Several hundred students and community members attended a day long event at the Thousand Oaks room of the University-Student Union at the campus of Cal State University, Northridge (CSUN) as Chicana/o Studies de CSUN celebrated its 45th Anniversary with a symposium entitled “¡La Lucha Continua!” on Monday, April 14, 2014.
Through the initiative and leadership of Dr. Denise Sandoval, Dr. Mary Pardo, Dr. Rudy Acuña, and others, Chicana/o Studies de CSUN reminded us that Chicana/o Studies was not an administrative gift to students nor the campus community, rather Chicana/o Studies was born out of the student protests of the late 1960s.
The ¡Lucha Continua! symposium began with an introductory welcome by several speakers, including Dr. Mary Pardo and Dr. Jorge García. As each speaker reflected on their experiences, it was made evidently clear that the assault on Chicana/o Studies requires us to continue the struggle, begun forty-five years ago, to build and defend Chicana/o Studies.
The highlight of the Chicana/o Studies 45th Anniversary symposium was the keynote speaker, Dr. Rudy Acuña who has never forgotten the struggle. Dr. Acuña credited the Black Student Union (BSU) for “scaring the shit out of the administration” in opening the doors for the founding of Chicana/o Studies in late 1968 and early 1969.
On November 4, 1968, the BSU held 34 staff and administrators hostage by occupying the administrative building. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) descended onto the campus of CSUN for a nearly a week in hopes of squashing the student movement. According to the Daily Sundial, CSUN’s student newspaper, “24 students were arrested and charged with conspiracy, burglary, kidnapping, and false imprisonment.” A month later, the President’s office was set on fire.
Although many Chicana/o Studies professors and students today have either forgotten or do not know how Chicana/o Studies was founded, Dr. Acuña reminded us that today a very similar struggle is occurring at various campuses, including at L.A. Mission College, which has expelled Chicana/o student leader Ann Marie Cataño for demanding a Chicana/o Studies Resource Center and a Museum.
Ann Marie Cataño spoke about the struggle at L.A. Mission College, and the administrative backlash that resulted led by former Chicano and current college president Monte Perez who has sold out to Hispanic/White Supremacist interests.
Ann Marie and the Student Empowerment group that was founded will continue to press Los Angeles Mission College to meet the academic needs of Chicana/o students.
The Chicana/o Studies symposium celebrating the 45th anniversary at CSUN revolved around four different panels:
1. “Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Liberating”
2. “Building Bridges: Research and Communities”
3. “What Can You Do With a B.A. in Chicana/o Studies?”
4. “CSUN Ethnic Studies Collective: Where Do We Build From Here?”
By bridging academic research with community activism, the Chicana/o Studies symposium was a transformative event for many students who sometimes find themselves in a hostile university setting. That Chicana/o Studies de CSUN is actively advocating for its students through recruitment and retention was evident throughout the day as each of the panelists (re)connected their specific academic work towards dismantling white supremacist ideology and institutions.
In particular, Dr. Gabriel Gutiérrez panel presentation stood out, “Chicana/o Studies and the Americas,” which interrogated American Exceptionalism. Dr. Gutiérrez dared to confront White Supremacy ideology and policy by asking, “how is a country [United States] only 237 years old have the audacity to tell people who have been migrating for 100,000 years” about borders and so-called illegal immigration. Dr. Gutiérrez challenged us to emancipate ourselves from American Exceptionalism.
Dr. Alicia Ivonne Estrada presented on “The Maya Diaspora in Los Angeles: Memory, Resistance, and the Voices of Contacto Ancestral,” which focused on a “memory of resistance” that shapes Maya experiences in Los Angeles and their participation in community politics and media through Contacto Ancestral, a show airing on Mondays on KPFK 90.7FM.
A presentation entitled, “Formerly Incarcerated Women: Returning to Community” by Dr. Marta López-Garza unveiled the need to do field-work that goes beyond the surface of traditional research. Using a decolonizing methodology as her framework, Dr. López-Garza’s work compels us to do research that will liberate the very communities one uses for their scholarly advancement.
There were other panel presentations that provided a unique glimpse into the vibrant, multi-disciplinary area of Chicana/o Studies. The symposium was a call to action grounded in the epistemology of self-determination.
The Chicana/o Studies Department de CSUN is a model of academic rigor and resistance, which should be emulated by all those purporting to call themselves Chicana/o Studies departments and programs.
Unlike other Chicana/o Studies departments and programs in Aztlán, Chicana/o Studies de CSUN has never forgotten that its founding, existence, and survival for the last forty-five are rooted directly to the student and community protests begun in the late 1960s and 1970s known as the Chicano Power Movement, and which has continued to the present day.
Chicana/o Studies de CSUN always seeks to bridge academic research with community activism. This was made clear by a Paulo Freire quote attached to the symposium’s program schedule: “…Without a sense of identity, there can be no real struggle…”