Category Archives: History Lessons

Librotraficante Earns Intellectual Freedom Award

From the University of Illinois Grad School of Library and Information Sciences. Congrats to my friend Tony Diaz and his compatriotas for this ongoing movement. La lucha sigue!

Librotraficante is the 2012 recipient of the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award given by the faculty of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Librotraficante, a movement led by Tony Diaz, is being recognized for its efforts to oppose the censorship of ethnic and cultural studies materials in Arizona.

In 2010, Governor Jan Brewer signed Arizona House Bill 2281 to modify the state public education system in regards to the teaching of ethnic studies. By prohibiting courses “designed for pupils of a particular ethnic group” and “advocating ethnic solidarity,” this law has been used to eliminate Tucson’s popular Mexican American Studies (MAS) program from the public school system. This ban involved the removal of dozens of MAS textbooks and reading list books such as award-winning works A People’s History of the United States (Zinn, 1980) and Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire, 1970). In response, the American Library Association (ALA) issued a resolution opposing the restriction of these materials.

The Librotraficante (the translation of which means “book smuggler”) movement emerged to counter the effects of the ban. In early 2012, with leadership from Diaz, Liana Lopez, Bryan Parras, Lupe Mendez, and Laura Acosta, Librotraficante organized a caravan of educators and activists who facilitated a series of events across the Southwest to raise awareness of the situation and collect books for underground libraries. The caravan reached Tucson on March 17, 2012, with over 1,000 books.

Librotraficante efforts have since extended across the country including the development of a magazine and a freedom of speech event created in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month. On September 21, 2012, several groups, including librarians participating in the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color, came together to learn more about the struggles in Tucson and appreciate the important works currently being censored.

A reception to honor Librotraficante will take place during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, Washington, on Saturday, January 26, 2013, from 5:30–7:00 p.m. The reception will be held in the Visions Room of the Renaissance Seattle Hotel, 515 Madison Street, Seattle. ABC-CLIO, a publisher of reference, contemporary thought, and professional development resources, provides an honorarium for the recipient and co-sponsors the reception.

The Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award is given annually to acknowledge individuals or groups who have furthered the cause of intellectual freedom, particularly as it affects libraries and information centers and the dissemination of ideas. Granted to those who have resisted censorship or efforts to abridge the freedom of individuals to read or view materials of their choice, the award may be in recognition of a particular action or long-term interest in, and dedication to, the cause of intellectual freedom. The award was established in 1969 by the GSLIS faculty to honor Robert Downs, a champion of intellectual freedom, on his twenty-fifth anniversary as director of the school.

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Caravan For Peace On The Way

Have you heard of the Caravan for Peace? If so, great. If not, here’s why you should get involved and support it in every way that you can.

A Trans-border Caravan for Peace and Justice with the Poet and Peace Leader Javier Sicilia

More than 60,000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico in the last few years. 10,000  people have been disappeared and over 160,000 displaced. Global Exchange and Mexico’s Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) led by Javier Sicilia have made “End the Drug  War- No More Violence” campaign a priority in 2012. Starting in August, a high profile caravan will cross the US starting in San Diego/Los Angeles, heading east along the US-Mexico border and then up to Chicago, New York and DC.

Sicilia’s son, Juan Francisco was murdered along with six friends on a fateful night in March of  2011. He has since become an inspirational voice for peace, justice and reform– drawing huge  crowds throughout Mexico. He comes north this summer with a call for change in the bi-national  policies that have inflamed a six-year Drug War, super-empowered organized crime, corrupted  Mexico’s vulnerable democracy, claimed lives and devastated human rights on both sides of the border.

2012 offers a uniquely fertile moment to internationalize the struggle for peace in Mexico. Latin American elite opinion is shifting rapidly on the question of ending drug prohibition. This call for reform has not yet echoed in the United States. The Caravan represents an unprecedented effort by Mexican civil society to impact U.S. thinking and policy.

Having just started it’s first leg, the Caravan will make its way through the Southwestern US and all the way to Washington, DC, ending on September 12. It will spend a day and a half in Houston, August 26 and 27.

Learn more about the Caravan here and support this cause.

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.

 

Send-Off for LibroTraficantes on Monday!

Youth of the Union Conference – Saturday!

San Anto: Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Gregg Barrios

My friend, Gregg Barrios, will be appearing in San Antonio this weekend. And I’m not just promoting this because Gregg gives Dos Centavos a mention in his more recent collection of poems, La Causa. It’s a really good read that I open up every day at the office to give me a pick-me-up in these days of rhetoric and madness.

Trump Effectively 1070s the Prez

Yes, I said it.

Our own duly-elected President of the United States has been 1070′d by the Birthers and Donald Trump. Hardly the authority in anything, the birthers have forced the President to prove his citizenship. That would be like me having to prove my citizenship to, say, some yahoo Tea Partier from Kingwood.

The Texas Trib reports that Texas’ own birther bigot Leo Berman is not satisfied with the President’s birth certificate. And neither will the Tea Party birthers.

Whenever I’m asked to prove my citizenship by some bigot, I respond accordingly.

Thursday: Civil Rights in History

As we get set for the Final 4, enjoy this presentation in Kingwood!

Over 200 Attend Screening of Longoria Affair at LSC-Kingwood

Thanks to folks like Professor Raul Reyes and the Student Activities office at Lone Star College-Kingwood, programs like Monday night’s screening of The Longoria Affair are bring offered to suburban communities in North Harris county. And Monday night attracted over 230 students, faculty, and members of the community.

The Longoria Affair, a documentary produced by John Valadez, takes us back to the days of WWII when a Three Rivers, TX soldier by the name of Felix Longoria died in the field of battle. When his widow was making funeral arrangements and requested a wake at the funeral chapel, the funeral home owner did not allow the wake because his white patrons would not like that.

It was this flash point in South Texas history that began a civil rights battle in which South Texas civil rights activist and physician Dr. Hector P. Garcia took on. As the film navigates through the history, which includes the involvement of then-Senator Lyndon Johnson who worked to have Longoria buried at Arlington National Cemetery, one learns but one piece of Mexican American civil rights history, but one that provided what one faculty member at LSC-Kingwood called, “a Rosa Parks moment.”

One part of the film that I found sobering was how Dr. Garcia formed a relationship with LBJ that took almost 20 years to foment some sort of action. From JFK ignoring the fact that the Viva Kennedy clubs were a major reason for winning Texas to constantly sitting on civil rights legislation, it was not until LBJ became President that the Voting Rights Act provided for a real voice for Mexican Americans, as well as Johnson’s  appointment of Latinos to positions of importance in his administration.

If there are some folks locally (Latinos included) who want to learn about the road Texas Latinos have taken to where we are now, then this is a must-see. One may view it on PBS right now. Or you can go to the website and try to work out your own screening including the producer himself, John Valadez.

I met Valadez and one can honestly see that as an independent filmmaker, he has put in some laborious hours of love into this film. The fact that it made it to PBS and he is just finishing up a 40+ city tour in less than two months shows he has achieved much, thus far. And those of us in the activist community must continue to help him spread those pesky truths that our elected officials and a few educators attempt to avoid, and thus repeat the past.

Now, It’s An Issue?–The Dropout Rate

The Chron had an op-ed on the grim future of Texas given its growing drop-out rate.

As reported by the Chronicle’s Gary Scharrer, demographer Steve Murdock warned nearly a decade ago that unless the dropout issue was successfully confronted, the potential asset of a burgeoning young population could become a lead weight dragging down median incomes and the ability to attract new business enterprises.

That’s right, I guess it’s time to celebrate 10 years since the state’s expert warned us about what was to come.  As far as Chicano/Latino scholars go, they’ve been warning about this for decades longer.

Our current Republican Governor Rick Perry has long held that Texas only has a 10% dropout rate, using fuzzy math to his favor. The reality is that all he has done is shirk his responsibility as an elected official by starving K-12 and higher education programs which would have done much to graduate better prepared high school students, institute a more effective college-going culture, and adequately fund college prep catch-up programs at the university level in order to increase retention and graduation rates.

Bill White seems to get it, and we need leadership at the Capitol which will enact legislation that gets to the root of the problem, rather than playing politics with the future of Texas, as Perry and the Republican-led Legislature has done.