That Amazing Video

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That video is kinda crazy. I say crazy because I guess I had no idea it would get as many views as it has. Of course, I’m not sure why because it IS the Huffington Post and I know that the amount of daily traffic they get must be off the charts to a low level blogger like myself. But when someone tells me that this video was played at a workshop about identity? Yeah, that is kinda crazy.

That video is kinda cool. It’s also pretty funny because I forget that I cannot go into these video shoots with any type of expectation. I was fully aware that I wasn’t the only one in it. In fact, I saw Dr. Marta Moreno-Vega walk out of her session when they were done taping. In fact, two of my fellow Syracuse Alums (Janel Martinez & Ghislaine Leon) were outside of the recording room with me talking how great it was to see each other on that snowy ass day. What is interesting is that we all must have spent 20-30 minutes in our sessions talking about what it’s like to be Afro Latinx. So for the final product to be slightly over 2 minutes was just perfect.

We filmed this on cold February day, the day after Valentine’s to be exact. I wondered how long it would take to produce a video with all of us and it wasn’t until I was in New Orleans in late March that I had an indication it was published. My phone blew up when I was sitting in a conference session I was attending. That is when I knew.

I saw the video for the first time on my phone in a hotel lobby. Headphones in. I was smiling. This, of course, would be the first view of many. I just never thought that I would have so many people tagging me on Facebook. Friends and family were one thing because those who support alway support, but to hear from people I haven’t spoken to in awhile saying they saw that video, took me by surprise.

Many people agreed with the message and cheered it. I never dared to look at comments (unless tagged) because I know better. Other people saw it as a chance to just say hi and catch up. It was a really great time for me. It meant a lot. I’m glad I did it beyond the fact that it means free advertising. lol

I just want to thank Melissa Montanez for bringing us together. Another Syracuse alum that believes in the work we do. So, I do hope that this video continues to get as many views as possible and inspires people to tell their story.

At the end of the day, no one can really define who we are except for ourselves.

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Gods

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Human beings in a mob. What’s a mob to a king? What’s a king to a God? What’s a God to a non-believer who don’t believe in anything? Will he make it out alive? Alright, alright, no church in the wild.

– No Church in the Wild, Kaye West/Jay Z (feat. Frank Ocean)

When we think about athletes, we think about people who live above us. People, whose talents are so great that they are practically divine. For some, that divinity comes out in the door they have smashed open for the rest of us to walk through. Which is why it is so fitting that Mariano Rivera is the last man ever to wear the number 42 in Major League Baseball.

Its only fitting that it’s a (Afro) Latino to shut close out the rich history that an Black man started so many years ago. The repercussions of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947 has forever changed the game. When the flood gates opened in the subsequent years that followed, diversity in the game became the norm and African American paved the way for Latinos. One can say that is a microcosm of what our society has been.

However, Major League Baseball celebrates its diversity better than most organizations. It fosters the spirit of competition (outside of numerous drug suspensions) while maintaing a sense of integrity (outside of numerous drug suspensions). What makes players like Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, and Mariano Rivera so great is because they like Gods amongst men in how the played the game.

But how can we worship these beings that put their pants on just like everyone else? Ponder that question when you think about another competition in Delaware that involves a seven year old girl being stripped of a crown that should be rightfully hers. Jakiyah McKoy’s only crime is of being accused of being too black to be Latino. She is entered into the Little Miss Hispanic Delaware where she wins the crown legitimately but the sponsoring organization, Nuestras Raices Delaware, has blocked her win after an outcry from people claiming that, because she is Black, she is ‘not the best representative of Latin beauty.’ Despite the fact that they cannot confirm her Latinoness, one would just assume that if there is a rule that contestants must have 25% Hispanic blood then that would be something that should have been checked registration.

Alas we are live in a world where Gods are worshipped while stupidity and ignorance create the rules. What happened to Jakiyah isn’t a surprise because Afro Latino live in a space between black and brown. A fluid Identity that allows other people question or origins, our purpose, and our lives. Too black to be a representative of a Latin Beauty? How can we really support such an argument but I forget we live in a world where people think that a show like Modern Family is funny because of a top heavy minstrel act of Sofia Vagara.

That is why we look to people like Mariano Rivera, a dark skinned Latino, that makes all us  believe that perfection is all about hard work and perseverance. A God in his own right that knows how to be humble yet deadly. It will be days like this that Jakiyah Mckoy will learn the difference between being ignorant and being a Goddess.

Latino Heritage Month: A History of Citizenship & Education

la-times_february-19-1946_400x450This may be the first time in about 10 years that I am not directly involved with planning some type of Latino Heritage Month activity on a campus I am employed in. While that may sound like a tragedy in some way given my past involvement, It really isn’t. Perhaps because I reside in New York City, where there are literally millions of Latinos, maybe I don’t have that same sense of urgency as I did as Syracuse. I noticed that Barnard College and Columbia University already has established programming for students to take part and that is what makes me smile.

This is not say that the work is done and I am over it but I think that I need to have a different, more personal, approach to Latino Heritage Month. Many times we call for action without reflection. We get angry over things that occur and we tweet about it and post Facebook statuses but then everything sorta dies down after a few days. I do contemplate if that is because we never really take to reflect on what is really happening in the world. We become more reactionary to much of what happens.

Those reactions distracts us from doing what is going on. So I would like to offer a history lesson on how Latinos had to fight for the education we enjoy today. This is part of a graduate paper I wrote last year. Warning – this is lengthy but I do think it’s worth it:

With California and Texas becoming states in the mid-1800s, there was a need for the United States to determine what it was going to do with the Mexican and Native American populations that it acquired with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The Mexican population quickly became racialized by the standard of the United States, which meant that light skinned Mexicans were considered Caucasian and darker individuals (such as Native American and Afro-Mexicans) were considered Black.

This is important to recognize because this is where many Mexicans drew the line in the fight for equal opportunity. They felt that they did not fall within the racialized context of black and white. In general, most of the separation from the majority was cultural like many of the other immigrants that came before them. Immigrants from Europe that came to the U.S. earlier the century (Germans, Irish, and Italians) went through a similar plight of dealing with culture and language.  However, European Immigrants never had to fight that hard to become assimilated into the American culture and as a result lost many customs and cultural traditions that Latinos fight hard to maintain.

After the Spanish American War in 1898 resulted in the Treaty of Paris (in which Puerto Rico was acquired along with Guam and the Philippines), the United States maintained the attitude that the Latino population needed to become more Americanized by getting a better education and thus learning English. Mexicans in the west were struggling with equal rights in terms of land ownership, while Puerto Ricans and Cubans were dealing with Americanization in the north east. American politicians felt that Puerto Rico, in particular, would benefit from a better education as long as they learned English first. Cuba also fell within the protection of the United States before Fidel Castro assumed power.

The Mexican Revolutionary War from 1910 to 1920 forced many Mexicans to cross the border into the United States to escape the fighting and the bloodshed. This meant a cheaper workforce with the influx of people, but it also meant an educational challenge for school districts. Many districts in California created spaces in schools just to hold separate Mexican classes to address the needs of this new population. The focus was to Americanize Mexican children while teaching them vocational skills needed to make them a part of the workforce. Despite initial protest from parents, the Santa Ana Board of Education was the first to open a Mexican only school in 1919. The rationale being that this separate facility was in the best interest of the children.

In 1917, the Jones Act was passed that allowed Puerto Ricans to be American Citizens, which led to a large influx of Puerto Ricans into the United States. This declaration of citizenship came after years of political struggle over what exactly Puerto Rico was. While statehood was not granted, Puerto Ricans could still enjoy the status of being an American Citizen even though they are often not treated as such. Here is where many of the political issues for Puerto Ricans and Mexicans differ. Mexicans were fighting hard to cross the boarders to be naturalized to escape a war of revolution while Puerto Ricans slowly losing their ability to self-govern.

When thinking about segregation, cases like Brown v. Board of Education in Topeka Kansas in 1954 were critical. However, in 1946 Mendez v. Westminster in California is a landmark court case that changed the landscape for Latinos in Education and set the stage for the latter court case. The most import part of the fight for social inclusion is that most of the struggles for equality in school are mostly invisible. African Americans struggles for desegregation are well documented and well discussed in the history of the United States; however, Mexican Americans have been fighting the legality of segregation since the 1930s. History largely acknowledges the plight of African Americans making it difficult to really see and understand the roles that Latinos, particularly Mexicans played during the segregation era.

Cases like the Independent School District v. Salvatierra in Texas (1930) showed that segregation of Mexicans was indeed happening because of race. However, school districts could get away with this if the basis of the separation was based on lack of English language proficiency. The issue was that the Texas State constitution, which was ratified in 1876, stated that segregation of Whites and colored children was allowed. However, the term “colored” was only meant for “Negros.” Since Mexicans are not mentioned in the Constitution, the court ruled that Mexicans were considered white and thus segregation against them was illegal. The significance of this case was that the lawyers who defended Salvatierra were from the newly established League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). This case provided them with crucial experience they would need in the upcoming years.

In 1931, the Alvarez v. Lemon Grove School District was held in court in California. This can be argued as being the first real victory against segregation. The Lemon Grove District sought to build a separate school for Mexicans due to overcrowding. The District never informed the parents of this, thus never gained support from the Mexican community. In turn the parents protested and refused to have their children attend this new school that was called La Caballeriza (the stable) by much of the community. These parents wanted to maintain their right to send their children to same schools that Whites sent their children to.

The judge ruled in favor of Alvarez on the basis that the separate school for Mexican children would not be conducive to their Americanization. It was believed that this new school would severely retard their comprehension of the English Language because they would have no one to speak proper English to. He also believed that allowing Spanish speaking children to learn English and mingle with other English speaking students would allow them the best way to be Americanized. In addition, it was also found that California law had no such provisions that allowed for the district to make such a decision.

For years, California was deeply rooted in the idea of segregation. As the Mexican population increased, so was the increased demand of Anglos to create a residential and educational segregation. In 1927 the California Attorney General pushed for Mexicans to be considered as Native Americans whereby placing them under the mandate of de jure segregation. The notion that Mexicans were “colored” and should not have the same equalities as White people seemed to go against the ruling cited in Lemon Grove Case. However, when California Legislature passed a law to segregate Mexicans because they were considered Native Americans, the 1935 School code did not specifically mention them by name:

The governing board of the School district shall have all power to establish separate schools for Indian [sic] children, excepting children who are the wards of the U.S. government and the children of all other Indians who are the descendants of the original American Indians of the U.S, and for the children of Chinese, Japanese, or Mongolian parentage.

Because Mexicans were not mentioned specially, as was the case with other races, school districts in California found it difficult to legally segregate them. Mexicans did not consider themselves Native American, which created a loophole within the legislation.

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A picture of the Zoot Suit Riots

Despite the inequities within the school system and the labor market, World War II was a time in which many Latinos went overseas. It was estimated that over 65,000 Puerto Ricans served in a segregated military. Due to their citizenship, Puerto Rican men were required to register and serve.  Most of them served from the 65th Infantry Regiment. World War II gave many Mexicans pride in their US citizenship. The general number of Mexican Americans that served is unknown because many were counted as White soldiers. However, despite their participation in the war, Mexicans were constantly being linked to issues of crime as much as African Americans were. The zoot suit riots in 1943, where American sailors would drive the streets of Los Angeles looking to strip Mexican youth of their clothing, marked a time of racial tension in California. The battle in the courtroom for equality became even more crucial as racial tensions were mounting outside the classroom.

In 1943, the parents of Silvia Mendez tried to enroll her into Westminster Elementary School in Santa Ana, California, where she was denied enrollment based on her skin color and Spanish surname.  It was lawful at the time for California school districts to segregate all students of color and thus deny them access into schools that were considered all white.  This prompted her father, Gonzalo, to join with other families and file a class action lawsuit against the Orange County School District. LULA took the lead on the case and represented five fathers: Thomas Estrada, Chapo Guzman, Mayo Zambada, Rosame Elcacho, and Gonzalo Mendez.

The basis of the argument was that the school district had violated the 14th Amendment. This is a similar argument made in Brown v. Board of Education that took place seven years later by Thurgood Marshall on behalf of the NAACP.  The Equal Protection Clause within the 14th Amendment states:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;

What led Judge Paul J. McCormick’s ruling in favor of Mendez was not just the violation of the 14th Amendment, but the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that guaranteed Mexicans equal rights in the United States. However, this case would be fought again in the appellate court, where the connection of the two historic court cases is made.

For years, the NAACP has been trying to win the battle of segregation in schools using the 14th Amendment as reason for the law’s is unconstitutionality. Until the Mendez v. Westminster, the standard for segregation in schools was the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896 that upheld that States had the right to separate, provided that they granted equal facilities. The Mendez ruling was the first successful ruling toward segregation in terms of skin color.  For the most part, segregation for Mexicans was based on cultural reasons. These segregation cases really did not change much for African Americans because there was always a loophole regarding that citizenry and language issues of Mexicans in particular.

When it came time to fight the case in the appellate courts, LULAC and the NAACP (along with American Civil Liberties Union, American Jewish Congress, and Japanese American Citizens League) came together to successfully argue the case.  Ninth Circuit Judge, Justice Albert Lee Stephens, upheld the ruling April 14, 1947.  The court stated:

By enforcing the segregation of school children of Mexican Decent against their will and contrary to the laws of California, the respondents have violated the federal law as provided in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution by depriving them the equal protections of the laws.

Thurgood Marshall collaborated with David Marcus, who was representing LULAC on this appeal case that provided some of the framework that Marshall would use in the Brown case in 1954.

Two months after the ruling was passed down, Governor Earl Warren signed a bill repealing segregation in California schools, which lead to the closing of Mexican schools across the State.  This marked a second connection to the Brown case. In 1953, President Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren as Chief Justice to the Supreme Court. It was Chief Justice Warren that wrote the final decision in the Brown case that ended segregation in schools across the United States.

What made this ruling so important was that it broke away from the Plessy ruling of the “separate but equal “doctrine.  While African Americans had continued to suffer under segregation in terms of physical and social equality, Mexican Americans were able to fight successfully against the issues because they were routinely seen as more than Black. However, despite the positive ruling from the Mendez case that was supposed to end de jure segregation, evidence indicated that not only did segregation not end, but that it worsened.

In 1947 Minerva Delgado was denied admission to a school in Texas on the sole basis that she was Mexican. Her grandfather sued the Bastrop Independent School District that was later filed as a class action suit on behalf of all Mexican children within the school district. Delgado v. Bastrop was another pre-Brown case that demonstrated that segregation was more customary than law. Many people in Texas had hope that this case would do for Texas what Mendez did for California.

While the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff in 1948, segregation of first graders was allowed if there was a lack of proficiency in English. This lack of proficiency made segregation justifiable in terms of separate classes, or maybe even separate schooling altogether.

Despite the various victories against segregation in various school districts in California and Texas, Mexicans were still dealing with isolation within segregated schools well into the 1950s. It is well documented that many of these school districts did not adhere to many of the court rulings until the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954. However, desegregation was becoming law across the country; segregation based on language became more of the practiced custom.

Sources:

  1. Donato, Rubén. The other struggle for equal schools: Mexican Americans during the Civil Rights era. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997. Print.
  2. MacDonald, Victoria. Latino education in the United States: a narrated history from 1513-2000. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print.
  3. Navarro, Sharon Ann, and Armando Xavier Mejia. Latino Americans and political participation: a reference handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Print.
  4. Pedraza, Pedro, and Melissa Rivera. Latino education: an agenda for community action research. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005. Print.
  5. Santiago, Isaura. “Aspira v. Board of Education Revisited.” American Journal of Education 95.1 (1986): 149-199. Print.
  6. Valencia, Richard R.. Chicano school failure and success: past, present, and future. 2nd ed. London: Routledge/Falmer, 2002. Print.

Plagiarized

PlagiarismCartoonI was all set to post a blog this week about the Trifeca of blogs that I was able to string together last week. But then I was stopped in my tracks by something that I did not see coming. It has lead to me think very deeply about this to the point that I just have not felt like writing anything for awhile. One of my Huffington Post articles was plagiarized. This has struck me in so many different ways that I may have to give apologies out for the possible length of this post and possible hurt feelings as well.

Being a writer in any form is not easy as it is. Being a blogger or a freelancer may be a little harder because if it does pay (which in my case, it doesn’t) it simply is not enough. In most cases we are writing for the love of it and for recognition. I get satisfaction from the fact that my name is out there and people are reading what I wrote. I am always humbled by any recognition I get because I am my worst critic. Over the years, I spend time improving myself it both style and grammar. I try to make my writing as engaging as possible so that I can get complex thoughts across. For all intents and purposes, it’s my other job that I do strictly pro bono.

I took a chance by switching up my type of articles for the Huffington Post. I knew that I had to fact check what I was doing and back it up with citations if anyone wants to know where I happen to get my information from. This is the type of work that requires effort on my part. Its almost as if I was getting ready to write a 20 research paper on the historical significance of Afro Latinos. Trust me, I have the materials and I can do it (and it would be fantastic). The point here is that I made sure that I did the work I needed to do in order to create 2 articles that I am proud of.

Then it happened. I was notified by the Justice League (Latinegr@s Project) that a part of my article was plagiarized right on Tumblr. I was shocked and then I had to look it up myself. Bingo, a pure copy and paste job. A word for word account of Dr. Evangelina Rodriguez with a picture. There was no link. There was no information as to where the person got this information. I will give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she found the article and was so excited that this information was available that she posted it thinking that it would be ok.

Colonel Carmen Amelia Robles -- Who is this Woman?
Colonel Carmen Amelia Robles — Who is this Woman?

Let me go back and say something about the people I chose for this article. You have to realize that information about Afro Latinas in history is almost non existent. The information of names and pictures may be easy to find but not biographical information. There is a picture of a Afro Mexican woman that I have no information on other than her picture, which means I cannot write about her. Which leads me to Dr. Evangelina Rodriguez. Her picture had circulated around the internet for a few weeks. Bad-dominicana wrote some bits about her and piqued my initial interest.* I did not want to write about her. I will admit that wanted to stay away because I didn’t want to be accused of copying someone. But, when I researched her and read up on her story (there is a book about her — ask the plagiarizer if she knew that), I knew that I had to add her to my article.

The story of Dr. Evangelina Rodriguez is just an example of how hard it is to find information. I had to enlist my people at the Latinegr@s Project to help me find other Afro Latinas because I knew these women have more knowledge than I did. I had no problem putting their names in the article because that is what you are supposed to do. They put in the time to help me and thus should get credit for the help.

Which brings me to my point about plagiarism. I get the fact that people are lazy. I get the fact that sometimes people may forget to cite someone, or perhaps they don’t know how. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to just copy and paste something to make my life easier when I’m writing my research papers. Even in the editing process of my articles, I find myself changing words and phrasing because plagiarism will hurt my credibility and to a blogger, who does not get paid, that is everything. When people forget these thing or just copy and paste, they are shitting on the work of the original poster. It is essentially saying that you did the work and not me. That is like me taking the work of the original author and posting it as my own.

The point of these articles was to pass along information so that if people really are interested in learning more about those who have paved the way for us, they would do the research themselves. Go beyond my work and look up these people in libraries where there are books with actual text. There is no amount of apology that, for the moment, can be accepted. Sure, the post can be updated citing me, but as Bianca would say, “Do Better.”

You want to cite me? Here are some instructions on doing so.

*I adjusted this post due to the nature of the original language used.