Category Archives: La Familia

Arts Advocacy Day at the Texas Capitol

by Fidencio Leija-Chavez, Jr.

TODAY is “Art Advocacy Day at the Capitol.” Why is this important to Texans? The arts produce over $4.5 billion in revenue and shape our states landscape. Last legislative session, our leaders decide to cut funding for the arts by 50%.

The majority of arts funds from the state are allocated to the Texas Commission on the Arts, which are distributed to non-profits, community centers and art centers throughout our state.

In comparison to other states, Texas only funds 11 cents per person – while other states like New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma provide over 60 cents per person. Oklahoma leads the way with $1.06 per citizen.

The next time you drive by a community mural or Talento Bilingüe de Houston, you’ll remember if you made a phone call today to let your legislators know that increasing funding per person is important to you and your community.

It only takes 3 minutes to call your representative and inform them that Latinos are also part of the arts. Don’t wait! Call today!

Find the contact information for your State Representative here.

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.

Mayor Parker Launches Parental Involvement Campaign

“Is My Child Ready?” was launched this week by the Mayor’s Office of Education Initiatives. The program’s work is to engage parents so that they may get more involved in their children’s education.

The campaign coincides with the release of students’ STAAR test results by area school districts scheduled for this spring.  The STAAR exams are part of the state’s new standardized academic accountability system.  The campaign will target “hard to reach” parents to encourage them to ask their schools key questions about their children’s performance on the STAAR test.

The commitment I liked most was this.

The campaign will promote parents’ long-term involvement in their children’s education with an emphasis on post-secondary readiness.  Currently, more than half of Texas freshmen in two-year colleges and nearly a fourth in four-year schools require remedial courses.  Deficient academic preparation also leads to low rates of college completion.

While Texas legislators are seeking ways of blaming college advising and student services offices as a means of cutting their budgets, it is good to see Mayor Parker promoting a solution, rather than some punitive measure, like I expect the Lege to do. It seems she knows one of the roots of the problem, so, hopefully, the Lege will follow suit and commit to these types of programs, too.

And it’s bilingual, too.

The multi-media campaign will deliver messages in various formats, including billboards, signage on METRO buses, electronic communications via SMS texts, emails and campaign websites and posters at libraries, multi-service centers and schools throughout the Houston region.  Public information sessions for parents will also be held.

TEXT “READY” or “LISTO” to 91011
The campaign invites parents to text “READY” to 91011 or visit for key facts and specific questions to ask schools about their children’s STAAR test scores.  Spanish-speaking parents can text “LISTO” to 91011 or visit the campaign’s Spanish language website

“We want parents to talk with teachers and counselors and become informed on what they can do every day to help their children do well in the classroom,” said Mark Cueva, Mayor’s Office of Education Initiatives division manager.  “Asking questions about a student’s performance on the STAAR test and what parents can do to help that child do better is a good starting point.”

For full information about the campaign, visit

Way to go, Mayor! Every bit counts in this effort! Perhaps partnering with local higher education institutions is a good next step?

Watch Junot Diaz on Moyers!

The good folks at Moyers Media sent the link to show off to all. Thanks to them! (for big screen)

The life and work of Junot Díaz contains many worlds. His books, including National Book Award finalist This Is How You Lose Her and Pulitzer Prize-winner The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, journey between the old and the new, and between the America that was and the America we’re becoming. Born in the Dominican Republic, but raised in New Jersey and American to the core, Junot Díaz is a spotter of the future, a curator of the past, a man of the here-and-now.

Díaz joins Bill to discuss the evolution of the great American story. Along the way he offers funny and perceptive insights into his own work, as well as Star Wars, Moby Dick, and America’s inevitable shift to a majority minority country.

There is an enormous gap between the way the country presents itself and imagines itself and projects itself and the reality of this country,” Díaz tells Bill. “Whether we’re talking about the Latino community in North Carolina. Whether we’re talking about a very active and I think in some ways very out queer community across the United States. Or whether we’re talking about an enormous body of young voters who are either ignored or sort of pandered to or in some ways, I think that what we’re having is a new country emerging that’s been in the making for a long time.”

Click on the link to find out about a live chat with Diaz on Thursday.

DREAM Beanies for the Holidays

So, you’re freakin’ out that you forgot to buy a few gifts for friends or family members? Well, my friend and DREAMer Jose Luis Zelaya, a grad student at Aggieland U., tells us how he went from homelessness to reaching a professional goal of a graduate degree by crocheting all sorts of cool stuff.

Howdy! In this video I share how I went from being homeless to a graduate student with the help and support from a teacher. I am now pursuing a Masters in Education seeking to make a difference in the lives of my students. In order to pay for College I crochet beanies, scarves, etc. I ask you to please help me and support me by buying beanies and other crafts. Please share this video and tell your family and friends about it. I know everything is possible. CROCHETING MY WAY THROUGH COLLEGE.

Watch the video, fall in love with a great cause, and then place your order here.

FYI – For some of my Harris County Dem friends, Jose Luis was a speaker at 2012’s Johnson Rayburn Richards dinner, so you all need to buy something, too!

Event: GOLDEN Dinner and Tejano Dance – September 14

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. 

GOLDEN: Giving Others Life to Dream Every Night Dinner & Tejano Dance is a Go Gold initiative organized by a group of individuals concerned about the awareness of childhood cancers in the Latino community.

All proceeds raised from ticket sales will go directly to the American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO). whose mission is to address the needs of families through programs that emphasize information, advocacy, awareness, and research.   ACCO provides:

  • Free Kits to families affected by childhood cancers in Spanish & English.  Kits include books and videos to help family members cope with cancer.
  • Funds for child cancer research
  • Literature about chldhood cancers

Your contribution will help fund ACCO initiatives.   $15 will put one of the many available books in the hands of a child with cancer, $25 will give a book to the child’s teacher, and $100 will give a full set of materials to a family in need of them.  More information about materials can be found at

Local organizations that provide resources to families and childen affected by childhood cancers will be present to share resources and promote volunteer oppurtunities.

Go Gold and join us for this very worthy cause:  “because kids can’t fight cancer alone.”

BBQ Dinner & Resource Expo   6pm-7:30 pm

Tejano Dance                                7:30 pm-11pm


Be prepared to dance the night away to the best Tejano hits.  Cash bar will be available.

The suport of the following organizations is greatly appreciated:

Camp Innovation


Latinos. Engaged. United. Voting

Mia’s Closet

National Hispanic Professional Organization

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church

Neighborhood Centers Assisting DREAMers on Deferred Action

Neighborhood Centers in Houston is among other agencies who are assisting DREAMers with their Deferred Action process. According to Francis Valdez, immigration attorney at Neighborhood Centers:

“With Deferred Action comes a historic moment for our country and a crucial moment for the 30,000 childhood arrival individuals in Houston who would be eligible and who are currently students in high school, have graduated from high school, serve in the military or enrolled in college in Houston, many of whom have sought guidance at Neighborhood Centers over the years. In the past, Neighborhood Centers has worked diligently to keep families together. Our robust programs and educational seminars have been a model for other organizations. And under this change, we’ll continue to do the same. But because policy changes can often be confusing to those they affect, we’re offering additional guidance.”

Over the summer, Neighborhood Centers hosted several information summits attended by over 2,000 DREAMers and members of the community.

Neighborhood Centers is also one of the few agencies that has built the capacity with other DREAMers organizations nationally under the United We Dream conference to assist DREAMers as they go through the Deferred Action process. Recently, Valdez traveled to Denver to be part of a National Conference and present Neighborhood Centers’ Deferred Action Toolkit, which specifies how to hold community workshops based on Neighborhood Centers’ model.

This Saturday, August 25, DREAMers have an opportunity to attend a workshop on Deferred Action, but an appointment is necessary. Here’s the information:

Deferred Action Program August Workshop Hosted by Neighborhood Centers:
Where: Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center
6500 Rookin St. Houston, TX 77074
When: Saturday, August 25, 2012
From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.,
By appointment only

Call 713-273-3707 or email

FIEL: Announces Deferred Action Assistance Program

Another From the DC-Inbox:

FIEL Announces help for DREAMers.
Aiding in application process for deferred Action
[Houston, TX] On Wednesday August 15, 2012 FIEL will begin assisting DREAM Act Eligible youth in the Deferred Action Process.  We are opening our office located at 6610 Harwin #214 Houston, TX 77036.  We will be available on TUESDAY AUGUST 14, 2012 for interviews with FIEL staff and DREAM Act Eligible Youth.  
In an effort to help out low income DREAMers FIEL announces the launch of their legal department.  We will be assisting in the filing and processing of deferred action applications for low income families.
FIEL: Immigrant Families and Students in the Struggle is an organization that advocates for just laws for immigrant youth, their families and access to higher education for all people regardless of immigration status.

Immigration Policy Center: Deferred Action Q & A and More

From the DC Inbox:

Deferred Action Q&A and Other Updated Resources

August 13, 2012

Washington D.C. – On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security will officially begin accepting applications for “deferred action” from young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and meet other specific requirements. The Immigration Policy Center (IPC) is releasing an updated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: A Q&A Guide outlining the basic facts about the initiative, including eligibility requirements and important information on process and timing.

IPC also recently released estimates on who is elgibile and where they live in its fact sheet, Who and Where the DREAMers Are: A Demographic Profile of Immigrants Who Might Benefit from the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action InitiativeThis analysis breaks down the population potentially eligible for deferred action by nationality and age at the national and state level, as well as the congressional district level.

The Legal Action Center (LAC) has released a practice advisory analyzing DHS guidance regarding the eligibility criteria and application process for the initiative. It also offers strategic advice for attorneys representing individuals who may qualify for deferred action under this initiative.  The LAC issued this advisory jointly with the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.

To view these resources, see:


For more information contact Wendy Sefsaf at or 202-507-7524.

One Texas PAC Launches

When I heard about this new One Texas PAC, I figured since some of my favorite legislators were leading the charge that it would definitely be a plus in the development of Latina/o leaders with legislative goals in mind that are good for Texas.

For over a decade, Republicans have refused to lead and instead have chosen bad politics over good policy. We are not building roads, and we are 50th in electric power generation reliability. Despite record droughts and wildfires, they have refused to make smart investments to ensure adequate water supplies for families and businesses that depend on it.

Our resource challenges are no different than the crises we face in both health care and public education. Budget cuts, layoffs and closures have become a substitute for sound judgment, reasoned policy and responsible leadership.  Texas can do better.

It’s time for new leadership and new direction.  It’s time we become One Texas.

You can’t go wrong with a message that deals with the harsh realities that Republicans have dealt our Texas. And as State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer challenges his colleagues  to pony up some support for the PAC, matching it with $50,000 of his own campaign funds, there’s no telling how far and how long this PAC can go. The key to our legislative future is a long-term commitment to something like this at the state level.

And unlike traditional political action committees, One Texas will participate in voter engagement and play a pivotal role on matters of public policy, demography and mobilizing Texas’ largest demographic.  One Texas is uniquely positioned to impact public policy accountability in Austin to voter sentiment throughout the state.

Of course, locally, organizations like Latinos. Engaged. United. Voting. are also doing their part to engage Latinos in the process using non-traditional tactics. There’s a lot of work to be done and we need all hands on deck for November and beyond.

Here’s a video from One Texas PAC:

DC will definitely be following OneTexas.