Monday, March 27, 2006

"It Changed Us!"

Last night I watched the new Edward James Olmos-directed Walkout on HBO. It's essentially a dramatization of the 1968 events in the documentary Chicano, focusing on one of the student leaders played by Alexa Vega (from Spy Kids, who I've always thought was pretty great, but she has much more to work with here and handles it beautifully).

With the walkout tactic in use all across the country right now, this is must see TV. The movie does an unusually effective job dramatizing collective organization and how a group strategizes a way to move forward, more or less, together. Perhaps most important is the way it captures the transforming power of a social movement. When Vega's undercover spy boyfriend asks her what she thinks was changed by the walkout, she finds the movie's thesis, "it changed us!"

And it changed a lot more than that. In fact, though I was born and raised in Oklahoma, I can say my life has been shaped by what happened in those schools in East LA in 1968--1970 because several of my greatest mentors came out of that time and place. Among the best known is author Luis Rodriguez, who has empowered so many, as he did me, with his books Always Running and The Music of the Mill. At his weblog (see the bottom right of this page where I have a link to his site), I found as concise and clear an explanation of the struggle uniting today's walkout movement as I've found anywhere:

Luis Rodriguez writes:

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Immigrant Rights are Human Rights

HR 4437, the anti-immigrant law the House of Representatives passed in December (and which comes up for vote in the Senate on March 27) is a rotten piece of legislation that would place the United States in violation of basic human rights.

Here’s why:HR 4437 will impose jail time for over 12 million undocumented immigrants (where are we going to get the money for all these jails? The US is already the world’s largest jailer).

It allows local police and the U.S. military to serve as immigration agents.

It allocates hundreds of millions of dollars to build an enormous wall across our southern border.

It will also make it a felony for anyone—be they churches, charities, employers, and even family members—to assist undocumented people.

At the same time, there are no provisions in HR 4437 for undocumented immigrants to apply for green cards or to become citizens.

Already a prison in Texas has been created to accommodate 7,000, mostly Mexican, undocumented criminal offenders.Instead of becoming the land of equality, opportunity, and reaching out, we’re becoming the backward, mean-spirited, and divided land that millions of Americans spent more than half of the last century fighting to change.

These laws are the revenge of the right-wing conservative and pro-capitalist rich and powerful who have wanted to destroy the gains of the 1960s ever since the freedom marches, protests, uprisings, and laws came down on the old Jim Crow and Segregation Black Codes of the South (and the de facto segregation and discrimination in the North).We must not allow these rights to be taken away. Moreover, we must continue to expand our rights for all people—including the right to live healthy and solid lives.

While people themselves have to prepare, get the skills, and do the work to achieve those things, government can help move the resources and social energy to make sure nothing gets in their way.Right now, the Old Guard is back with a vengeance. In the guise of neo-conservatism, they have brought back war to our doorstep (again sacrificing our children for the sake of markets and power as in Vietnam), neglect (look at the Katrina debacle), corruption (Tom Delay, Abramoff, and others), and fear (every other word from Bush and his cronies builds on fear).

We’ve been through this—perhaps with different characters and nuances—many times before. We must now move forward toward our interests for peace, cooperation, and security like we did thirty years ago—only with a vision that incorporates the future, technology, new ideas, and new strategies.We need to stop HR 4437. But we also need to lay the basis for the human and civil rights of everyone, regardless of their papers, regardless of their economic standing.

If Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, we need to dream even harder. Fight and organize even harder. And get the maturity and intelligence to not be taken off track and into complacency ever again. Many of the leaders of the 1960s and 1970s were killed, drugged, imprisoned, or rendered impotent. It’s the people themselves who must insure the future of us all.

[end Luis Rodriguez]

Also, for a hip hop perspective, check out Davey D's statement today