Category Archives: Higher Education

Librotraficantes Launches Trip at Casa Ramirez

An energetic crowd turned out to support Tony Diaz and his Librotraficante crew this morning at Casa Ramirez Folk Art Gallery, a popular Heights storefront for culture and literature. The caravan takes with them a payload of contraband books to Arizona while creating various Underground Libraries throughout the Southwest.

The historic weeklong journey includes stops in San Antonio and El Paso, Texas; Mesilla and Albuquerque, N.M., and culminates in Tucson, Ariz., touting a celebration of Quantum Demographics, or multifaceted cultural unity, by highlighting Mexican American, African American and Native American literary works along the route. On St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17, we’ll host a huge literary celebration of El Batallion San Patricio at 6 p.m., celebrating Irish and Mexican collaboration of the past.

The entire schedule is available online at www.Librotraficante.com.

Librotraficante is part of a response to recent laws in Arizona created to abolish Mexican American Studies programs. In some schools, books have literally been taken out of classrooms and stored away, thus banning them. Librotraficante has collected books and will traffic them into Arizona to ensure books are available to students.

“Arizona made me a Librotraficante,” said organizer and author, Tony Diaz, who has also brought together various banned authors who have donated to this cause.

Participating in Banned Book Bashes and Cultural Caucuses along the route are Sandra Cisneros, who kicked off our fundraising efforts by making a generous donation; Guggenheim Fellow Dagoberto Gilb, whose work recently appeared in the New Yorker and Harperssimultaneously; and best selling author Luis Alberto Urrea, with multiple titles found on the banned book list, was the first to enthusiastically support the project through Twitter.  Other literary giants participating in the Librotraficante Caravan include Rudolfo Anaya, whose seminal novel BLESS ME ULTIMA is banned; Denise Chavez, FACE OF AN ANGEL, who is hosting the caravan in Mesilla, N.M., and who organizes the Annual Border Book Festival; Lalo Alcaraz, creator of the syndicated comic LA CUCARACHA and who coined the phrase “Self Deport”; and Rene Alegria, founder of Boxing Badger Media and www.mamiverse.com, who attended one of the impacted high schools in Tucson.

“Politicians in Arizona have become experts in making humans illegal. We did not do enough to stop that, thus that anti-immigrant legislation spread to other states such as Alabama and Georgia. Now, these same legislators want to make thoughts illegal. If we allow this to happen, these laws, too, will spread. Other branches of ethnic studies will be prohibited, and other states will follow suit,” said Tony Diaz, author and director of Nuestra Palabra, organizer of the Librotraficante Caravan.

For more information and donate to the cause, please visit http://www.librotrafricante.com.

 

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Send-Off for LibroTraficantes on Monday!

MALDEF’s 2012 Latino State of the Union

Got an hour and 12 minutes? Check this out.

Tomas Q. Morin – Remember That Name

Back when I was working at the (SW) Texas State University Athletic Academic Center, we hired this young student to serve as an English tutor. Let me tell you, he changed many students’ way of thinking when it came to English composition.

I also remember how he would always write. Yes, I knew he was a poet, but I especially remember how he would write notions, ideas, who knows, maybe even a stanza, on any piece of paper he could find. I had never known someone so committed to his writing. So, when I saw the press release from Texas State University-San Marcos announcing Tomas Morin had won the American Poetry Review prize, I wasn’t surprised, but I’m definitely beaming with pride to see a fellow South Texan accomplish so much. Here’s the story:

By Ann Friou
University News Service
January 31, 2012

Tomás Q. Morín, senior lecturer in English at Texas State University-San Marcos, has been awarded the 2012 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize for Poetry, for his manuscript A Larger Country.

His book was chosen by this year’s guest judge, poet Tom Sleigh, who will also write an introduction for the book.

The annual American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry offers publication of a book of poems, a $3,000 award, and distribution by Copper Canyon Press through Consortium. The purpose of the prize is to encourage excellence in poetry and to provide a wide readership for a deserving first book of poems.

Morín is a Texas native. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Texas State, and a Master of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins University. He is the recipient of scholarships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and the New York State Summer Writers Institute, and he was a fellow at the Idyllwild Summer Arts Program.

His poems have appeared in New England Review, Narrative, Boulevard, Slate, Threepenny Review, Best New Poets and elsewhere.

The American Poetry Review is considered the nation’s preeminent poetry publication, and it is the most highly circulated poetry magazine in the world.

The Honickman Foundation and its affiliate, the Honickman Charitable Trust, are dedicated to supporting projects that promote the arts, education, health, social change and heritage.

I still have a Tomas Q. Morin-autographed Persona from TXST where a couple of his poems were published. I cannot wait for the book to be published. Here’s one of my favorite pics (circa ’97?) of us when we had lunch with Arizona-banned author Dagoberto Gilb.

Rick Perry’s THECB Takes Steps to Become La Migra

At least that’s what it seems like.

Teddy Wilson at the American Independent reports that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is about to give colleges and universities added tasks regarding the Texas DREAM Act. I’ll call them “migra” tasks.

Currently, the Texas DREAM Act calls for a student to sign an affidavit committing to seeking a positive change to their immigration status. The policy change calls for higher education institutions to now manage the affidavits, as well as “remind” students of their obligations to fix their status.

According to the new policy, which has been placed on the consent agenda for the meeting, institutions will be required to “retain the signed affidavits permanently, and to instruct students when they are admitted, annually while they are enrolled, and upon graduation of their obligation to apply for permanent resident status.” The new rules also call for the institutions to “refer students to the proper federal agency” for instructions on how to apply for legalized status.

So, why the change? Well, they blame Mitt and Newt and the rest of the Republicans who have used Latinos and immigrants as their favorite political piñata.

“During the presidential election, when the dialog became so white hot, our board decided that there could be changes to the way the law is implemented,” said Chavez.

So, bigoted remarks by candidates are cause for policy changes, now? And wasteful policy changes, at that, according to a student Wilson quotes in the article.

“Higher education institutions are not knowledgeable in immigration law and would not know how to approach a federal agency about a student’s situation without putting in peril their privacy. For institutions of higher education to handle this without prior training is in fact, an unfunded mandate.”

We’ll be keeping an eye on this. Great article by Teddy Wilson!

Grad Rates Suffer During Enrollment Boom

You mean, the recruitment of underprepared high school graduates into our Texas colleges and universities didn’t automatically amount to increased graduation rates?

In Texas, only 20 of every 100 students who enroll at a public community college or university earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree within twice the normal amount of time, the report found.

This isn’t news, although for some who work in the field it will probably be a source of increased frustration and stress. The State of Texas committed to “Closing the Gaps” in our universities and colleges by working more on recruitment; however, the State failed to “Close the Deal” by failing to adequately fund First Time In College and college retention efforts; not to mention decreasing the value of financial aid through tuition deregulation and cuts to scholarships and aid.

The failure to fully fund, and now, cut K-12 education will only add to the problem with few solutions that are well-funded being created. This “nontraditional” population in the report by Complete College Americais described as:

Graduation rates for this “new majority” are lower than for traditional students, particularly those who are part-time, older, poor, Hispanic or African American.

In other words, those who have been heavily  recruited recently to “Close the Gaps”, as well as those hit by the economy.

Republican (and a few privileged, clueless Democratic) politicians, of course, will try to lay the blame on “liberal” professors and academic advising offices, but the bottom line is that you cannot set out to “close the gaps” without addressing every single issue involved in the college going to college graduation process. In this case, we can only blame political expediency for this challenge because, certainly, colleges and universities have been doing without adequate resources for years.

The response now is to tell people, “There is no money.” But there is plenty of money which is being irresponsibly left untapped by Republican elected officials who fail to close tax and fee loopholes. And in Texas, Republicans may commit to using the Rainy Day Fund and other Education money for possible corporate welfare giveaways to oil companies. I guess we know what their priorities really are.

If those affected aren’t being targeted by the likes of Rick Perry and his wealthy buddies, then someone please explain to me this failure in leadership.

Anti-Latino Sentiment at Universities

The last place one would expect hate language to be spread would be at colleges and universities. Even when there is disagreement regarding policies and politics, one would expect fruitful and productive discussion; yet, it seems Teabaggers are alive and well on college campuses. One example is what recently occurred at Indiana University in Bloomingdale.

Known as a home away from home, the IU “La Casa” Latino Cultural Center has a special role at IU:

The Latino Cultural Center, La Casa, was established at Indiana University in November of 1973. Its purpose is to achieve a greater historical, political and cultural awareness regarding Latina/os through educational and social programs. As an advocacy office, we work closely with other units on campus to assist in the recruitment and retention of Latina/o students.

Who would be against this, right? As the fastest growing demographic in the United States, there’s no doubt that these “homes” are needed as a means of increasing recruitment and retention and graduation rates. Or in business terms, a better return on our education investment. But it is hard to address “stupid,” sometimes when people refuse to discuss like humans, and, instead, act like they did at IU this week.

A newly posted sign outside the Indiana University Latino Cultural Center known as La Casa reads ‘Welcome to our home away from home’, but someone recently targeted that home with what IU police have dubbed hateful messages directed at Latinos.

Late last week, La Casa staff found two notes. One left on a kitchen table that read “criminals deport”. Across the room on a refrigerator the phrase “you need to leave” was spelled out in magnets.

And why should we be so shocked? We certainly have experienced right-wing hate on college campuses here in Texas. I mean, who can forget the Young Conservatives of Texas and their affirmative action bake sales or their mock immigrant round-ups?

Unfortunately, this will be a hazard of going to college until Latinos “get it” and decide that they need to vote and drive policy by staying active in the process.

I especially want to drive this point home to college students who are eligible to vote and get involved. And while in college, get involved beyond the Latino organizations. Although you can find a “home” at “La Casa” type of programs, there’s nothing like being a part of some major university committee that directs events, and that directs student service dollars and university policy. Get to know your University leaders–your President, VPs, etc. Because when right-wingers deal you this type of card, there’s nothing like having the University leadership back you up.

Good luck to all college and university students this year!

May Day March on Sunday – Join Us!

Rally Sends Message: Don’t Mess With Texas Schools!

Teaching was the hardest work I had ever done, and it remains the hardest work I have done to date. ~ Gov. Ann Richards

Led in by a high school drumline, thousands of teachers, parents, students and just plain ol’ Texans converged on the Capitol to demand of the Texas Legislature and Governor Perry to “save our schools.”

Although estimates go from a Texas DPS trooper’s estimate of 8,000 to the organzers’ 11,000, looking at the crowd from the makeshift stage sure did make for a beautiful sight.

Speakers of all ages, such as Dallas student Dalton Sherman, educational leaders like Michael Hinojosa, Bobby Rigues, John Kuhn, and John Folks, and political leaders like Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio anchored the event. Most impressive were students, parents and teachers who also spoke to the crowd about the educational needs of their respective communities.

The crowd looked like Texas as it was very diverse in color and in politics, yet, it was one issue that brought them to Austin from across the State of Texas:  Funding education.  And let me tell you, although the “attack” may have been on Rick Perry, the governor sure as hell earned it with his recent shirking of his responsibilities, blaming school districts for their budget shortfalls, although it is Perry who has threatened to cut $9 billion from public schools.

As Republican legislators begin to embrace the fact that releasing the Rainy Day Fund is a necessity, it seems they were also in town for the Rally. I know I saw several cars with “State Official” plates  parked on the Capitol grounds and at least one Republican state rep. from my neck of the woods was actually sitting with colleagues behind the podium, Dan Huberty (although in this pic, he seems to be his very own little island.)

No doubt, Huberty was there to greet and hopefully listen to his consituents (teachers,  students and parents) who made the trip for the rally, including Humble ISD chief Sconzo.

Six hours of driving, a nasty sunburn on my face, and dealing with annoying Austin bicyclists who think they own the road, I have returned to Houston satisfied with the out come, and reassured that these direct actions will continue across the state and in Austin. Hanging out with 8,000 or 11,000 (or even if it only had been 100)  of my closest friends was worth it.

It’s about Education, studid! As Texans, we have a right to demand what is right.

Reminder: Houston gets its own rally on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday, March 15. DosCentavos will be there, camera and all! Stay tuned!

Photos:  DCMedia, All Rights Reserved

Coverage:

Austin American Statesman
Texas Tribune
Coby @ Bay Area Houston
Off The Kuff
PDiddie
Eyes on Williamson County
Juanita Jean

Are You Willing to Boycott Texas?

Actually, this question is for Latino elected officials at all levels in Texas.

Texas is in a financial crisis and while the Republicans are more than willing to attack Latinos given the legislation that has already been filed, thus far, it is safe to say that Texas can easily be considered terra pericolosa for anyone of color.

In Arizona, Congressman Raul Grijalva was among the first elected officials to call for a boycott of his own state of Arizona after SB1070 was signed into law. Who shall be our Raul Grijalva?

A report by some folks at the Center for American Progress report the devastating effects of the boycott on Arizona.

Our extensive research estimates that the actual lost lodging revenue from these cancellations is at least three times that amount: $45 million. That estimate provides a basis for calculating other losses in visitor spending. Analyzing average food and beverage, entertainment, in-town transportation, and retail sales brings the combined loss of estimated conference attendee spending up to a startling $141 million.

Texas doesn’t need to be losing money right now. It needs to be investing in education, higher education, and other critical services. But if Republicans have their way, whether our own elected officials join in or not, the effect will be felt. And not just in hotel and food revenues. Texas is known for its live music scene–we have some pretty good talent, no matter the genre. They will certainly get hit, too.

The Republican-led legislature needs to tread lightly and responsibly. These kinds of actions (anti-Latino legislation) are downright dangerous in so many ways.  While the Republicans want to cut services so they can dole out tax breaks to their corporate buddies, the bottom line is that a huge loss of revenue to the state will even endanger those gifts.

This, on top of any litigation that is thrown at the State of Texas to fight the legislation?

There was an article some have been talking about recently about finding our “Latino/a leader.” Well, here is a possible opportunity to stand out. Hopefully, that person won’t be tainted by big business interests and influential check-writers. But that’s for another post.