Thursday, April 10, 2014

Texas- One step toward Ethnic Studies.

by Roque Palanco
Texas took a step toward instituting ethnic studies courses in public schools across the state on Wednesday, with the State Board of Education voting 11 to 3 to create instructional materials for such classes.
Activists had pushed since November for the Texas SBOE to create a statewide Mexican-American studies curriculum, arguing that such courses would help boost student achievement and foster cultural awareness in the state’s majority-Hispanic school system.
Instead, the more modest measure approved Wednesday mandates the adoption of textbooks for elective classes on Mexican-American studies, African-American studies, Native-American studies and Asian-American studies. Courses will be developed locally and schools will be able to adopt successful models developed in other districts using the state-approved instructional materials.
ed.note. What about California????
The idea won bipartisan support, with conservatives applauding the approach of giving local districts control over which curricula to adopt, while ethnic studies advocates looked forward to taking a greater role in developing the courses than if the state had been charged with the task.

Texas School Board Ducks Mexican-American Studies Vote

By WILL WEISSERT Associated Press  April 10, 2014. 

The Texas Board of Education bypassed voting Wednesday on a hotly debated proposal to create a statewide Mexican-American studies course as a high school elective, instead simply asking publishers to submit textbooks for such a class and several other ethnic studies topics by the 2016-2017 school year.
Democratic member Ruben Cortez of Brownsville had promised to call for a vote on creating a stand-alone Mexican-American studies course, and supporters maintained it was key to truly understanding a state that was once part of Mexico and where Hispanics make up 51 percent of public school students.
But opponents dismissed the idea as reverse racism, arguing that it would inject leftist ideology into the classroom. Cortez said when it became clear that the board's 10 Democrats and five Republicans weren't ready to support his proposal, he settled on an alternative approach.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Immigration Uprising: How Change Happens


By David Bacon

Two weeks ago hundreds of people inside the Tacoma Detention Center launched a hunger strike against its private operator, Geo Corporation, demanding better conditions and a moratorium on deportations. Activists, who have held vigils outside the center for years, now gather every day to support those inside. A week later the strike spread to another Geo facility in Texas. According to Maru Mora Villapando of Latino Advocacy in Tacoma, in both locations the company has isolated the strikers and in Tacoma threatened to force-feed them.

Immigrants, workers, union members, people of faith and community activists demonstrate in front of the Mi Pueblo market in East Palo Alto, California, calling for a moratorium on deportations and on the firing of undocumented workers because of their immigration status. (Photo: David Bacon)

This is only the most dramatic action of a wave of activity around the country, in which community and labor activists, and now deportees themselves, have refused to quietly endure increased immigration enforcement. They are mostly young, deriving much of their inspiration from the Dreamers who forced the administration two years ago to begin providing legal status to some of those who’d otherwise be deported. These activists refuse to wait for Congress to enact its immigration reform proposals, and in fact many reject them as fatally compromised. Instead, they’re organizing actions on the ground to win rights and equality:

Yes We Can. NYTimes Editorial

"Yes He Can, on Immigration" - NYTimes Editorial  

If President Obama means what he says about wanting an immigration system that reflects American values, helps the economy and taps the yearnings of millions of Americans-in-waiting, he is going to have to do something about it - soon and on his own. It has been frustrating to watch his yes-we-can promises on immigration reform fade to protestations of impotence and the blaming of others. All Mr. Obama has been saying lately is: No, in fact, we can't, because Republicans and the law won't let me.
Mr. Obama is correct when he complains that long-term immigration repairs have been throttled in Congress. Neo-nativist Republicans fixated on mass deportation have blocked a worthy bipartisan bill. But Mr. Obama has compounded this failure by clinging to a coldblooded strategy of ramped-up enforcement on the same people he has promised to help through legislation that he has failed to achieve.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Deportations Hurt All Workers

Photo from Massachusetts Jobs with Justice
Liz Cattaneo. Jobs with Justice
Although President Obama has called deportations “heartbreaking,”immigrants in the United States continue to be separated from their families at a record pace. Nearly two million deportations have taken place under the Obama administration to date. On March 13, the President finally ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to review its deportation practices but has rebuffed calls to use his executive powers to halt deportations for individuals who haven’t committed serious crimes.
A growing chorus of civil rights, faith, legal and human rights advocates are criticizing the administration’s deportation policy as unjust, arbitrary and counter to the spirit of immigration reform supported by the president and an overwhelming majority of Americans. There are myriad reasons why deportations should be curbed, but to start, the system makes it too easy for workers to be susceptible to abuse on the job.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mexican American Studies in Texas Schools


One Vote Could Change The Course Of Mexican-American Studies

Texas State Board of Education member Ruben Cortez says he'll propose a vote to decide whether to create a statewide Mexican-American studies course at the agency's meeting next month.
If passed, the measure would mark a major victory for Latino education activists who have pressed for a public school curriculum more reflective of their state's majority-Hispanic student body.
Ed. note.  California does not have Mexican American Studies in the state approved curriculum. See
"This is it -- we've been inching our way to a vote," Cortez told The Huffington Post. "Just the mere fact that we're going to have a vote is historic."
The group Librotraficante, formed in 2012 to protest the banning of the Tucson Mexican-American studies program, started calling last year for the Texas SBOE to include a dual-credit Mexican-American studies course when the state agency took up the question of new course design.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Strategic Racism and the Contested Legacy of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta

 On March 31, Eleven  states will hold holidays celebrating  labor and Latino leader Cesar Chavez.   A new film Cesar Chavez: History is Made One Step at a Time,  starring  Michael Peña   as Cesar Chavez and  Rosario Dawson  as Dolores Huerta opens in cities across the country on April 4, 2014.  Here is a trailer.
There is a film review by Randy Shaw in the post below.
Let us be clear.  Chavez was religious, but he was not a saint. Neither were the growers, the Teamster collaborators, nor corporate agribusiness saints.  Celebrations should not be about hero worship or uncritical praise, nor should we ignore the present oppression of farm workers in the U.S. 
What Chavez and Huerta did  accomplish along with Philip Vera Cruz ,  Marshall Ganz, LeRoy Chatfield, Gil Padilla and  hundreds of others was to   organize in California the first successful farm worker union against overwhelming odds.
With Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, and others Chávez and Huerta  deliberately created a multiracial union; Mexican,  Mexican American, Filipino, African-American, Dominican, Puerto Rican and Arab workers, among others, have been part of the UFW.  This cross-racial organizing  was necessary in order to combat the  prior divisions and exploitations of workers based upon race and language. Dividing the workers on racial and  language lines, as well as immigration status  always left the corporations the winners.

Each of the prior attempts to organize a  farm worker union  had been  destroyed by racism and corporate power. Chávez chose to build a union that incorporated the strategies of social movements and community organizing.  They allied the union   with churches, students,  and organized labor.  The successful creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing  in the Southwest  and contributed significantly to the growth  of Latino politics in the U.S.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cesar Chavez film inspires

Cesar Chavez, a feature film on the farmworker leader, was previewed in Berkeley on March 5 prior to its March 28 national release. Based on the audience response, the film will help inspire a new generation of young activists to push for social justice, and will particularly resonate with Dreamers and others pushing for immigration reform.
The atmosphere was electric in Berkeley’s California Theater as a full house waited in anticipation for Diego Luna’s new film, Cesar Chavez. A block long line of people were turned away, reflecting an interest in the movie that Luna hoped would return when the film is released in three weeks.
Having spent years researching and thinking about Cesar Chavez for my book, Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century, I was intrigued by how a feature film would handle the long and complex story of the farmworkers movement. And I think it covered the story of Cesar Chavez himself remarkably well for the years covered in the movie.

Chavez’s Remarkable Life

Cesar Chavez’s rise from a young boy carrying cantaloupes in the fields to one of the nation’s leading labor and social change leaders is a story that almost defies belief. Among the film’s great strengths is its focus on how Chavez overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to build California’s farmworker movement.
No film on historical events can provide the detail and nuances of a book, and in this case the facts overlooked was the critical role of other key leaders in the UFW’s rise.