so that we can know how to exist harmoniously in the present. It’s about equal visibility and finding commonalities in struggle and triumph, without thinking of a particular race or ethnicity as superior. Now, the process of learning must be a process of unlearning.

From the perspective of ethnic groups, Ethnic Studies makes sense. But why do White students need Ethnic Studies?

To be honest, I can’t expect White students to understand the underrepresentation of ethnic groups. But, education allows such insensitivity to be transformed into something other than ignorant actions. It begins to harmonize our differences, much like The Great Wall of L.A. does.

San Diego Mobilizes in Solidarity with Palestine

San Diego is known for being a more pacific and less hectic region than Los Angeles. However, a group of San Diegan activists were ready to politically shake up the region. During the past weeks, there have been more than five pro-Palestinian rallies and other organizational efforts in San Diego with the purpose of showing opposition to the Israeli occupation and actions in Gaza.

On August 7th, 32 socialist, students, and community members gathered in City Heights Community Center to create a forum addressing the Israeli occupation on Palestinian territory.  The San Diego branch of the International Socialist Organization, in collaboration with the San Diego State University (SDSU) branch of Students for Justice in Palestine, created this forum in which three panelist shared their thoughts on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and their experience as pro-Palestine activists.

discussion

Osama Alkawaja, a student at SDSU and the president of the Students for Justice in Palestine, was one of the panelist who had spent time in Palestine before the conflict intensified. He said that witnessing the raids of Palestinian homes by Israeli soldiers first hand revitalized his efforts to create a pro-Palestinian solidarity movement in the United States. “There are oppressed and oppressors… There are those who support the status quo and those who set to change history,” Osama said.

Lorain Riham, another panelist and pro-Palestinian activist, addressed the dilemma regarding the right of Palestinians to engage in arm resistance.  “When 10 thousand homes are destroyed… should they submit to their oppressors? At what point do Palestinians have the right to resist?” Lorain said.

On August 8th, around 150 people participated in a rally in front of the Edward J. Schwartz Federal Building. The rally started at 4:00  P.M. and it lasted for more than three hours. The event was organized by Al-Awda: The Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, with participants from Students for Justice in Palestine at SDSU, the Palestinian Youth Movement, and other organizations.

Bo Elder, member of the International Socialist Organization, also participated in the rally because he believed It was important for people to speak out against U.S. and Israeli crimes against Palestinian people.

Protesters also interconnected the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with other struggles. Enrique De La Cruz, member of Colectivo Zapatista (an organization in solidarity with the Zapatista movement in Mexico), participated in the rally in solidarity with the Palestinian people and the indigenous Zapatista movement in Mexico. “I think the struggles is worldwide connect. If you think of the Zapatistas, they struggle and fight for the same thing Palestine fights… indigenous people who live in their land are being kicked off of their land,” De La Cruz said.

marcha

Nesser Barghoute, member and director of the San Diego Boycott, Divest, and Santion Committee, explained the demands of Palestinians toward the international community during the rally. “The Palestinian civil society, which means organizations for students, and women, and farmers, and unions in Palestine, in 2005 came out to the call and ask the whole world community to follow the example of the pressure movement that was built in the 70’s and 80’s against apartheid in South Africa…[to create] a pressure movement internationally for Palestinian rights and the movement goes for three tactics: boycott, divestment, and sanctions,” Nesser said.

Boycotting and divesting means that society and institutions will not use products or services from companies that are directly profiteering from the Israeli occupation in Palestine. The demand for sanctions are demands towards governments to restrict international cooperation, such as trade and weapon supply, with Israel if the occupation continues.

Among the demands of the protesters was the end of the military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, and also the end of what they considered a system of apartheid discrimination inside Israel against non-Jewish citizens. Furthermore, they emphasized the need to allow Palestinian refugees, that were moved out of Palestine in 1948 and 1968, to go back to their homes. These group of activists are planning to continue protesting and organizing until the occupation ends.

boycott

Bell to Open Shelter for Central American Refugees

unnamed (3)

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.”

unnamed (1)

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.’ ”