On Wednesday March 26, 2014 the Cal State Los Angeles Ethnic Studies Coalition spoke at the Board of Trustees meeting to share with the Presidents of the CSU’s the importance of making Ethnic Studies courses a priority at CSULA. SQE of CSULA organized a protest and rally outside the meeting to demand the decrease of student tuition. SQE brought together students from San Diego State University, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State Fullerton, amongst other universities to rally against tuition increase. They were also very successful in bringing out the mainstream media to report on the student actions of the day. What could not be ignored was the presence of more than 75 police officers that were spread throughout the facility to counter the disciplined students with police terror if they felt threatened.
On behalf of the Ethnic Studies Coalition, Pakal Hatuey, Jelani Hendrix, and Juliana Nascimento spoke up. Jelani and Pakal gave a brief testimony coupled with the benefits of Ethnic Studies (ES) in our everyday life’s. Juliana spoke up on the issue of ridiculous fee hikes in the CSU’s along with sharing her support for Ethnic Studies at CSULA. Speakers were first told that we had two minutes to speak, but at the last minute we were notified that we only had a minute to address the Board of Trustees.
Pakal Hatuey spoke first, and he spoke about the life changes ES has contributed to his life. He mentioned that he grew up in El Sereno, the city just north of CSULA where “gangs and drugs were no strangers.” The presence of gangs influenced his way of thinking, instilling in him hateful ideas towards Gays and Racist ideas towards Blacks. Pakal mentioned that ES had helped him “crush and remove” those violent ideas by further exposing him to his Indigenous history where he learned that prior to European colonization Gays were respected in Indigenous societies. And that his ancestors had “life saving relationships” with African descent peoples as they, at times, fought together against Anglo, Hispanic, and other forms of colonial oppression. He concluded that ES can and will help get rid of these violent, foreign ideas currently polluting the minds of many Mexicans today.
Jelani Hendrix spoke next raising the importance of critical thinking and methods of teaching that engage the student with the community that ES practices. He mentioned that he lived for a while in El Sereno and experienced a racial backlash by some Mexicans. Jelani went on to express that he also had dogs fetched on him which eventually led him to move out of El Sereno. He spoke on the importance of the ES because they would allow us all to understand that “racial barriers are social constructs.” And that ES courses would be the first step toward fixing these barriers, he further noted that CSULA can serve as the first model which would lead the other CSU’s to follow. Jelani finished by stating that ES studies has to be taught by the experts of the field and not by other disciplines like English, Anthropology, etc. who only study ethnicities, but do not offer the voice and vision of ethnic groups.
It was an eventful day that saw many organized and disciplined students raise their voices and demands in the face of CSU presidents, and their police goons. Much thanks to SQE for organizing the day’s events and coordinating the many concerned students who came as far as Humboldt State University to bring down student tuition. Until the next battle, stay disciplined, continue with your studies in and out of school as our collective educated efforts will smash and trash all forms of injustices.
-CSULA Ethinic Studies Coalition