UCLA Center X joins in event to advance socially just learning.
“All this talk that we don’t deserve to be here, that we are not worthy, that is not true,” community activist Claudia Rueda told the crowd gathered in East Los Angeles. “So many generations have fought for you to be here. We are worthy, we are important!
“They want us to be quiet, they want us to not be present. But we have to fight against that, we don’t have to let them win.”
Rueda was talking to students, teachers and community members who had come to the old auditorium at Roosevelt High School in East LA to honor the activists who led the 1968 school walkouts in East Los Angeles.
Aged but still activists, some shouting to the chant of “Chicano Power” one by one they came to the stage, the cheers of the crowd welling up around them, celebrating their commitment and their continuing quest for quality education and social justice.
“Students walked out of their schools in peaceful marches, to demand the better education that they knew they deserved. People of color came together and fought for a better education not only for themselves, but for us, for future generations,” Roosevelt students Anahi Gaspar and Zitali Sanchez wrote in the program for the day’s events. “We will forever be grateful for those in the ‘68 movement who fought for our voice, our soul, our education.”
“I hope that the young people here today will understand that they are extremely important, that they have potential, and they have a voice, said Vicki Castro, a founding member of Young Chicanos for Community Action who helped to organize the 1968 walkouts, and would go on to be an educator and member of the Los Angeles Unified School Board. “There is still a struggle, and they have an important and viable role in that struggle.”
The celebration of the walkouts was part of “Walking Toward Revolutionary Healing,” a day of learning and opportunity for educators and youth to work together to advance socially just schooling in Los Angeles. UCLA Center X joined with the Politics and Pedagogy Collaborative to host the event.
“At UCLA Center X, we are working to transform public schooling to create a more just, equitable and humane society,” UCLA professor John Rogers says. Today’s event brought together UCLA students studying to become teachers and principals, with students, educators and activists to learn from each other and develop relationships to further educational opportunities and sustain social justice practices.
The day began with a traditional ceremonial dance by the Danza Mexica Cuahtemoc group, whose leader blessed the gathering and called for “liberty.”
Speaking in the old auditorium at Roosevelt High School, a place whose carpet and chairs may be worn but that has the feel of almost hallowed ground, keynote speaker Shawn Ginwright, San Francisco State University Professor and author of “Hope and Healing in Urban Education,” talked about his relationship with his daughter and the hope she had given him that the next generation was taking on what he deemed “a beautiful struggle,” to take justice to the next level.
“My message today is twofold, for teachers and educators to understand the challenges, the toxic environments that are present in our schools and our neighborhoods, and to provide them with a way of thinking about how to respond and transform their schools, neighborhoods communities and their own lives through healing practices,” said Ginwright.
“It is important that we continue to resist and fight, it is necessary. But there is another side of the equation that we don’t do enough of, and that is the dreaming, the imagining, to see beyond the conditions, to encourage young people to imagine new policies and new ways of being, and in pursuit of that, new things will resolve the challenges we face.
“We need to open up the educational discourse about what is really needed in schools. It’s not just about curriculum and pedagogy, we can’t just think about being effective, but about creating an environment where the young people and the adults are becoming more hopeful, and using healing as an important strategy in schools,” Ginwright said
From there, students and teachers spread out across Roosevelt High School to learn about the issues confronting school communities and strategies for resolving them.
Students from Roosevelt, Mann UCLA Community School, Alhambra High School and elsewhere followed the example of the Declaration of Independence and “declare[d] the causes” of their “grievances” in order to effect change. They shared research posters that documented issues such as trauma, gentrification, and gun violence.
Mann UCLA Community School students Guadalupe Avila and Caleb Jordan shared a project on stress. Other Mann UCLA students presented their work on restorative justice, with a poster posing the question, are you ok?
“Sometimes people say ‘I’m fine, I’m fine,” said Mann UCLA 9th grader Sharee Hollman who worked with fellow 9th grader Stephany Cuellar on the project. “But they are just hiding their pain, they are just really broken inside. They want someone to speak to, but they don’t feel comfortable with that person.”
A group of young people from Alhambra High school presented their project on a topic that is getting lots of national attention, school shootings. For their project, “Shooting our Shot for a Safe Future,” the students gathered the grim statistics on shootings and created a resolution calling for actions to protect students. They have shared their resolution with the Alhambra City Council and school board, and plan to meet with Congresswoman Judy Chu. They also hope is to gain endorsement from Governor Brown.
“This is becoming something normal. We hear students say, ‘I’m not surprised there is another school shooting,’ that’s pretty sad and horrifying,” said Alhambra student Miguel Garcia. “Sometimes we don’t feel safe. like maybe it’s our last day. We have to do something, we have to make a change.”
In workshops ranging from explorations of the imprisonment of low income youth of color to strategies for developing healthier school lunch programs, youth, school teachers and community leaders took part in sessions designed to share ideas and information to further understanding of communities and develop and sustain socially just educational practices.
One popular session focused on creating a school plan to protect immigrant youth and families. Andrea Ramos, Director of the Immigration Law Clinic at Southwestern Law School talked with teachers and community leaders helping undocumented students and easing family fears by creating a school plan. The also discussed the sensitive locations memo, the need to protect student records, connecting educators to immigrant organizations and resources and DACA.
“I’m hoping to provide some information so that everyone here today can at least identify kids that might need help and refer them to an Immigration attorney, or provide them access to information and resources so they can go on to college and get an education,” Ramos said.
“Next year, I am going to be working in a school and community that is predominately Latino, predominately undocumented [students],” said one young student teacher who asked not to be identified because of concerns over immigration enforcement activity in the community. “I want to be sure that I am informed on how to be of help to my students and to my families. This was really helpful.”
Above: A multigenerational cadre of activists honored the 1968 school walkouts in East Los Angeles while sharing a vision for the future of socially just education.
All photos by John McDonald